Paul Heinz

Original Fiction, Music and Essays

A Modest Tribute to Seth Erlebacher

I was going to try to write something really profound, but I’ve given up, at least for the time being.  Words are woefully inadequate to sum up a man’s life, but I feel it necessary to offer at least a modest tribute to my brother-in-law, Seth Erlebacher, who died last Friday and whose funeral was held today in New York.  Additional facets of Seth’s life will surely be aroused in future days, but today, still too close to the shock of Seth’s passing to have fully reflected on the magnitude of his life, I’d like to mention just a few lasting impressions that I’ll take with me.

His enthusiasm:  Seth’s zest for life was never more apparent than when my family traveled with his, as he packed his family’s days from morning until night, determined to tap every ounce of his opportunity to explore and discover.  My family and I would be the ones to call it a day or sleep in, but Seth, who worked so tirelessly at IBM for so many years, applied the same zeal in his recreation as he did in his work.

His laughter: Seth video-taped my wedding in 1995, so he isn’t actually seen on tape, but he IS heard.  When a family of ducks waddles across the deck where the wedding party is standing, you can hear Seth’s laughter in the background, a high-pitched, hiccup type laugh that was as infectious as it was entertaining.

His inclusiveness:  when Seth’s family hosted a gathering for Passover or Chanukah, it wasn’t just a family or two in attendance, but virtually any person who might not otherwise have plans.  Early on in my relationship with Seth, I was among the many to join in for Passover, only a boyfriend to his sister-in-law at that time, but it was my initiation into the world of Judaism and associated family traditions.  The effort put forth by both he and his wife, Melissa, to host such functions was always staggering, but they did so with joy and with the ultimate aim of inclusion.

His children: amazing kids should of course be commended for their own accomplishments, but I believe the people who raise them deserve just a little bit of credit.   The best qualities of Seth and Melissa have passed on to their children, and I’ve been honored to watch them grow and become the amazing people they are today.

This morning, my son sang at his fourth-grade holiday concert, and the final song was a song of peace.  “Shalom, shalom, may peace be with you, my friend.”  But in Hebrew Shalom has a triple meaning: it means peace, but can also be used to say hello or goodbye.  So as my son sang “shalom,” and as he waved his arm in sign language with a sweeping motion across his chest, I took it as his way, consciously or not, of saying goodbye to his uncle.

So long, Seth.

Copyright, 2017, Paul Heinz, All Right Reserved