Words by Sarah Lopatin at Amir’s Funeral, Sunday 28 March 2004
Amir Shaihe Lopatin
Born: February 10 1976 — died March 25 2004, Age 28, 3 weeks
Cause of death: Car accident at 2pm on a Nevada highway. He lost control of the car, it somersaulted and hit a rock. Amir was pronounced dead upon arrival at the medical center. His friend is in ICU at Las Vegas Hospital center.
Amir was an excellent driver. He was neither drunk nor under any influence. Amir was wearing a seat belt. His car was barely 3 month old. We don’t know why he swerved, why the balloons did not engage, why the car did not withstand the rolling over…… It was a freak accident. A freak accident took my son’s life while he was on Spring break. He and his friends had planned this vacation long in advance and he was so excited, happy and looking forward to it. Next week he was to have come home to spend the first days of Pesach with Shoshana, Uri and myself in Washington. How was I looking forward to seeing him and to hear him tell us of his vacation experience??
And then we were going to make plans for my coming to see him at Stanford. I had not yet been there. We were looking forward for him to show me his new surroundings. He thought Stanford was beautiful. In one of his first e-mails he wrote me: Mommy, it is unbelievably beautiful here, the campus is lush and the vegetation gorgeous. Imagine I have a lemon tree growing right outside my window… He loved his course work, liked his peers and his professors. He was happy with himself and with his decision to pursue a career in academia. And we all were so proud of him. It is no simple matter for a young man who had a well paying job, good career potential, in a familiar environment, close to his friends and family, to resign and to go back to graduate school.
Amir was a beautiful person inside and out. He was handsome; he had the sweetest smile, and infectious laughter. He had the most interesting thoughts. He was unassuming, helped eagerly and he was such fun to be with. He was a loyal friend, he was easygoing and laid back. He had all kinds of interests and hobbies and was involved in so many different things. While at Ramaz he belonged to a math club, chess club, he loved English literature. He participated in a Shakespearean play, wrote beautiful poetry, realized that he liked to paint and do photography. When he attended to Brown, he learned how to sail, loved it and then taught underprivileged kids in a New York outdoor program how to sail. During his 4 years at Brown he was a member of a help organization that fed the hungry. He would come home to NY, see us for a day and then live in a youth hostel with his classmates where they would wake early every morning to cook for and feed the homeless. He tried to engage the men and women that he met in conversation and help them if possible to pull out from their rut.
After Brown he accepted a position in a large software design company in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked on developing simulation programs for the military industry including a tank simulator and a 3-d head tracking system. We were so impressed with how Amir could make friends and a place for himself in such a foreign place. One thing he took advantage of during that year were the continuing education classes at the University of Utah which were paid for by his company. Jossi and I were so pleased to hear that Amiri was continuing to learn and we asked him: Well Amir, what courses are you taking?
I shall never forget my husband’s face when Amir told him sweetly: Well I am taking one class in fly-fishing and one in white water rafting….Jossi and visited him for a weekend in Salt Lake City and he gave us such a great time. He handpicked the just-right room in a Bed and Breakfast close to him. Cooked a beautiful Sabbath meal and after Sabbath. He introduced us to his favorite hiking trails. He took us to Evans & Sutherland and he even let us try out the simulation machines for pilot training that he was involved in writing.
When he came back to NY, he was involved in a big brother program. He tried hard to teach his young protégé learning skills and he was constantly purchasing new science and experiment kits with the hope that his young “little brother” would feel an excitement to learn.
He always wanted a dog. Before he went out to get one so on his own he wanted to make sure that he would be responsible enough. So, he volunteered to become a dog walker for the animal league in New York City. He loved his little mutt and kept telling us how much he looked forward to walking her and I remember how upset he was when one day, his little dog that he thought of as his, was adopted by someone else.
He loved to play ultimate. It’s a kind of Frisbee game. He belonged to the ultimate league at Brown. And in NY when he realized how haphazard and unorganized the playing was he took it on himself to form the NY ultimate league. He took this job very seriously. He was in charge of having all the fields throughout the tristate area reserved for the games. He ordered and designed shirts for all the different level players. Kept the bookkeeping. And it became a real institution. He belonged to the Sierra outdoors club, he was a very serious recycler and he taught me many tricks on how to be a responsible citizen. For example: did you know that the lint from your dryer makes an excellent mulch? Or that torn stockings are excellent for holding up vines?
He liked to cook. He belonged to a kosher food coop in Brown and also now at Stanford he had rejoined a food co-op. One of my favorite dishes that he liked to make was peanut noodles, and he made excellent oatmeal cookies.
When his father was sick, he was at his bedside all the time. He did anything to make things easier for his father. He came to live at home with us during the last 3 months of my husband’s life. He never complained, nothing was ever too much for him.
Amir would always help me with my computer problem although the lesson he taught me most was Mommy RTFM. This was secret code for read the darn manual, but it was also Amir’s way of saying that I should have confidence in my own ability to solve problems.
Amir was full of promise and happiness. He understood best how to live life. In his short life he accomplished more good works and touched more hearts then many three times his age. I am so proud of him that he lived his life so fully. He was the apple of my eye.