Aaron’s Eulogy For Greg

My name is Aaron Rice. Greg and I became “best friends” when we were 4 years old when we were living two apartment buildings from each other and have remained the closest of friends ever since. Greg’s been a brother to me and the Feldman’s are family to me. My friendship with Greg was the catalyst for the Rice family becoming very close with the Feldman family: with Greg’s parents, Sid and Rhoda; and Greg’s siblings, Howard (and his wife, Stacy) and Judith (and her husband, David).

I know that the Feldman family has been deeply touched by the great outpouring of love and support that they have received during this tragic period.

Words cannot begin to express the anguish and loss we all share and will struggle with for some time.  We deeply loved and admired Greg.  

We gather today to mourn with the Feldmans and with each other.  But we also gather to honor Greg Feldman and the remarkable, positive impact he had on our world and in each of our lives.  

We gather to celebrate our cherished memories of Greg and the well-rounded, exceptional person that he was. 

My Friend, Greg

The depth and quality of Greg’s talents were stunning.  He was the most intelligent person I’ve ever met (and, as you each knew Greg, you know there’s no hyperbole in that statement).  He was an accomplished surgeon, an unparalleled student, a groovy musician, a suave dancer, a voracious reader and a gifted writer.  Simply put, in an age of specialization and expertise, Greg was a renaissance man.

But it was Greg’s personal qualities that attracted people to Greg and mesmerized them.  Greg had an unquenchable curiosity, a cunning wit, a wicked sense of humor and an infectious energy and spirit.    

But most importantly, Greg was a true mensch.  Greg was a generous, sensitive, empathetic and kind human being.  Greg was an attentive and sympathetic listener.  Greg “was there” for so many – with his time, with his guidance, with his heart.  Greg was the ultimate morale booster to, and a fierce advocate for, his family and friends.  No one could be a better or more loyal friend than Greg.  And no single fact can speak more strongly of your character than to be able to say that Greg Feldman was your friend.     

Family

Greg had a wonderfully happy childhood and was raised in an incredibly warm and loving, Jewish home. The love and support that permeated the Feldman household was palpable and it was generously extended to Greg’s close friends.    

The Feldman household was also filled with much laughter.  The source of Greg’s distinct and irreverent sense of humor is attributable to his family.   As a relatively young child, Greg and his family introduced me to Monty Python, Mel Brooks movies, MASH, the movie, and other hilarious comedies that contained serious social commentary and caused a child to consider the world around him. 

Rhoda, Sid, Howard and Judith, Greg loved you more than words can say.  Greg had looked forward to moving back to Chicago.  It was so important to him to be reunited in the same city as his family.  

Rhoda, Greg’s remarkable industriousness, discipline, modesty and compassion were a testament to your influence.  

Sid, Greg deeply admired your work as a doctor and the dedication and care that you demonstrated to your patients.  

Howard and Judith, when we were kids, Greg thought you were rock stars and, as adults, his admiration for each of you only grew.  You were truly Greg’s closest friends and he deeply cherished each of your counsel and support.  

Parker

Greg and I attended Francis Parker from grammar school through high school.  For those without a connection to Parker, understand that Parker is more than just a school.  Parker was a second home for Greg, for me and for our classmates.  I’ve always thought that if Parker school was told that it had to select one student that best exemplified the school’s values and qualities, it would be Greg Feldman.  

Greg recognized the privilege that it was to attend Parker and was ever thankful to his family for the opportunities afforded to him.  He cared profoundly for the school and believed it to be “a complete community” in the words of its founder.  While Parker’s values were reinforced in the Feldman’s home, Greg’s conviction that we’re citizens with responsibilities to participate in our democracy and to make our country and our world a more just place, was nurtured by the school.   Greg deeply admired the faculty and spoke of the teachers as glowingly as he’d later speak of his professors at Harvard and attending physicians at Stanford.  Dr. Marie Stone.  George Barr McCutcheon.  Andrew Kaplan.  Bernard Markwell.  Bill Duffy.  Bob Merrick.  So many teachers and so many friends at Parker, many of whom are here today, made an enduring impact on Greg.     

A Jewish Life

The essence of Greg’s soul was grounded in, what is in my view, Judaism’s 3 most cherished principles. 

Through his deeds, Greg had an unwavering commitment to Tikkun Olam, to heal the world, and to fulfilling his duty of Tzedakah, to perform charity and philanthropic acts.  Greg demonstrated this not only in his job, but during his free time as well, when he declined to vacation on a beach and chose instead to volunteer for Doctors Without Borders in places such as Rwanda.

While Greg saw tragedy and injustices in the world and was determined to repair them, he also saw awe-inspiring beauty.  Greg was the essence of L’Chayim – Greg celebrated life and was intent to share his joy with his family and friends.  

Greg celebrated life through his music, through his dancing, through his laughter, through his interest in seeing and learning about new countries and cultures and meeting new people (especially women).  Greg was an immense pleasure to be around.  When the work was done, Greg could be counted on to bring an irrepressible joy to those around him.

Doctor Feldman

I would be remiss if I did not speak about Greg, the accomplished doctor.  Greg was passionate about medicine and he was an excellent surgeon.  But it wasn’t just his surgical skills that won the admiration and affection of his colleagues.  The great personal qualities that Greg demonstrated as a friend were on full and constant display when he donned his scrubs.  

In May 2009, when Greg was applying for a vascular fellowship at Northwestern, Dr. Thomas Krummel at Stanford Hospital wrote Greg a recommendation, which eloquently captures Greg’s professional qualities as a doctor.  At that time, Greg, in his ever modest way, quietly and privately forwarded me the letter of recommendation, simply stating: “If I can’t send this to my best friend  . . .”

With the Feldmans’ and Dr. Krummel’s permission, I now share portions of this letter with you, Greg’s dearest family and friends:

This is a letter of profound support for Greg Feldman’s application for a vascular fellowship with you.  I’ve known Greg since he was at the top of his class at Harvard Medical School and have watched him grow and develop into an absolutely first rate surgeon during his residency time with us.

. . .

Greg brings a track record of achievement to everything he does.  Going back to his high school years, he was a National Merit Scholar, an Illinois State Scholar and President of the High School Student Government.  His undergraduate degree was awarded Magnum Cum Laude from Harvard College; he was the recipient of a Harvard scholarship for academic achievement and the recipient of multiple awards.  

Harvard had the good sense to offer him a spot in their medical school and he excelled throughout.  He was the recipient of multiple awards and honors.  Based on exceptional performance he represented his class as the Graduation Speaker in 2005.

Greg was our “#1 Draft Choice” in our intern class of 2005, he has performed even better than his past track record.

First and foremost, Greg has matured into a rock solid surgeon.  He is meticulous, precise and detail oriented in everything that he does.  His interaction with patients, families and all those around him are of the highest order. . .

. . . He is well read, thoughtful and has developed exceptional judgment.  All of us trust him completely.  He has that unique ability to “shift gears” based on the needs of the case.  When speed is needed, he has it, when trouble is encountered he downshifts immediately.   In short, he has all the tickets – the head, the heart and the hands – for success in his chosen field of vascular surgery. . .

. . . Greg has a strong interest in health policy, including international health and universal coverage.  It would not be surprising to me to see him pursue an MPH degree at some point.

Throughout all of this, Greg is an exceptionally gifted teacher.  Whether he is gently nudging the NICU nurses to listen to a surgeon’s point of view or taking an intern through a case . . ., this is a talented young man with the unique ability not only to do but to teach.  His explanations are thorough, clear and concise.  He knows the difference between a light hand and a heavy hand on the rein, and uses both effectively.  

Finally, Greg is an incredibly “nice person” at a time when such traits are not necessarily commonplace.  He has a profound sense of responsibility and service based on the many gifts and talents with which he has been blessed and accordingly spends many of his vacations in a variety of service-oriented organizations/missions locally and internationally.

In short, he represents one of the finest young surgeons that I’ve ever been privileged to work with. 

. . .

Honoring Greg

So, how do we honor Greg and sustain his beautiful spirit?  

We honor Greg by living a life of purpose.  We honor Greg by confronting and fighting injustice.  We honor Greg by being a source of comfort and strength to our family and friends.  

We also honor Greg by celebrating life’s wondrous beauty – Greg would want us to dance, to sing and yes, he would want us to laugh.

Greg’s profound and positive impact on this world, on his family, on me and all those whose paths he crossed is enduring.  We are so much richer for having had him in our lives.  

Greg, we will forever miss you dearly.  Greg, you were so loved and so cherished.   I miss my friend, Greg.  Greg, I love you.

 

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