Death: 1994 (age 43-44)
Gravesite Details: Row R – Plot 5
Eulogy given by Rabbi Victor Hillel Reinstein at the funeral:
Funeral: October 19, 1994
Yahrzeit: 7 Cheshvan
Samuel David Pechet — Shmuel David ben Melech v’Yehudit
Sam died during the week of the Torah portion “Lech Lecha.” In that week we read, “Vayomer Hashem el Avram, lech lecha me’artz’cha umimoladetcha umibayt avicha el ha’aretz asher areka.” — “And God said to Avram, ‘Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, from your parent’s house, to the land that I will show you.’” It is a verse about journeys, about going forth, about leaving the familiar in search of a place that while yet upon the journey remains unknown. It is a verse about the journey within as well as the journey without. The simple words “Lech-Lecha” can be translated, “Go toward yourself, find yourself.” It is a verse about Sam’s journey, the journey of his inner quest and of all the places he has been, on this earth and now beyond.
Sam was named for his uncle, Mitch’s brother, an RCAF navigator who was killed over Britain in 1944. Like his namesake, he too could soar to great heights, and so too, at times, he could plummet.
As his family has said, Sam was an adventurer at heart. He lived his life in an adventurous way and inspired the spark of adventure in others. For you Bill, that provided a challenge in being his brother. That spirit of adventure brought Sam to Israel and to Kibbutz Ein Hamifratz. Even as God told Avram to go “to the land that I will show you,” so for Sam Israel marked a special place of homecoming. “Israel was a touchstone for him.” “Mifratz” can mean a “bay, a gulf, or a haven,” and so it was for Sam. They loved him on the kibbutz, and in that life he found a special sense of freedom. He had planned to stay in Israel, but there on Kibbutz he met you Birgitte, then a volunteer from Denmark and, following love, he left to be with you.
Even as his adventurous spirit took him to so many places, it also played out within him. “Lech lecha” — go toward yourself, find yourself. He was filled with an inner hunger, almost a quest. As you said Casey, “He believed there was an absolute state of bliss to live in and he sought it.” Never able to accept the mundane, he continually sought new experiences. He enjoyed the sensual. He loved travelling. It was the travelling itself that he loved, more than the being there. It was always the anticipation that drew him, the anticipation of something, or someone, or someplace. The things he did, the places he lived and saw, the people he loved — the journey itself was his home. To you, his siblings, it seemed he was “always kind of packing up his stuff,” always beginning another endeavour or adventure. There was the used furniture store. It seemed it was all his own furniture, Casey mused. And there was the deli, and the hotel, and there was the houseboat that he lived on and renovated and sold. And, of course, there was Bagga Pasta. It was all part of his adventure. When he was in that state of anticipation, his enthusiasm, as you said Sidney, was infectious. For coming events in the family, it was he who built up family excitement in anticipation of the event. He was always early, the first to arrive and the first to leave. Anticipating the event and getting there was always the best part of any gathering for him.
Sam loved to give gifts. He had an almost childish excitement about giving and about going shopping to find gifts. He was excited to give, even if it wasn’t always the most appropriate gift — like the paint by number “Blue Boy” for Bill. You were not sure what to do with it, but you knew that for him the act of giving was the gift. And there was the food he left in your freezer after staying with you, a typically gracious gesture, though it was food better left unfrozen.
Sam gave gifts much deeper than those to be purchased in a store. He gave of himself as a natural part of living. You said Birgitte that he taught you and everyone love and kindness. He liked to mentor to people, to guide , to explore, to help others to see the world with freshness. He had a deep empathy for others, feeling their problems. A former employee wrote of the sense of freedom he felt around Sam, and so too of the inspiration he felt in the presence of Sam and his siblings. Some Oak Bay High School students called the house to see about coming to the funeral. They wanted to honour a man who treated them with such respect when they came into Bagga Pasta from school. If someone didn’t have enough money he would still serve them and say to bring it next time.
Sam was a complex person. You have spoken, Mitch, of both the pain and the “nachas” of his life. He was full of life, but also of turmoil. As we look through tears now to see the meaning of his life, it is the beauty and the nachas that shines forth and is transcendent. He was a person of many talents. He had an athlete’s strength and coordination in all sports. He had a great singing voice and played the piano beautifully, even as Mitch would sit on the bench beside him. Sam was a big “walrus of a man,” in whose grasp you felt secure when he hugged you. He was a very sensitive, gentle and creative person with a special charisma. It was part of that magnetic personality of which you speak, Sidney. And for you, Judy, it was in his “glorious smile and glittering eyes — when he was happy.” When he wasn’t happy his eyes showed it. You always knew how he was feeling. It was in his eyes and in his being. Of your role Judy, you said, “I was his champion. I had a hard time bringing him into the world…, and now saying good-bye.” Sam didn’t always fit in the world of reality, but, all agree, he was so charming. He could make anybody feel at ease. His manner elicited forgiveness. He maintained a remarkable connection with you Jackson, and with you Barb and Verne, a tribute to your good nature and love and forgiveness. Sam lived life in “abundance,” to use your term, Casey, abundance in his size and in what he did for people. Life came to him in full measure, both good and bad. There were no small doses.
Sam had a wonderful sense of humour and of fun. As a child he would put on shows, like “a thousand and one ways to trip yourself.” “He made us laugh,” you said, “and gave us fun times.” And so it continued through adulthood right until the end, making up his own phrases and turnings of words and even his own dances, which he got you doing as well Birgitte, all to make people laugh. And there was that time, Sidney, when he brought laughter and fun without even realizing why. As you sat in the old beat up truck, he got out to pick up some Chinese food. As you waited, two teenage girls came to the window and asked, “is that Kenny Rogers?” Picking up the cue, you answered, “yes, why don’t you go say hello.” They told others and they all screamed as Sam emerged from the store rather bemused by the attention.
In retrospect, there was sometimes a poignance to his playfullness. Before Sam left on a trip not so long ago, Bill called to say good-bye. Finally, with the words “good-bye” they hung up. Then Bill continued to call over and over so they could each say good-bye yet again, as Sam, waiting by the phone, added ever more humour to his parting words. Enough “good-byes” were shared then to be stored and offered now when there was no opportunity for even one good-bye. A playful good-bye still lingers in the air, said with a laugh, as he would have liked to say it now if only he had known. Try to hear those words now, unsaid but clearly understood, because you know what he would have liked to say. So too, he sought to make amends and to clear the air with each of you before he left for Denmark.
In the gathering of so many people today from so many parts of Sam’s life, may there be a measure of comfort for you, his family. In the outpouring of love and affection is an indication of the numbers of people touched by him, family, friends, business partners, customers, all reaching out from the many places his journey brought him.
In this week of journeys, “Lech lecha…,” “Go forth…,” Sam now goes forth on a new journey surrounded by our love. For this journey there was no anticipation. Torn from life too soon, may his spirit of kindness and adventure fill Heaven with a new quality of being. With your talis around him, Mitch, an eternal bond of love is formed with your son, saying all that could not be said with words. And so too, the wings of the Sh’china, as we call the female presence of God, like a talis, surround him now with motherly love, championing his soul as only a mother can, as only Judy could and did.
May each of you, his beloved family, find the place where Sam dwells within your own heart. Each of you has a special place that defines the uniqueness of your own relationship with Sam. Sam’s relationships, like his life, were complex. The many strands of his life are now yours to continue to weave as you join his life to yours in all of its fullness. In death the essence is revealed. Sam’s joyfullness, his love, his kindness, his searching soul stand forth now. The nachas seeks to outweigh the pain as we remember him for his goodness, and for the beauty and greatness of his spirit. Our hearts go out to each of you, Birgitte, Mitch and Judy, Sidney and Bob, Bill, Casey and Jackson. He would only want each of you to continue to live fully in spite of the pain. May his soul shine in your lives and his own spirit help to guide you through the darkness of sorrow. May his memory be for a blessing in all that you do. And let us say, Amen.
Sam – an adventurer
our hearts went with him on his last journey
- Judith Shapiro Pechet (1924–2016)
- Mitchell Pechet (1918–2009)