My father, Edward Bronstein, was very involved in community and leadership work. He was always volunteering to do something, standing up for social issues, marching, protesting, speaking out. He was an engineer for the Water Department of the City of New York by day but truly fed his soul through his volunteerism.
He was president of the Jewish War Veterans Newman Goldman Post No. 69 in the Bronx, president of the Kings College Place co-op, coordinator of the weekly bingo game at the VA hospital, a monthly blood donor, and chairman of food drives for the needy. I guess it is not a surprise that I chose the communal-work field as my profession.
Dad was diagnosed with stage four jaw cancer in 2014, fought it courageously and with tenacity, and succumbed in 2015.
During that year in which I served as proxy for Dad’s life and care, he was an inspiration and taught me that community work and doing for others are the pieces of life that define our humanity. With a much-compromised condition, Dad worked hard to keep to his routine. He still volunteered weekly at the VA, for example. He taught that showing up in life is paramount. And he did just that, racking up more than 10,000 hours at the VA – efforts that earned this stalwart and dependable volunteer a special plaque at one point.
On Thanksgiving and Christmas, Dad always visited those in the closed wards. He thought it was so important for the veterans most in need to have a friendly visit. The cancer did not put a stop to this. There he was, part of a team of veterans who spent time with those requiring comfort and friendship. Dad was there with his walker and his feeding tube, encouraging patients to never give up and look at small victories on the road to recovery. Dad never complained. He always looked at the brighter side of life and shared that philosophy with others.
A cadre of people and organizations were there for Dad during his illness, and he was most appreciative. His journey was quite debilitating, but he continued to choose life no matter the difficulties.
Through his illness, I learned so many things from Dad:
Keep moving forward toward the goal without complaining.
Serve others whenever possible.
Be a leader and stay strong.
Always view life as if the glass was half-full.
Be thankful and stay happy.
Face reality and accept help.
Dad died peacefully at home, in his own bed while asleep. Just how he wanted to go. He made peace with his situation, with God and with his loved ones. His final journey took place March 26 at 8:58 p.m.
I can only wonder how long it took him to find meaningful volunteer work and begin organizing things to meet everyone’s needs.