the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Hey, Dad

This week is the first anniversary of my father’s passing.  When I started writing this blog, I didn’t expect my usual nonsense and sex jokes to be interrupted by a phone call asking Sophia and I to fly home to New York.  I certainly didn’t expect to blog about the experience and receive so much comfort from bloggers.  And I most definitely in a million years did not expect bloggers to help us decide what to write on my father’s stone!  Thanks.

Hey, Dad. 

Happy New Year.  Shana Tova.  

You always had a quirky sense of humor, but this takes the cake.   When we all agreed, including my blogging friends, that “Be of Good Cheer” was ideal for the stone in the cemetery it was because that was your “tagline” whenever you said goodbye to someone on the phone.   I figured you picked up that phrase from one of those old British war movies you loved to watch.  Today, I did some research on Google, and guess what?  You got the last laugh! The phrase was popularized by… Jesus!  Of all people, this is who I’m writing about on Rosh Hashana?!  Well, at least he was Jewish.

The idea of “good cheer” is derived from the Greek word tharsei, and the meaning of “cheer” is very different from what we associated today with that word.  Tharsei meant “to dare to be bold,” “to take courage,” “to replace fear with hope.”   The word tharsei is so old, it can even be seen in Homer’s Odyssey. 

The phrase is also found in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, as when Moses is at the Red Sea: 

Two million people were trapped between the sea and the approaching Egyptian army. Escape was humanly impossible. In that moment of supreme crisis, Moses cried out to the people, “Fear not! Stand still and see the miracle of the Lord!” (Exod 14:13).

The idea of “cheering up” now had a slightly different meaning: “Take heart!”

Repeatedly through the Old Testament, God’s people were encouraged to take heart, based on who God is and what God would do. “Fear not, O Zion . . . the Lord your God is in your midst” (Zeph 3:16-17). “Take courage . . . I am with you . . . My Spirit is abiding in your midst; Do not fear!” (Hag 2:4-5).

In the New Testament, tharsei is constantly on the lips of Jesus. 

A helpless paralytic heard Jesus say, “Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven” (Matt 9:2). A hopeless woman was told by Jesus, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well” (Matt 9:22). Blind Bartimaeus lived in utter despair until Jesus came to Jericho and they summoned the blind man, saying, “Take heart, arise! He is calling for you” (Mark 10: 49).

This is all fascinating stuff to me because it now makes more sense why you said “Be of Good Cheer.”  I always thought it was odd that you used that phrase, mostly because I interpreted “good cheer” as meaning “go have a good time” or “live it up by drinking a lot of eggnog at the Christmas office party”   You were always a conservative man and you were not the type to tell anyone to “live it up.”  You were too much of worrywart for that.  You worried a lot about everyone — mostly everyone except yourself. 

Your “Be of Good Cheer” was not about fun, but about courage.   As a practical man, you were telling people to be strong, despite the challenges they might meet.  That sounds EXACTLY like something you would say!  Be strong.  Like Penelope warding off suitors as she waits for Odysseus’ return.  Or the Israelites trusting Moses to walk into the Red Sea.  Or a sick beggar trusting that Jesus will make him healthy.

In all these examples, those in need got “cheer” — “courage” — by knowing that something bigger than them was on their side, looking over their shoulder.  You were saying something similar.  You weren’t saying “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and putting all the responsibliity on them.  You were saying, “Don’t Worry.  If you ever need me, I’ll be there.”  

And you were always there, for so many people. 

I can certainly get courage knowing that you are looking over me and Mom.  I will certainly have “good cheer” knowing you will always be around.

Even so, we miss you.

You can read all posts about my father here.

77 Comments

  1. fringes

    God be with you today and forever, Neil. You and your dad are in our thoughts.

  2. bookfraud

    thank you for this, neil. you took a phrase that most people could take as trite and made into a wonderful post. bravo.

    it doubly resonated with me because the first anniversary of my father’s death was in june. you also did something that i did not have the courage to do, which is write about my father in public (and i have the shield of anonymity).

  3. Therese

    This just goes to show that even when they’re gone, those we love, they’re not really gone.

    And that is very comforting.

    *smile*

  4. Edgy Mama

    Courage be with you, Neil.

    Happy New Year!

  5. Alison

    Great post, Neil.

  6. *lynne*

    reading this made my eyes threaten to leak. And not just because this was an eye-opening post either! cheers courage! *lynne* 🙂

  7. Deborah

    Lovely post.

  8. mernitman

    damn, man, did you have to start my day off by making me all weepy?

    great post. way to keep your dad’s spirit all the more alive.

  9. sara lee

    Really lovely post! Happy New Year and be of very good cheer!

  10. sarah

    What a beautiful post. I’m sure your dad would be proud of you and moved by your writing today and glad that you understood.

    Or, if he was like my dad, he’d be rolling his eyes and say “about time you got it”.

    Either way, beautiful and thank you for sharing with us. May God bless you and your family as your remember your dad.

    I said a prayer for you.

  11. laurie

    I heart you.

  12. Jody

    Thank goodness I read this before I put on my mascara. You are such an incredible writer! I believe you might have passed on a little of your father to each and everyone of us today and I am sure that makes him proud of the man that you are. Be of good cheer! La shana tova.

  13. MARGARET

    “Be of Good Cheer”, what a wonderful sentiment at a difficult time for you and your family.

  14. Roberta

    Blessings, Neil.

  15. Rhea

    Have a wonderful holiday and may Neil and everyone else be inscribed this year in the Book of Life.

  16. Sarah

    Thinking of you this week, Neil. Lovely post, and a beautiful tribute to the man your father was.
    L’Shana Tova, my friend.

  17. Tatyana

    Have a sweet new year, Neil.

  18. Caitlinator

    Happy New Year, Neil.

  19. Danny

    Great post. So moving and a perfect way to honor your dad. He sounds like such a fascinating guy that I’d like to read a whole book about him. Can you get on that right away?

    L’shana tovah!

  20. Wendy

    I’m sorry, Neil..I am sure this is a difficult day for you but I bet your dad would be pretty damn proud of his son…L’Shana Tovah… may the next year bring only joy..

  21. schmutzie

    Be well, Neil. Your dad sounds like a good memory to be having today.

  22. Neil

    I know he would proud of all the bed photos I got from hot women!

  23. Jewels

    Happy New Year, Neil.

    I lost my father 7 years ago and I still think of him often. Our loved ones are never very far from our thoughts even when they have left this world.

    Peace be with you and your family at this time.

  24. Alexandra

    I really hope that somehow your dad is out there able to read your posts, esp this one. I think “be of good cheer” is just perfect. This may not matter as much to you but it will also be soothing and uplifting to those visiting their loved ones at that cemetary too. Cyber hugs being sent your way…

  25. The Foo

    Beautiful/ moving post and he is probably looking down proud – it’s a great post to honor him. As one that lost his dad as well several years ago, I know how you feel and how difficult it is. Times like this is where love and family play a big part in keeping ones sanity. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  26. tiff

    You sure you’re not a biblical scholar or something? Very very interesting! Even thought my own Dad checked out over 15 years ago, I can still hear his booming laugh and see that wide smile – a happy man, who knew what life was all about. Be of good cheer!

  27. ElizaF

    I hope one day I inspire my children to eloquence like that Neil, beautifully beautifully written. E.

  28. The Cynical Girl

    Shana Tova

  29. Hilly

    God be with you, Neil. My husband lost his Dad around the same time as you did, except four years ago, so this is a reflective time for all of us here as well.

    Shana Tova.

  30. deezee

    quite a beautiful tribute. I like thinking of Good Cheer as courage…

  31. better safe than sorry

    very touching. i’m sure it was a hard post to write, but you’ve done a wonderful job on it.

  32. Tara

    What an incredibly thoughtful post. It looks like your father did an excellent job raising you.

  33. modigli

    Happy Rosh Hashana.
    Happy New Year.
    Happy Day to remember your dad.

    This was a really sweet story. 🙂

  34. Viscountess of Funk

    Hi Neil:
    This is a lovely tribute to your father. I’m sure he is smiling right now.

    I have a theory – very unscientific – that our deceased loved ones’ energy enters our hearts when they die. That way we have some of them in our cells, some of them that we didn’t have when they were alive. It makes sense to me. Here’s to a great new year to you.

  35. sarah

    to another good year of good cheer.

    (i swear i wasn’t trying to rhyme)

  36. Bama Girl

    I love how you still feel so close to your dad. I haven’t lost a parent, but this year I lost both grandparents, and it’s hard to convince myself that they are gone. I think about them all the time, and I know that won’t stop because they are gone. Thanks for the history lesson too. I love learning the meaning of words and phrases!

  37. Amy K

    The letter to your father is sweeter than honey. I do believe this is how souls live on – they transpose into our souls and we perpetuate them. L’Shana Tovah…

  38. JavaCurls

    Loved reading your post about your father.

    I found your research surrounding your Dad’s tagline very interesting. A man that says “Be of Good Cheer” to his family & friends sounds like an incredible person. Treasure your memories with him.

  39. anne

    Beautiful tribute, Neil, and beautiful sentiments.

  40. LisaBinDaCity

    I understand how you feel.

    You did your father proud today. And every other day, I’m sure.

  41. LisaBinDaCity

    Oops, I pushed publish before I said L’Shana Tovah!

  42. danielle

    Here’s toasting you and another great post with apples and honey, and wishes for an amazing year, full of health, love, prosperity, and many blessings.

  43. V-Grrrl

    All the best in the New Year. Thank you for this tribute to your father, which gave all of us who didn’t know him a chance to share his life.

    We seldom, if ever, exhort each other to be bold and courageous, to remember who stands with us. I’m glad blog comments are becoming a place to encourage each other, stand together, and share our beliefs.

    Peace and blessings to you and yours.

  44. ms. sizzle

    what a wonderful post, neil. i love the way you talk about your dad. there is so much love in it.

    xo
    sizz

  45. CrankMama

    Thanks for sharing your Dad with us.

  46. Dustin

    Well said, well said indeed. I truly love your posts when you explore your faith and the way it interacts with your life and that of your family. Does that make me lame? =)

  47. Lux Lisbon

    what a titillative post. i’m going to go call my dad.

  48. Mr. Fabulous

    This was a great post, Neil. My dad is getting up there in age, and I know that day will come for me sooner rather than later. Thank you.

  49. Jessica

    “Be of good cheer” – I like that.

    Thinking of you and your family Neil.

  50. Felicity

    Lots of comments, here, Neil. Nevertheless, wanted to add my sentiment of sending good juju your way.
    Love ya.

  51. wendy

    thank you for posting this today, Neil. Your Dad, thru you, has given me a message I realy needed to hear TODAY! I am really touched by this..connectedness…If I can tune into you today..just for my usual chuckle…and instead hear what I needed to hear..in the way I needed to hear it…I think that is SO COOL…And probably a sign to YOU from your dad…that he is right there with you, helping you..and all your newfound friends. Thanks!

  52. Jennifer

    This is a beautiful post. What a wonderful thing to realize about your father, the depth and love he brought about everyday without anyone else knowing. Just because he was that kind of guy.

  53. momentary academic

    Happy New Year, Neil. I’m sure that your dad is celebrating all of your accomplishments and your great sense of humor with good cheer.

  54. justrun

    Really wonderful, Neil. Your humor and sentimentality is certainly in the spirit of good cheer.

  55. 2nd Pearl Past the Post

    Awesome etymology detective work. Your dad knew what he was talking about.

  56. Janet

    Blogging is actually a surprising therapeutic outlet for grief. Here you get to write a moving tribute to your father, and get some comfort in the process. Just another reason why bloggers, as a rule, rock.:)

  57. MellowPets

    Interesting etymological digging. Tharsei. Dare to be bold, I could use that in my life. L’Shana Tovah!

  58. Elisabeth

    He will always be in your heart, Neil. And you know it too.

  59. Dagny

    I thought of you and your dad yesterday morning as I was eating breakfast at Saul’s. Lovely post.

  60. Dana

    Lovely post, Neil. The “inscription” theme is especially appropriate. Your dad made his inscription upon you. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

  61. Jules

    For you today: Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine…” Be merry and be of good cheer on this New Year – it is good for you!

  62. Paris Parfait

    Great post, Neil – your father would be proud of your tribute – and of you! xo

  63. Pearl

    Neil, I remember last September even without rereading your posts from that time frame. I’d been so touched then how you wrote about your father, and I’m equally touched now.

    Your father certainly sounds like a special, well-loved man…and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    May that apple continue to be dipped in honey and allow for sweetness in your life.

    Shana Tovah, Neil & Sophia & Elaine.

  64. erin

    excellent post darling… you warmed the cockles of my heart. 😉

  65. Non-Highlighted Heather

    It’s not that I don’t want to say something…I just don’t know what. How blessed you were, sweetie. And how blessed he must’ve felt as well.

  66. Jacynth

    You just got a Sunday tear out of me. Thanks for writing this.

  67. Fitena

    Thank you Neil for sharing these beauty full thoughts, memories and especially lessons with us.
    Shana Tova! Kulu sana wa inta sa’id.

    Fitèna

  68. mari

    “Shana Tova” to you dad, wherever he may be.

  69. kapgar

    That was a great post. You always seem to have the perfect words to use to express your feelings regardless where on the range of emotions you may be. The mark of a great writer.

  70. Sedulia

    Hi Neil,

    Thanks for writing about your father. You made me feel as if I knew him. “Be of good cheer” is such a good phrase to use in the bad and good times of life.

    You will always miss your father, but the grief gradually becomes softer and the memories more important than the grief. That’s the great consolation of time.

  71. littlepurplecow

    What a beautiful post, Neil. Thanks for reflecting with us. Blessings to you in the New Year.

  72. deannie

    You stir in my longing for a loving relationship with my Dad. I don’t have one. But my mother was the parent I was closest to; she affected me like this. Keeps teaching me things even though she has been gone thirteen years…how lucky we are that we had such winsome teachers.

    Thank you for sharing this with your humble readers. I loved learning what this phrase meant today.

    hugs,

  73. wendy

    This Neil, I why I so like you.

    I hope all is well.

  74. Jenny from Chicago

    I found this through your “A Year Ago Today” feature. It’s wonderfully written.

  75. Judy

    A lovely sentiment in keeping your dad close at heart. Thank you for your courage to share with others.

  76. Razor

    I know this is an older post, but I truly believe that G_d led me to your blog. I’m facing a difficult situation today and was wondering, “I know I’m supposed to trust You, but I need help right at this moment…” The words ‘Be of Good Cheer’ popped into my head. I knew this was a verse, but I didn’t find what I was looking for on my online Bible. So I Googled it, and lo and behold, I’m here. And you’ve said just what I needed. ‘Take heart!’ ‘Replace fear with hope.’

    Thank you, Neil. Blessings to you and yours always.

    Razor

  77. Neil

    Thanks, Razor. I hope you can overcome your situation and find comfort.

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