Signs Of The Times…
Friends of Zachary,
The weeks leading up to this past weekend was somewhat concerning and emotional given that June 15th, 2014 was Father’s Day. With Mother’s Day behind us, Matthew and I recognized Deena (my wife) for Mother’s Day and constructed a day that insulated us from the constant reminders that Zachary was not with us. We acknowledge Mothers Day was the first of many Hallmark Holiday’s that will be celebrated without our son Zachary.
Many in the community asked me “How was your Father’s Day?” as if I was quivering in the corner with anguish and despair. I guess it is understandable and human nature to ask given our circumstances but a few thing clicked for me prior to this day of recognition. First, I have another son, Matthew, who was so deserving of a wonderful day that anything less would be disrespectful to him. Second, my amazing wife Deena. The pillar of strength in my life that stands beside me and keeps me from deviating off the path. Without Deena, I would never be so proud to say I am the father of Matthew and Zachary.
The Street Naming
This past weekend was filled with several amazing tributes and recognition for my family, Zachary and the community of Lynbrook. My family was honored to have Mayor William J. Hendrick and the board of trustees grace our street when they unanimously approved the renaming of my street ”Zachary Way”. About 100 community residents including family and friends all gathered on June 14th to witness the addition of “Zachary Way” being positioned above our current street sign in the village of Lynbrook, NY. Speeches, honors and praises were shared among the community leaders as well as few words from Councilman Anthony J. Santino. We were all pleasantly surprised to also see Team Captain and personal friend, Carlos Mendes, star defender for the New York Cosmos Soccer Team join us this morning as well.
As I maneuvered through the crowd to share my appreciation to all that came, I went up to Carlos and asked what he was doing here. “Aren’t you preparing for the Red Bulls Game”? He said…”I wouldn’t miss this for the world”. “Zachary is family to the Cosmos organization”.
I was asked to address the community and say a few words on behalf of the street sign unveiling. Here’s an edited version of my speech…
“When I think about some of the many tributes and memorials being considered throughout the community, I asked myself is this for my families benefit, my personal benefit or the communities. Selfishly I conceded and said for my families but in reality, all of the above. After rereading so many e-mails, notes and comments made by the community, I remind myself that this community NEEDS a child like Zachary.
- He gives us purpose and reasoning for fighting for what we desire and care for the most.
- He gives us understanding and a sense comfort when things become too complex.
- He gives us laughter and smiles when we are down or depressed.
- He gives us passion and creativity when our pallets are black and white
- He gives us strength and fortitude when we need to overcome our most challenging obstacles.
- He give us belonging and direction when we start to deviate from the path.
Zachary has affected so many lives in such a positive way. This street sign will be a significant remembrance and tribute to a wonderful child, friend, student and community member. It will remind us of all the good we have inside of us and give us comfort and balance when we are at our worst.
When someone passes so young, you need the strength and support of everyone around you to get through these turbulent times. This street sign is a remembrance of Zachary’s life and a reminder that he will never be forgotten. This community was there for us and our family greatly appreciates all your support.
I welcome you all to join us across the street to share in the beautiful tribute the Cimato family has created. We have a plaque that was inscribed which I truly think captures the truest essence of Zachary’s spirit.
The Zachary Bernstein Memorial Garden
About 3 months ago Sal Cimato, a family friend and part owner of a local garden nursery came to my house and presented a plan to create a landscape memorial for Zachary that will live on the grounds of Lynbrook South Middle School. The garden was to represent the bright spirit Zachary had, his true creativity and inspiration he fostered. I was elated how his described vision may actually be a reality. If you ever met Sal, his word is his bond. I knew if Sal was going to do something for my family, it would be significant. My family graciously agreed and eagerly waited to see the colored picture that Sal would share when presenting what the memorial would look like. When we saw all the pink and bright flowers with rocks, green trees and balanced landscaping we were elated by what we saw. The garden will also be home to an inscribed plaque and bench that will capture the true essence of Zachary for all to read.
Everyday Sal was out there planting and designing for what would ultimately be a masterpiece for all to enjoy. We coordinated the timing of the street sign and garden unveiling on the same day. It was perfect. Shortly after my speech, I invited all attendees to share in the beauty and vision that was created by Sal.
My family cannot thank the Cimato’s enough for their generosity, creativity and love for our son Zachary.
My Dream Come True
If it wasn’t overwhelming enough to partake in a wonderful morning, I was invited by Sensei Adel Elbehiry of Adel’s International Karate Center of New York to stop over in the afternoon and receive a special acknowledgement from the school and instructors. When we arrived, the school was filled with parents, students and black belts and Sensei’s who were participating in an all day in school tournament. As a reminder, Zachary and I both attended the school for several years and studied under Sensei’s (Martial Arts Instructor of a high Black Belt rank) Adel, Steve and Brian. Zachary was a student for over 4 plus years working his way to becoming a black belt. Unfortunately his dream died with him as he was never able to accomplish this honorable feat. I too have been taking classes for many years and I am still working very hard to achieve my ultimate goal. I was called up by all the Sensei’s and was given a plaque by Sensei Steve that reads…
“From Adels Karate Dojo, Staff and Family…Perseverance, continued strength, and never give up attitude, are Zachary’s Dad’s words about his son, reminding us of a saying that we use in Karate…NANA KOROBI YA OKI, meaning “Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight! Perseverance! Zachary’s Impact and Presence Will Always Remain In Our Hearts and In Our Dojo”.
I was honored and accepted this plaque with great appreciation. I appropriately bowed to all the higher belts and proceeded to walk off the mat…never turning my back on the instructors. Sensei Steve called me back to accept one more honor. It was with great anticipation that Zachary was to receive the most covenant of honors…the acknowledgement and receipt of his own Black Belt. The school and instructors thought given Zachary’s ability to overcome so many obstacles and persevere in a horrific time in his life was certainly worthy of the receiving his Black Belt.
I greatly accepted this honor and again, appropriately bowed to all the instructors out of respect and appreciation. I know one day, I too, will have the honor of calling myself a black-belt. The difference between then and now…I will do it for Zachary and myself. The greatest tribute I can give my son is to finish what we both started.
My nights are now filled with walks with Molly as we pass the red and white street sign that reads “Zachary Way” on the corner of Baylis and Union. We cross over Union Ave and sit for a few minutes to reflect how this community, family and friends have and will always be there. More importantly, I reflect on my family’s life with Zachary and know that his memorial is on the grounds of a school that was so caring and nurturing to him. This was his home away from home. It is only fitting that a memorial this size is positioned at the location that comforted him the most. I also am comforted knowing that Zachary will always be remembered and is so close to home.
So…Did I have a good Father’s Day. You bet your Ass!!!
Yesterday is gone, live for today, let tomorrow be your inspiration and future.
Our sincerest appreciation,
Deena, David, Matthew, (Zachary), Molly.
“It Takes A Village”