Ben Prager Speaking at Amir’s Shloshim

The following eulogy was delivered at the Lopatin’s home on April 25, 2004, as part of an evening marking the (symbolic, religiously-mandated) end of the 30-day mourning period that commenced at Amir’s burial.

Click below for the video:



As you know, last September Amir’s father passed away. After the funeral service here in Englewood, I had a chance to talk to Amir right outside this home.

He told me three things that afternoon.

He told me he regretted not delivering a eulogy for his father (something, I should point out, he later did, and, I am told, did beautifully, at his father’s burial in Israel).

He told me that I should be proud of my father and mother for all they had done for his family during his father’s illness.

And, before heading back into his house to prepare for that evening’s trip to Israel, he told me something that I will never forget—he told me that it bothered him that the world would never again be able to hear his father’s side of the story.

I asked Amir what he meant by this, so he explained further.

It bothered him that his father could never again defend himself or commend himself when needed; that his good name and reputation would forever be in the hands of anyone who saw fit to speak of him; and, most troubling, that his father’s opinions and thoughts, his explanations and ideas, his intentions and desires, his arguments and beliefs—the full and nuanced expression of his father’s inimitable, complex perspective—now had to pass through the minds and mouths of others to be known.

I had never heard this perspective on death before, and it shook me. The thought was not a comforting one.

I asked Amir—so what are we to do then? How do we manage this void?

Before he could answer, he was summoned inside to get ready.

For the past month, I have thought a lot about what Amir told me that day and, suddenly, the questions he raised now seem terribly urgent—How do we fill this void of perspective when all we have now are guesses and speculation, presumptions and projections, interpretations and extrapolations? Are these really the tools we should be using to define Amir and sustain his identity? And must we define him, at all? Must we summarize Amir’s life?

I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions. But I think that as long as we remain mindful of them—as Amir did—and accept that Amir’s perspective is NOT, in his absence, up for grabs, we won’t allow his identity to be reduced to convenient generalizations. We will dearly miss Amir’s voice and vision, and we will wonder and contemplate what he might have said or might have done, but in the absence of knowledge, ambiguity and uncertainty are sometimes more faithful representations of the truth.

Mikey and Benji’s Eulogy for Amir

We’ve been asked to relate a story about our friend Amir, and, in keeping with Jewish custom during the month of Nissan, will focus on celebrating Amir’s life.

Those of us who knew Amir know that no eulogy or anecdote–no matter how pithy or exemplary–could possibly distil his essence. Amir’s magnificence was, and will always be, larger than words, his measure more fully felt than thought, his totality better represented in the broken hearts of the people who today fill the shul to honor and say goodbye to him. So please accept these few words as a modest attempt to share a small, but meaningful, part of the Amir that we know and love.

By 8th grade, Amir had firmly established his intellectual prowess. He casually used words like “victual” and “asunder;” had mastered world-domination games like Axis & Allies; had taken, and scored well on, the SAT’s; knew “basic” computer language; and had written reams of short stories, all the while innocently assuming that his friends were as smart and productive as he was. But we weren’t. As it turned out, many of Amir’s closest friends were sports-lovers. And while he was reading his dog-eared copy of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, we were off playing sports, specifically basketball. Realizing that athletics served as a more likely common ground between him and his friends than literature, Amir took it upon himself to learn the one thing he hadn’t–basketball. He asked his father to put a hoop up in the driveway, traded in his Velcro sneakers for high-tops, folded up his glasses, and bought a Spalding. As in everything he did, Amir was a quick study. Months of dedicated practice showed Amir and his friends that, indeed, he was an athlete. But for Amir it wasn’t enough to simply play the game; Amir wanted to make the Moriah school team. Sure enough, after two grueling tryouts, Amir was issued a uniform and a schedule–he had made the squad.

It’s only a small story, but it illustrates one of Amir’s greatest qualities–his remarkable passion for self-improvement, a passion he demanded of, and inspired in, his friends. Amir knew his friends’ weaknesses and, quietly and sensitively, challenged us to confront and overcome them. We, his lucky friends, have been shaped by him, taught by him, touched by him, moved by him, and made better by him, and we will carry him (and his perfect laugh) in our hearts wherever we go.

–Ben Prager and Mikey Allen, 3/28/04