It was at my grandfather’s funeral that I first noticed the unique gravestone.
My grandfather was a world traveller in his days at the Merchant Marines. He had many stories of coming into contact with Kamikaze suicide pilots and transporting Nazi prisoners of war. He also was active in the transportation of thousands of Jews from the ravages of Europe to the shores of Israel. After the war, he returned to his hometown of Buffalo with his wife and stayed there to raise his family.
He had many ups and downs during his lifetime, but through it all he remained a simple and committed Jew. He was proud, yet unassuming. He lived a simple life. He died a simple Jew. Through his simpleness, he raised children and grandchildren who became leaders in their communities and are spreading his message of simplicity.
When I first saw that gravestone, I was immediately struck by the uniqueness of it. The average gravestone is a single stone monument with a short inscription about the deceased. This was different. It had the stone, but it also had a small fisherman’s chair with a large fishing rod hanging over with a plastic fish on the string. The description on the gravestone depicted a gentle and friendly man who loved going to the sea to fish.
I felt comfort in the fact that my grandfather would have company with this simple fisherman.
Recently, however, it struck me that this is not the correct simplicity we should aspire to be in the company of. It is possible that this deceased man was a truly righteous individual, however the legacy he left behind is merely that he loved to fish.
The legacy of my grandfather was that he was a Jew who craved simplicity. He was a Jew first and he was unpretentious to his core. He has a simple gravestone. But his legacy continues to be written.