Father’s Day … Billy Dreskin: Ten Years Later (Part 8)

Father’s Day … Billy Dreskin: Ten Years Later (Part 8)


Jonah’s death ten years ago commenced a journey for many of us that has been filled with sadness (of course) but also with love — so much love. With this campaign, “10 Years Later,” you’re invited to spend some time with some of Jonah’s best friends and teachers.

And today, with his dad.

*          *          *

Dear Jonah,

Father’s Day. A good time in this series, “Ten Years Later,” to pause and, for a moment, to let your father’s voice come through.

It’s my tenth Father’s Day without you. Yuk. Talk about your stark reminder of what’s missing, of who’s missing. I don’t know why but it continues to surprise me, that this hole in my heart is a forever thing. The yearning to see you again, to speak with you again, to hold you again, these all quiet but they don’t cease. And so, as it must be, I remain vigilant in my determination to carry on, to live a good life even though you’re not in it and, right alongside that, to accept (and even embrace) those moments when things can’t just “carry on” because it still hurts that you’re gone.

Until you were fourteen, Father’s Day always meant a family trip to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania. Perhaps as you and your siblings grew older there were fewer snapshots with Grover and Oscar, but the water and each other’s very relaxed company never stopped giving us an abundance of shared enjoyment. And since the backdrop of Sesame Place was a one-day-a-year thing, the memories remain vivid to this day (and it doesn’t hurt that we have the photographs).

Later, Father’s Day became a quieter time for us, a take-Dad-out-to-dinner kind of thing. I loved the day no matter what we did, because we did it together which, in my line of business, has always required careful planning. Dinner at a local burger joint, breakfast at the diner, or just a phone call from wherever you and Katie and Aiden happened to be in your lives, these made for excellent celebrations of “my day” too. And I have the ties. Every dad has the ties.

That first Father’s Day after you died actually found me in Buffalo. I’d gone up there for work and made sure I had time to visit your college campus, a place where you’d created a wonderful new life for yourself and the place where that life had ended. Difficult as it was only a few months after your death, it seemed right to be there because I felt your presence beside me the entire time. Sad as I was, I liked having you with me. Sitting in a diner somewhere in Buffalo, I reflected on my time spent in your dorm room, outside that same building at the spot where your body had been found, even my conversation with the police, and all I could think of was Wildwood, New Jersey.

Wildwood was never the site of any Father’s Day activity, but for a whole bunch of summers it was our family’s very happy place. It may as well have been Father’s Day because I loved the time you spent with me there. Building sand castles, flying kites, playing in the ocean. To this day, just the mention of Wildwood fills me with a most powerful sense of love and contentment.

And now, here we are. Father’s Day 2019. Ten years later.

I have so many memories of you, Jonah. Most of them great ones, and I cherish them all. It is through those memories that I continue to feel your presence after all these years. A gigantic presence, but even gigantic memories can fade and I work hard to not let that happen. All the writing I’ve done and, this year, that many others have done, these keep the memories of you close. I’m grateful to be able to do that.

I love that through The Jonah Maccabee Foundation we can do more than remember you. We help your life continue to have meaning, continue to make a difference, by helping to create new great memories for other young people. By enlisting generous financial support from so many friends (many of them yours as your gang grows into real adulthood), our family has been given the tools to fight social injustice, to foster the arts, and to bring to others the kind of vibrant Jewish experiences that you loved so much. These are things that meant so much to you, which makes them mean so much to us.

In Geneva, Switzerland, there is a sculpture entitled Melancolie. Created by artist Albert György, it has brought millions of viewers to tears as they call to mind the deep sadness left behind when a loved one has died.

But this is not how I want to remember you, Jonah. Sadness is certainly part of it, but I would never want it to be my main descriptor for how I feel about you.

So if you don’t mind, I will cry only some tears for you. Instead, I choose to remember all those parts of you that brought humor and love into our home and, as I’ve heard across the years, have brought the same to so many others who were fortunate to meet you along the way.

It’s Father’s Day, Jonah. Thank you for my gifts. Despite this great loss, you have left me with a full heart and a grateful spirit. Other than you still being here, I can’t think of a better way for you and me to spend this day.

Love you forever,

*          *          *

We all miss that boy. It’ll probably always hurt that he’s gone. But he left us so much, and that’s what these writings express. Watch for them in emails and postings throughout the month. Our hope is that these stories will inspire you to make your gift at jonahmac.org/donate to help us help kids build whole, healthy lives.We continue to miss Jonah and to feel grateful: a) that we had him in our lives; and, b) that he’s inspired us to do good stuff in his name. We’re incredibly honored that you’ve joined us in our work and thank you in advance for donating to our Summer Campaign.

Very sincerely,
Ellen, Billy, Aiden, Katie and Mark
The Jonah Maccabee Foundation

ALSO ALSO ALSO … The Jonah Maccabee Foundation is so proud to now be the beneficiaries of the proceeds from four exceptional musical recordings:

“So Is Life” was recorded by (ta da!) So Is Life, which includes Dan Nichols, Josh Nelson, Cantor Rosalie Boxt and Cantor Ellen Dreskin. It’s a magnificent album and is available to you as a download and on CD (if anyone still has a CD player). You can order So Is Life right here.

And now, you can order the music of Beged Kefet (which, for you youngsters out there, was a Jewish performance group that Ellen and Billy were in for a good 20 years or so). Beged Kefet recorded three albums, all now available to you! Our thanks to the members of Beged Kefet — Beth Sher, Cantor Leon Sher, Cantor Riki Lippitz, Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller, Cantor Ellen Dreskin, Rabbi Les Bronstein and Rabbi Billy Dreskin — for allowing us to use the proceeds from their three recordings to help kids build whole, healthy lives. You can order your Beged Kefet digital downloads here. We’re also streaming, so check us out on Spotify, Amazon Music or wherever you listen to music!

BillyFather’s Day … Billy Dreskin: Ten Years Later (Part 8)


Join the conversation
  • Rebekkah - June 19, 2019 reply

    Happy Father’s day (late). Thank you for this. I never stop being impressed and brought to tears by your words.

  • Jane Emmer - June 18, 2019 reply

    Thank you! Your words and sentiments inspire both celebration and reflection. Thank you for sharing parts of your journey …. even the “yuk” parts.

  • Robin Brigmon - June 16, 2019 reply

    Wow, Billy!

    Heartfelt and well written. You take the reader there. Your folks would’ve been proud.

    Robin Brigmon

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