I lost one of my best friends a couple weeks back…..Donnie Ruben……passed away on September 16th. Vanessa and Jorma have both written about D on their respective blogs and I wanted to honor my friend with a few words and the eulogy I wrote for his service. Donnie was a major player in this thing called life and although I miss him greatly…..I’m keeping the vibe on how lucky I was to have had him as my long – time friend. He was my “oldest friend” and by that I mean…..his age…..not how long we had been friends. The nice thing about having an older friend is that they are able to give you some insights from a perspective that you only get with years. He was like a big brother to me and there were several times throughout my life that I would go to him with questions or troubles and he ALWAYS came through for me ….. supportive and contemplative. I think that is what I’m going to miss the most. The picture with D and my Dad is from this year’s Super Bowl….we were all feeling good and confident when this picture was taken. Donnie had called me when I was in Hawaii in January for the Fur Peace “On the Road” work-shops to tell me that a cyst that he had removed had come back cancerous. When we got together to watch the big game he was feeling strong and ready for the fight and Dad and I were cheer-leading his positive attitude. God knows…..a positive attitude carries a lot of strength.
Donnie went in for surgery in late February. What was to be a 9 hour operation turned into 16 hours and the cancer that they had seen in the neck turned out to be much more aggressive and spread out. The best surgeons were involved and the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State did a commendable job. Don appreciated their efforts and they were really on top of this situation. Following the surgery Don underwent 9 weeks of radiation and chemo treatment. I’ve heard this from other friends who have fought the same fight…… the treatment alone is enough to kill you. He never gave up and with the ever present help of his long time partner and wife…..Lelia….he went to battle and fought this disease with everything he had. The treatment really beat him down and on one occasion when we were visiting he acknowledged that the treatment was really hard on him but that LIFE is what made it all worthwhile. During this past year I would go and visit Donnie on Tuesdays, which is my day off, and on many occasions I’d bring Dad as well……they always got along real well. Several weeks ago I visited with my friend to celebrate his 72nd birthday. He was looking good on this particular afternoon and I commented to him that he really looked to be “on the mend”. He said he was feeling good and he hoped he was on the mend, but he finished the sentence with a comment that hit me when I got the call that he had relapsed and was back at the hospital….. “if things don’t turn out the way we hope, I’m OK with that….I’m 72 and have lived a very blessed life. ”
Cancer is a tough road to walk and I’ve had several friends and family that have had to make the trip down that road. It makes me mad to think that after all the time and money spent on this disease….Donnie still could not be saved. Just a week after my last visit, Donnie was feeling weak and tired and felt something wasn’t right. His doctor told him to check back into the hospital and they would run some tests and find out what was going on. Well, he never really got to hear the results of those tests because on his second day in the hospital he went into cardiac arrest. He survived the code blue night at the hospital but never came back……resting his last couple of days in a coma state. When he went, it was by the grace of God…….he had already suffered so much. He never got to hear the final results that the cancer had spread into his lungs, liver and spinal column. I’m glad he didn’t have to hear that report. It all happens so fast and even though I knew conditions were dire we had hoped that he might be able to get back home. The Lord took him direct… on the fast train to Zion…..to the everlasting home. As it turned out…….the service would happen pretty quickly as is the Jewish custom. Lelia asked if I would speak at the service and of course I told her I would. However, when she told me when the service was I found out I would not be able to be there, as I would be at a Memorial Mass for my Mom who died exactly one year before. Lelia understood, but I asked her if I could write it out and have Vanessa read it as I knew she would be going to the service. YES…..this was fine with Lelia and the Rabbi. So…..on the Saturday before the services, I spent the day in the yard writing, thinking and doing some work around the yard when I needed a divergence. At about 6 o’clock PM I called up V and told her to come on over……I had finished my eulogy. Sometimes people will say that what they wrote took years…..but what I wrote took tears. I read it to V and Izzie and then discussed with Vanessa my ideas for the reading….it was all set.
On the day of the service Vanessa called, as did a couple other friends, to tell me how well the reading went over. Later in the day the whole family and my cousin went up to Donnie’s Shiva. We only stayed for a little while but it was good to be there. Donnie’s brother, Billy, and others were all very pleased and complimentary of the words I had written and that made me feel good. I’m still adjusting to my friend’s departure and I must admit that there are times I forget that he is gone in the physical sense. I think about calling him up …… only to remember…….he’s gone. Give thanks for the blessing of a great friend ….. the many great memories and great times will sustain our friendship forever !!!
I want to thank Vanessa for being such a good reader ….. and for my friend, Wally, who stood up with V during the reading….. you both are a mitzvah……for Donnie and me!
Here is the eulogy:
A TRIBUTE TO DONNIE RUBEN
I’M SORRY THAT I CANNOT BE HERE TODAY – IN PERSON – TO PAY TRIBUTE TO MY FRIEND AND SOUL BROTHER…..DONNIE RUBEN. I THANK MY FRIENDS FOR READING MY TRIBUTE AND SEND SPIRIT. CONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILY…….LELIA. I AM AT A MEMORIAL MASS FOR MY MOM, WHO PASSED AWAY ONE YEAR AGO……TODAY. DONNIE WOULD UNDERSTAND AND I HOPE YOU WILL TOO. STILL ….I’M SAD ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO BE HERE……..DONNIE GAVE ME SUCH STRENGTH, SUPPORT AND INSIGHT DURING MY MOM’S LAST DAYS. I REMEMBER LILIA AND HIM SITTING WITH ME AFTER THE SERVICE OFFERING COMFORT…..HE WAS IMPECCABLY DRESSED WEARING A SHARP LOOKING FEDORA. HE LOOKED LIKE A SAINT FROM A BOB DYLAN SONG. I WOULD HAVE NEVER BELIEVED THAT A YEAR LATER MY FRIEND WOULD JOURNEY TO GOD’S HEAVENLY HOME. WHAT A BLESSING IT WAS TO KNOW SUCH A RIGHTEOUS, GOOD MAN, AND TO COUNT HIM AMONG YOUR BEST FRIENDS…….. (breathe)
IT IS SAID WHEN A PERSON LEAVES THIS WORLD HIS GOOD DEEDS SAY…..”BEFORE YOU COME FOR JUDGMENT, WE SHALL BE THERE AHEAD OF YOU”. AS REFERENCED TO IN ISAIAH 58:8…..”YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL GO BEFORE YOU, THE GLORY OF THE LORD, SHALL BE YOUR REWARD.”
DONNIE WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN & HIS GOOD DEEDS MANY. I FIRST KNEW OF DONNIE THROUGH FRIENDS WHO HAD BEEN CLIENTS OF HIS….HE WAS A TOP SHELF LAWYER & HE USED HIS EXPERTISE TO HELP FOLKS ACROSS A BROAD SPECTRUM OF HUMANITY. HE WAS PROUD OF HIS HERITAGE AND FAITH AND WORKED FOR JEWISH CAUSES. WOMEN’S RIGHTS…..WORKER’S RIGHTS……CIVIL RIGHTS….HUMAN RIGHTS….. 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHTS AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS WERE ALL CHAMPIONED BY HIM….AND HELD IN THE HIGHEST RESPECT AND REGARD!!!
BEFORE I REALLY GOT TO KNOW DON…..I KNEW OF HIM & HE WAS KIND OF A MYTHICAL, MYSTICAL LEGEND. HIS COLORFUL PERSONA WAS THAT OF ONE COOL CAT. THROUGH MUTUAL FRIENDS WE FINALLY FORMALLY MET & STARTED TO HANG OUT. WE BOTH SHARED A REAL LOVE FOR MUSIC. OUR FIRST CONCERT TOGETHER…..LILIA AND DON….WAS NICK CAVE AT THE ALROSA IN 1986…..25 YEARS AGO. FROM THAT POINT ON OUR FRIENDSHIP GREW….STRONGER & DEEPER….LOOKING BACK WE HAD VERY SIMILAR LIKES…..MUSIC….SPORTS, ESPECIALLY THE TRIBE AND LAKERS…..FOOD….POLITICS…..GOOD COFFEE….OUR MOMS. DON EMBODIED ALL THE QUALITIES OF A GOOD FRIEND….LOYALTY, TRUST, RESPECT… YOU COULD GO TO HIM FOR ADVICE AND HE WAS FUN TO BE WITH! HE WAS A TEACHER – AND HE INSPIRED YOU BY HIS LIFE, HIS WORDS AND HIS ACTIONS. HE WAS A SAGE OF ENDLESS WISDOM……REMINDING YOU THAT ….” YOU CAN’T LOOK AT LIFE THROUGH A REAR-VIEW MIRROR” AND “THAT THERE WAS NEVER A WRONG TIME TO BE RIGHT.”……..(BREATHE…..YOU’RE DOING GOOD)
OVER THE YEARS WE TOOK SOME GREAT ROADTRIPS….DRIVING HIS DAD’S OLD WHITE IMPALA UP TO CLEVELAND TO SEE THE TRIBE AND BOBBY D…….SEVERAL TIMES. I TOOK HIM TO HIS FIRST DEAD SHOW IN PITTSBURGH….BOY, WHAT A TIME THAT WAS. ALTHOUGH DON WAS QUITE A BIT OLDER, HE WASN’T AN OLDIE AND WE WENT TO SEE METALLICA & THE FIRST LALAPALOOZA TOO! HE LOVED ALL KINDS OF MUSIC AND ALTHOUGH HE WAS THE OLDEST AMONG MY FRIENDS – HE HAD AN OPEN MIND WHEN IT CAME TO NEW SOUNDS. THIS WAS A QUALITY THAT CROSSED OVER TO MORE THEN MUSIC. HE WAS A YOUNG THINKER.
AS MUCH FUN AS IT WAS TO BE OUT KICKIN’ IT WITH HIM….SOME OF THE BEST TIMES WERE ONE ON ONE WITH DON….SITTING ON THE BALCONY AND DISCUSSING THE STATE OF AFFAIRS AND POLITICS OF THE TIMES. HE WAS NOT ONLY A THINKER - BUT A GOOD REASONER TOO. DONNIE HAD MANY SPECIAL QUALITIES & STORIES…..AND THE MORE YOU KNEW HIM……MORE WERE REVEALED. DID YOU KNOW HE WAS A GREAT COOK? MANY A TIME WE GOT TO BREAK BREAD & SHARE A MEAL. I’LL NEVER FORGET LUNCH AT RAY’S ….EATING CURBSIDE. IT WAS MY OLD JEWISH FRIEND THAT SHOWED HIS ITALIAN FRIEND HOW TO MAKE AN “ITALIAN SUMMER SAUCE”…..I USE IT ALL THE TIME…..I MAY RENAME IT DON’S SAUCE IN HIS HONOR.
DONNIE IN HIS DAY WAS THE GREATEST LAWYER. EVEN WHILE RETIRED HE CONTINUED TO OFFER HIS HELP TO THOSE WHO SOUGHT HIM OUT. HE WAS A CHAMPION TO THE UNDERDOGS AND DOWNTRODDEN AND OFFERED HIS HELP OFTEN WITHOUT MONETARY COMPENSATION. FOR ME….AND I’M SURE FOR OTHERS HERE…..HE WAS A VOICE OF REASON. DURING LIFE’S TRIALS I COULD GO TO DON FOR ADVICE….HE WAS NEVER AFRAID TO GIVE YOU HIS HONEST OPINION….HE WAS A GOOD LISTENER TOO…..AND SOMETIMES THATS ALL IT TOOK….HE WOULD LISTEN TO YOU & SAY….”i THINK YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK” AND THAT ALONE WOULD INSTILL YOU WITH CONFIDENCE! AS HE WAS THERE FOR ME, HE WAS THERE FOR OTHERS, SERVING IN THE SAME CAPACITY – GOOD, SOLID CONSUL….I CAN ONLY HOPE AND PRAY THAT HE WILL CONTINUE TO WHISPER TO US.
LILIA….YOU ARE A MITZVAH!!! YOU SHARED SO MANY GREAT TIMES & YEARS WITH DON….YOU DEDICATED YOURSELF TO HIM DURING THE TRIALS OF THESE LAST 9 MONTHS. HE WOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO WAGE HIS FIGHT WITHOUT YOU….HIS CLOSEST ALLY & LOVE OF HIS LIFE. HE WAS SO PROUD OF YOU & THANKFUL FOR YOU…….AS ARE WE ALL!
IN PSALM 15 DAVID SAYS: ” GOD….WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO ENTER YOUR TENT, OR TO LIVE ON YOUR HOLY MOUNTAIN? THE MAN WHOSE LIFE IS RIGHTEOUS…..WHO SPEAKS THE TRUTH FROM HIS HEART”. DONNIE IS HIGH ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP…. LET US ALWAYS REMEMBER HIM & BE INSPIRED BY HIS LIFE WELL LIVED!
Vanessa followed this with another reading…..this time from Jorma’s blog……..it ended with ….. ” He was good man. Fair winds and following seas, my brother. Yes, my brother…..you were truly a very good man and I’ll always remember you and find inspiration in the life you lived!!! BLESS UP !
HERE IS DON’S OBITUARY…………..