Just got this from Peter
Dear Friends of Art Springer,
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Ten days ago, my wife Linda and I went down to a simple cemetery on Staten Island for the simple ceremony that laid Art Springer to rest. We were joined by Dr. Samy Elmariah, who had first contacted Leo, Flo and me to let us know that Art was in the hospital and had asked us to serve as his decision makers. Dr. Elmariah, a shining exemplar of his profession, had continued to visit Art and show his concern for him even after Art was no longer under his professional care. There were also a number of others who would like to have been there, but were prevented from attending by various circumstances, including the short notice.
The wonderful Rabbi who directed events told us that very often there is no one but himself at these ceremonies for those who don't have the panoply of a conventional funeral. But I found this simple occasion to be the most meaningful such service I had ever attended - and I've attended far too many this year. The rabbi led us through the meaning of each step. We accompanied the coffin to the gravesite "as a host walks departing guests to the door, because we are all temporary guests on earth before going to our eternal home." The coffin itself is all made of wood, even held together by wooden pegs, so that it and the body it contains will all turn back into the soil. "The shroud has no pockets in it; you take nothing with you but your good deeds to the heavenly throne. It doesn't matter how many material possessions you had - if you did not help others, you have nothing to show for your life."
We were asked to share memories of Arthur, which we did. I also read parts of a letter from Jeanne Hooper, who had just known him through the internet, but had a very clear grasp of the contrast between his prickly, sometimes contentious exterior and his heart of gold.
My story came from our days of working for peace with the Cambridge MA Quakers. In 1962, the Russians were threatening to renew nuclear testing after a long mutual moratorium, and Art was enlisting prominent people in an appeal to Krushchev not to do it. He asked the great Protestant theologian Paul Tillich, then teaching at Harvard. "It's a futile gesture," said the great man. "But'" argued Art, "we have some responsibility..." "Ve haff no responsibility to make futile gestures," thundered Tillich. The Russians did start testing, but a test ban treaty was achieved not long after and has remained in effect ever since.
Art may have tilted at a lot of windmills and had a sense of futile gestures in some cases, but he also achieved concrete results in others. I don't know if anyone knows the extent of the record. Leo and I went to his apartment a couple of days ago to see if we could save some of his papers, but we found total chaos and no way to pick out what might have been important. It was, indeed, a futile gesture, but Art will carry his many good deeds with him to that heavenly throne.
Knowing that the ceremony at the cemetery was going to be difficult for people to attend, we have been talking about holding an event to celebrate Art's life. Leo and I found a potential location at a non-sectarian community center run by the Episcopal Church of St Matthew and St Timothy in Art's old neighborhood. (Linda taught in their nursery school when we lived there 40 years ago.) We would like to put on a simple event including some meaningful readings, a bit of music, shared memories and light refreshments, in which bagels and lox would be featured. We would like to know if you and others you know would be interested in attending and, if so, days of the week and times of day that are best for you. Our current thought, with the holiday season upon us, is that it might be best to wait for the new year, but we are open to all suggestions.
I thank you for your attention and the many responses I have received to these letters. I shared your good wishes with Arthur whenever I could and I suspect that he is carrying them, too, to that heavenly throne. Sincerely, Peter Salmon
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