Graveside Service for Harold Kort
April 24, 1997

Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis began with the tradition of tearing a piece of fabric, symbolizing the loss of the thread of Harold Kort in the fabric of life.

As we each tore a piece of fabric, we recited the blessing, "Praised be Thou, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, the One True Judge."

Cantor Janice Roger opened the graveside service with the singing (in Hebrew) of the 23rd Psalm.

Rabbi Eric Bram then spoke:

On behalf of the family, I'd like to thank all of you for coming to share this time with them. Death has taken Harold, and so do they grieve in a world that is darkened by the loss. The tears of this moment tell of loneliness. Lost in their sorrow, may they find the presence of loving friends and family as witness of God's concern and care for them.

Oh God, be with them, comfort them, begin for them a time of healing.

For Harold's love that united you in life, which death cannot sever, for his companionship shared along life's path, and which continues now through the tenderness of memory. For the gifts of his heart and his mind that brought joy and happiness and is now a precious remembrance. For all these and more, though we grieve this day for our loss, we give thanks to God for his life. And so did we begin our service with the beautiful melody of the words of Psalm 23, and I invite you to join me in those words if you like...

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures,
He leadeth me beside the still waters,
He restoreth my soul,
He guideth me in straight paths for his name's sake.
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me, in the presence of mine enemies.
Thou has anointed my head with oil,
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In his sorrow, Job cried out, "God has given. God has taken away. Blessed be the name of God."

So we are an ancient people, well acquainted with grief, well acquainted with the journey through the valley of shadows. Death and sorrow are not strangers to us. And yet the centuries have taught us that a good name endures beyond the grave, and that there is strength in our faith in God.

And so today, with Job, we say, "God you have given." You gave us a loved one who never will be forgotten. For all that was good and enduring in his life, we offer the deepest thanks of our hearts.

And with Job we say, "God you have taken away." So do we pray for the strength to turn our brokeness into an altar of trust for which we acknowledge your sovereignty, as did Job. So we say, "Blessed be the name of God, now and forever."

Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis then delivered the Eulogy:

We've gathered here to honor the memory of Harold Kort, loving husband, devoted father, faithful Jew. But Harold was also a Chemist, and in thinking about that, it lead me to look at the words of another Chemist, Primo Levy, a holocaust survivor, who wrote a meditation on the element of Carbon, the element of life. And in there, he talked about chemistry, as a metaphor for life.

He wrote:

"What I'm about to say is not a chemical treatise, nor is it a biography. It is -- or at least would like to be -- a microhistory, the history of a trade, and of a life, its defeats and its victories, such as everyone wants to tell when concluding the arc of his life. What chemist, when facing the Periodic Table, or the Indices of Landolt, does not perceive scattered among them, the tatters and trophies of his own life? Every young chemist is aware that in a single line, formula, or word, his future is written in indecipherable character. And every chemist, no longer young, turning again to those things, sees success, error, and victory. He is struck, again and again, by the delights, despair, and love of the past."

Harold was indeed a chemist, and like all good chemists, he possessed certain qualities. He was very careful, he was very patient, and he was very consistent. In each one of those qualities, were qualities that he brought to every aspect of his life. And because of that, he created a great monument, something that extends beyond the merely physical, beyond the mere business of chemistry and elements and molecules -- something that endures beyond life itself.

He was a careful man, a quiet man, a man who had simple pleasures. There were few things he liked more than simply being able to go out to dinner with his family and spend some time together. But that carefulness was one of his finest qualities, because he took his chemistry, and he used it to become a public health official. Whether he was working in the field, whether he was working in his office, or whether he was teaching other people, that carefulness, that deliberateness, that care and observation, that acute mind contributed to making for the safety of those who were placed in his protection. And my understanding was that Harold was not very often an impulsive person. But he was, at least once in his life, impulsive. And that was the moment when he met Estelle, when completely out of character, he went to a woman that he barely knew, that he wasn't even in fact dating, and suggested to her that he wanted to marry her. And marry her he did. That one impulsive act transformed into 54 years of enduring love and caring.

He was also a patient man. And that patience extended to all aspects of his life. His sons speak with great love and awe of their father, and of his patience with them. Whether it was helping Barry to master the arcane knowledge of science and mathematics in his youth, or whether it was helping Steve grasp a crisis in his own education -- whether he should pursue his college education or do something else. In each case, Harold showed tremendous patience, and worked with each one of them, faithful and courageously, knowing that whatever choices you made and whatever understanding you came to would be what you needed to do. And he loved you and he had patience with you, and he loved you for the kind of people you were, different though you might be from each other and from him.

He was also a man of great endurance, of perseverance, of consistency. This is something that really served him in his last years, because he faced tremendous illness. And he struggled with that, but he struggled valiantly against it, because he loved life and he loved the people in his life and he wanted to remain with them. And so, faced with cancer, he continued on and on, despite all odds.

He was a Jew of great faith and consistency in faith. Over the last few months, Rabbi Bram, Cantor Roger, and myself, we all had a chance to sit with Harold and talk with him in the face of his illness. And each one of us came away, both saddened by the suffering that he faced, but also deeply moved by his faithfulness and his devotion and his courage in the face of adversity. He endured for a long time, but then he succumbed, as we all must. The organic life that was the life of Harold Kort is over with, but Harold was more than just a chemist. In many ways he was also an alchemist. His life was not bound to the merely physical, but also to the metaphysical. What he did, through his words and through his deeds, extended beyond mere physicality. It is stronger -- the bonds he created -- are stronger than the bonds that make the valences of the atoms. The structures and relationships he created are more powerful than those merely found in matter. As an alchemist, he created gold in his relationships. He created for all these people here -- for me and for all of the clergy -- golden memories, golden ideas, and a golden example by which we can all live. If we take those golden things -- the alchemy of Harold's life -- and we apply it to our own lives, then that life will truly be a blessing for all of us. And his memory will endure far beyond the physical form that we once knew and loved, but we must now set aside.

May his memory be for a blessing. And may this be God's will.

Rabbi Bram:

Oh God, You give us loved ones, you make them the strength of our life, the light of our eyes. They depart, they leave us bereft, and on a lonely way. But you, Oh God, are the living fountain from which our healing flows. To You, the stricken look for comfort, and the sorrow laden for consolation.

Oh God, we see that love endures, and the soul endures, as You, Oh God, endure forever. We see that our years are more than grass that withers, more than flowers that fade. The years weave a timeless pattern in the world that is the dwelling place of your love and your glory. And so do we rise now to offer this memorial prayer...

[Cantor Rogers chants the Memorial Prayer in the Hebrew followed by Rabbi Bram's recitation in English...]

Compassionate God, eternal spirit of the universe, grant perfect rest in your sheltering presence to Harold Kort, who has entered eternity. Oh God of mercy, let him find refuge in your eternal presence. Let his soul be bound up in the bond of everlasting life. God is his inheritance. May he rest in peace, and let us say, Amen.

So the dust returns to the earth, as it was. The spririt returns to God who gave it. It is only the house of the spirit which we now lay within the earth. The spirit itself cannot die. Receive in mercy, Oh God, the soul of our departed Harold. Grant him that everlasting peace which You have prepared for us, and help us to understand that grief and love go hand in hand, that the pain which loss inflicts is the measure of a love stronger than death. Though we cry in the anguish of our hearts, may we be like children who know that their parent is near, and who cling unafraid to the trusted hand. In this spririt, Oh God, do we commit all that is precious to us to Your keeping, as we repeat these words, hallowed by the generations, words of praise to God. We recite these words of Kaddish in Harold's honor.

[The Mourner's Kaddish, an affirmation of God, is recited in Hebrew by family and friends]

May God grant peace to all who mourn, and comfort all the bereaved among us. And let us say, Amen.