My grandfather, Milton Jack Miller, passed away earlier this year. Below is the eulogy I delivered at his funeral.
Most people are mere footnotes of history; my grandfather was a chapter title. When born almost 95 years ago in 1912, he faced an uncertain, trying world. His world then was full with finding a way out of poverty, full with trying to navigate a gentile world where Jews had limited access. He had to deal with immigrant parents trying to negotiate a new world foreign to them and their histories while trying to find their own ways. But most of all, Grandpa concerned himself with trying to pave a path for himself: as an individual, an entrepreneur, a father and a friend.
The way Grandpa carved for himself was that of the biblical figure, Aaron the Priest — as a leader of man, Grandpa loved peace and pursued peace. I was lucky enough to have spent some time with him these past few weeks, months and years — both alone and in the company of others who loved him and respected him. What stood out from all the wonderful comments and love that his friends and family had for him was his ability to bring people together, to help them actualize their own creative powers, and most of all, to be the enduring peace maker, enabling everyone to work together, bettering themselves as individuals and in the collective.
From a young age, Grandpa taught me to trust myself, to work with focus, hard work and intention to better myself, my family and those around me. In a world where it’s easier and much more common to encounter criticism than it is to receive and give praise, Grandpa, like Aaron the Priest before him, bucked the trend. He doled out belief in people and enabled them to believe in themselves. I think his last words to me earlier this week were about the definition of success. Grandpa said that he believed in me, that I’ve chosen my path correctly, that I was a good father, son and grandson. In defining success, Grandpa told me that monetary success was only the lowest level of success. What mattered to Grandpa and the message he had for me earlier this week was about the legacy of influence and relationships he was to leave behind. That’s what really mattered to Grandpa. What I saw on a Sabbath day just 3 weeks ago, what both Alan Schwartzes, Morry Binko, Paul Hack, Jeff Serwin, my father, my brother and I were witness to on that day, was the legacy of Grandpa’s relationships. We all felt the love and respect of a giant. We need more giants in this world like you, Grandpa.
Grandpa called these powers his “glue”, his ability to hear both sides of a story, not take sides, but find a way with love, reason and an innate respect for humanity to come to a win-win solution and bring people closer to one another. When asked about his legacy, Grandpa credited this trait as the core, basic overarching characteristic in the role he played as the patriarch of our small family and the much larger family he attracted at work and in life.
As Grandpa accepted his fate with a pureness of spirit and faith, he wanted me to know that he was at peace with himself, his family, and with his friends. I’m not yet at peace knowing I’ve lost a True Guide. Grandpa, Menachem Mendel ben Ida, I miss you. I miss you so much.