Gone but not forgotten…
Friends of Zachary,
Yesterday was the toughest day of our lives. Saying goodbye to someone you love so much years before his time. The family of Zachary Brandon Bernstein was honored to see so many in the community come out to support the final phase of Zachary’s life. With over 700 in attendance, standing room only, there was confirmation that Zachary touched so many lives. As the funeral began, Rabbi Warmflash delivered a beautiful eulogy capturing the true essence of Zachary’s life. As hard as it was to sit there, there was some comfort knowing Zachary affects the community in such a positive manner. I was incredibly moved to hear three of Zachary’s friends…Jared Moreida, Jake Belmont and Hayden Bloomberg deliver personal thoughts and treasured moments that existed between them over the year. The next speech was brother Matthew. Matthew wanted to speak extemporaneously from the heart. His love for his brother, the moments that made their lives special and the continued feeling that Zachary was still in our hearts and soul was delivered in the most poetic way. I have never been more proud.
I preceded Matthew and was able to share my observations, thoughts & feelings to the emotional congregation. Outlined below is the speech I wrote from the for service..
March 13th, 2014 – Zachary’s Funeral Speech
My family and I are honored you all here today. How do you say goodbye to someone who’s not really gone. How do you cry or morn for someone when you really haven’t lost. Evidence of Zachary’s impact and presence on the world is displayed by the community here today.
Sometimes a gift from god is only given to us for a short period of time. But a short period is all that is needed to make a huge impact. Zachary certainly made an impact. Zachary was such a gift and inspiration to everyone around him. Whether achieving high honors in school, on the soccer field playing defense with his beloved Spartans, in his karate school with his fellow brown belts or strategizing with his business partner Billy Belmont trying to screw every nurse, teacher, waitress, school friend or family member out of $ 5 dollars for a rainbow loom bracelet. Our little entrepreneur is a unique combination of strength, creativity, courage and love.
From the minute he was diagnosed thru the end of his life, Zachary inspired us to never give up and take each step as though it was his last. He had the greatest of strength, determination and fortitude to push on each day as though it was just a normal day. Zachary had 3 separate surgical procedures and 2 – 3 days after each one, he was eager to get back to school. All Zachary wanted was to feel normal but through this tragedy, normal became inspirational and inspirational became iconic.
As a student at Lynbrook South Middle School, he was determined despite his illness, to sit among his classmates whether in the classroom or at the lunch table and try to find humor and enjoyment wherever he was. He only wanted to feel like every other 6th grader. I must recognize and say a special thank you to all his friends and classmates that never judged or shown any disrespect to Zachary through his illness. It was school as usual and for that we are deeply appreciative.
As a parent, you try to help fulfill your child’s dreams. I’ve learned of his dreams and I am proud to say many of them came true. I promised myself that I would give Zachary the childhood he deserved. I’ve seen Zachary take the field with some of the worlds top soccer athletes as an official member of the New York Cosmos, or hang with legendary Mariano Rivera, Joe Girardi and LeBron James. I saw Zachary scale the rock wall in Frost Valley to prove he could do it and not let anything get in his way. He did this with limited mobility but through strength and determination, he was able to reach the top and tap the wall in victory. Most importantly, he brought life to the character Edgar, one of the leading rolls in the Waverly park performance of Aristocats.
I’ve seen a little boys persistence and perseverance help shaped the way his medical doctors communicate across multiple institutions for the great good and care. As one doctor said “you are making me a better doctor”
Soon after Zachary’s passing, I received an email from Amanda, Zachary’s Intern Social Worker who recently wrote…
From my heart, Zach is the most amazing person I have ever known. He had the will to fight and has constantly been an inspiration to me, as I know he will continue to be. His smile and his laugh was infectious and I always looked forward to the time that I got to spend with him. Like I told David last week, Zach has been the best teacher I could have ever asked for. He not only taught me about my future career path, he taught me how to live life to the fullest and what the true definition of hope is. He truly was a special kid wise beyond his years.
Zach will forever be on my mind and in my heart.
I would also like to mention, the inseparable bond between Zachary and his brother Matthew. They were and and will continue to be the best of friends. Each one learning from the other and maturing as the years passed. Whether fighting over the xbox, or just the little annoyances on a daily basis. No matter how rough it got, they were always partners and pals.
So what have I learned along this journey.
I am proud to say I was Zachary’s father. His continued strength and “never give up attitude” gave me the energy the get up everyday and push the medical community beyond their normal limits to help find a cure. In Zachary’s final moments, his need to consul us was greater then the need for us to consul him.
I asked a close friend in the community…why haven’t you cried or shed a tear. His response was…no matter how hard Zachary pushed, he never shed a tear or complained. His continued drive to overcome obstacles has never wavered.
I’ve seen our community pull together to embrace and support Zachary and our family.
I hope Zachary never leaves your hearts, you enjoy life to the fullest and stop to appreciate the important things around you because you never know when they may be gone.
From the entire Bernstein, Larocca, Korfman, Cali and Ale family,
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts!
“it does take a village”
At the conclusion of the service, we were greeted with a police escort that took us to the final resting site of Zachary. It was an incredibly emotional day. We are comforted by our family and loved ones as we sit Shiva throughout the week. I can’t thank all my friends enough for the countless hours and support through this difficult time. As time goes on, we will pick-up the pieces, embrace a community that been such a warm blanket over our body and never forget the joy and passion of our little hero Zachary. If you thought the last nine month were intense, “You ain’t see nothing yet”. Zachary will live on forever. Stay tuned.
Thanking you from the bottom of our hearts.
Deena, David, Matthew, (Zachary) & Molly
“It Takes A Village”