Monday, June 23, 2008
La Canada Flintridge Country Club
La Canada Flintridge, CA


APRIL 9, 2004

Rabbi Gilbert Kollin

We read in an ancient text: A good person, though taken from us too soon

Will rest in peace,

For honor in old age does not come from length of life.

Honor in old age does not come from length of years.

Understanding is the gray hair of humanity; a blameless life is ripeness of age.

Perfection in limited years is like living for many years.

So a good person, though taken from us too soon, will rest in peace.

Let us, then, with peace of mind, let that good soul rest.

I read somewhere recently—alas I have misplaced the quotation and the source—that in the twilight of our life we discover that the hard part is not accepting who we are and who we have become, but rather accepting who we might have been and did not become, and making peace with what we did not do and what did not happen. This applies not only to ourselves, but to those whom we love. So as we gather to say farewell and bon voyage to Andrew who was taken from us so, so much before his time that we mourn not only the man we knew, but also the person he might have been. And the hardest part of all is accepting that sad and harsh reality while yet finding comfort and hope in all that he accomplished in his all too brief stay with us.

As you heard—and knew--he was a remarkable person, blessed early on with a clear sense of self and a clear sense of purpose. In a world in which so many people transit youth and even middle age while still searching for their calling and purpose Andrew focused clearly on what he wanted. He wanted to be an Annapolis graduate and a proud Marine, and that is what he became and when he was knocked down and fearfully wounded by his illness he fought back valiantly and like the leader that he was he marched toward his goal as long as his strength remained.

And, when his illness ambushed him a second time he accepted the fact that this was not a battle he could win. And it was here that he showed us a special form of leadership rooted in courage and compassion. He had the courage to face reality and –even as he hung on with all of his dwindling strength--say fearlessly “I am dying!” while at the same time reaching out to say farewell and try to comfort everyone he could reach.

The enemies we confront are not always other people or even the demons in our own souls. Illness can be a relentless foe, as well, and can test the qualities of our leadership and our love. Andrew fought with courage until he could fight no more, and then faced his destiny with dignity. Cancer took his body, but not his soul, sapped his strength but never crushed his spirit. He was eminently worthy of the uniform he so proudly wore.

So, even as we reflect sadly of the might-have-beens we can thank God for the so much that was, and for the inspiration he leaves behind. To his mom Anita, his dad Leonard, his sister Rachel, his fiancé Anna—and the many, many friends and admirers whose lives he touched—our condolences.