Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Steve Miller 1945-2011 — Farewell dear friend

Three weeks ago, when we all arrived in Israel to celebrate Adamit’s 40th birthday, none of us could have known the significance of this journey for our dear friends Steve and Pam. Against all odds, after a serious life threatening operation, chemotherapy and another operation scheduled upon his return to New York, he made the long and difficult trip, to be part of this special gathering.

Little did he or any of us imagine that it would be his last.

On Friday afternoon, under the care of a large staff of doctors in Nahariya Hospital, with his wife Pam at his side, Steve’s struggle to overcome, came to an end.

Marc and Steve shared a special bond all the years we all lived together on Adamit. He wrote a beautiful message the morning after his death and I think it is a beautiful tribute to their friendship and to Steve. I share it with you now:

Dear Comrades,
Steve and I shared play. Among other things, we played bridge. Shmuel Erez was Steve’s partner. I played with Mark Maipaz. The games were sometimes held at Mark’s place (yes, the infamous Bait shtem esray). But, more often, in public, during the evening hours at the moadon. The competition between us was faux fierce. Mostly, bridge was a nice vehicle to unwind from the work and social pressures of the day, to kibbitz about the kibbutz, and to provide some personal support to one another if it was necessary.  Bridge on Adamit filled our nonmaterial needs, each of our respective partners provided what we could to try to win based on our ability (plus a certain measure of canniness as well as plain luck).

Steve and I also shared work. Upon arriving on Kibbutz, I received excellent instruction from Shmuel, the pardes leader, on how to pick the winter’s citrus fruit (oranges, grapefruit, and the dreaded lemons) in the valley.  From there I ‘graduated’ to Steve’s domain of spring and summer fruit (apples, pears, plums, and peaches) growing on top of the mountain. Steve had a way of managing us with just the right balance of respect and professional authority. It was hard work. Steve made it enjoyable as well as meaningful.

In addition, I shared in some of Steve’s struggles. He recognized that he (along with other kibbutz members) needed to wean himself from cigarette smoking. He turned to me as head of Va’adat Tzricha (Needs Committee) for permission to enroll in a couple of smoking cessation programs (behaviour modification, acupuncture). The Kibbutz agreed that this was worthy of sponsorship. Hopefully, these helped to eventually stop his habit (as well as helped decrease the colbo’s cigarette distribution and the kibbutz population’s second hand smoke consumption).

Most of all, I like to think that Steve and I shared a friendship. It was a Kibbutz Adamit friendship. In other words, it was one of those lifelong friendships that transcend time and distance. Six years after he left the Kibbutz, I wrote to tell him that I too would be leaving. His response was to be sure to come and visit if I was ever in New York. But he added something to that clichéd response that very much resonated with me at the time: he said he REALLY wanted me to visit. I’m pleased that Naomi and I were able to resume our friendship with Steve and his new wife Pam on several subsequent trips to New York. We were very much looking forward to continuing to do so during our planned extended stay at the Big Apple this spring and summer.

I know that I speak for all his other Adamit friends in saying that his passing is a personal as well as collective loss. We’ll miss you Steve.


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