I am going to say a few words from Rainbow and I, although given the time pressures I have not checked anything with her so you should all blame me instead. All of you here and on Zoom need no reminder of how hard it is for us to be back at Waltham Abbey, preparing to bury one of our precious family because of cancer.
It is really hard to make sense of the misfortune that someone like my Dad had to endure until I spoke to Rabbi Davis last week. He reminded me of a learning we can take from the late Rabbi Sacks, that every breath is one to be cherished and that we should celebrate every joy in our lives because despite the bleak background of a world that has taken so much from us, this background is also dotted with joy, with happiness, with hope and with moments to treasure and cherish.
Even in 2020, a year which has robbed us of the familial intimacy that brings comfort and support through dark times, our family has experienced the highs of my cousin Martin’s wedding, the birth of my cousin Jo’s baby and most recently my engagement to Natasha. We had hoped and planned that Dad would be physically present with us under the Chuppah but we have had to accept that my parents, David and other cherished relatives will be with us spiritually and will look down on the generations hopefully to come through Rainbow and myself with the pride that we feel towards our amazing parents.
the best man I have ever known and ever will
So, what about my Dad, Ian? Like you need no reminder of the previous tragedies we have endured, you are all here because you share the same love and admiration that I have for Dad- who simply is the best man I have ever known and ever will. Most of my last communication with Dad tried to remind him that he is the greatest role model I have and will ever have, my hero and my best friend (other than Natasha of course).
Dad was raised in Canning Town in East London, a younger brother to Martin who sadly was not able to make it today. Of course, they both ended up being huge West Ham fans but more on that later. Dad grew up hearing his father and uncles speaking Yiddish to each other outside the confectionary, tobacco and ice cream shop under his flat, a business he went on to successfully manage. It is a cause of great anguish for me that I never got to taste the famous Murkoff’s ice cream, but I definitely inherited the taste for it!
Dad tragically lost both of his parents far too young, before he was married. Something I never wanted to inherit from him, but I’m glad that I have found someone as amazing as he did. Dad brought Mum into his life, complete with the gorgeous David, then aged two years old and after three dates he proposed and was married within months. Mum saw in Dad a generous, caring and family-orientated man who would be an excellent father to their children. She had good taste.
a famously brilliant chess player
Dad was a famously brilliant chess player and I spent many times begging him to take back the incorrect moves I played against him. As I grew ever more competitive I just gave up, but what you should take from this is the incredible intelligence Dad possessed, sadly due to his circumstances never explored through formal higher education until in later life when he successfully began studying art and music (for fun) through classes.
Dad’s third career (having also spent some time as an accounting clerk) was in the cigarette cards business, working with his brother in Hendon and travelling around the UK attending cigarette card fairs with an able assistant who was happy to be paid in pizza (I will let you guess who that was). I must say that a lot of Dad’s general knowledge was learnt through the words written on the back of those beautiful cards. Some of it was incredibly useful for our successful supper quiz victories, others about random breeds of poultry was less so. Nevertheless, throughout Dad’s life a constant throughout it all was his incredible work ethic and commitment to building a great life for his family.
the most incredible musical ear- he could correctly tell you almost any piece of music being played, however obscure and after a few bars
Some of the beautiful cigarette cards which adorned our family home were of famous conductors and composers and this brings me on to another of Dad’s loves- classical music and opera. Dad, like me, was more of an appreciator and collector of music than a performer of music but Dad had the most incredible musical ear- he could correctly tell you almost any piece of music being played, however obscure and after a few bars. Although I now willingly pay to go to the concerts I was bribed to go to as a kid (with the promise of a beigel after it finished) I must thank Dad also for this love.
Dad had a deep affinity with Chigwell & Hainault Shul, having been a member since the very early days. He spent several years at different times on the Board and was a regular volunteer with the Youth Club, also being a Trustee and supporter of its continued success. Recently Dad took on a new role as journalist and photographer, reporting on Shul events in the Shul magazine and in other media. On the religious side, Dad was silently proud of his Hagbah technique, being naturally left-handed and enjoyed the services, including the weekday services where he regularly attended in mornings, even when he wasn’t saying Kaddish as a mourner or on behalf of other mourners. Much like other aspects of Dad’s life and his later illness, Dad was modest, humble and never wanted a fuss made of him but was one of those people who would always go out of his way to help people. He enjoyed his many years taking members of the Davis family to Hendon, using it as an opportunity to educate them on classical music in the process.
It was being the Shul’s cricket captain which gave Dad a huge sense of pride and dictated a lot of what became my life between May and August every year on a Sunday. I have some precious memories as a youngster playing cricket with Dad and having the opportunity to bat with him. As I got older I was able to follow in his footsteps and captain the team and take my turn to boss him around in the field but this is just another example of how Dad is the role model that I have always looked up to.
the ultimate diplomat and mediator in any situation affecting others
It probably feels cliched to come to a funeral and hear a eulogy which says how committed and focused on family the deceased was. Far from making judgement on any other eulogy that has been given, with Dad it is no overstatement. To know him in the way that Rainbow and I know him will be to know how self-sacrificing, generous and giving he was. He always thought of others before himself and was the ultimate diplomat and mediator in any situation affecting others. He was our confidante, our rock, our healer and our bridge to the many strands of Murkoff family that existed. He went the extra mile to build that bridge to our lovely relatives in America and made everyone feel loved and special. Almost nobody could ever muster a bad word about my Dad, so much so that almost saying his name would instantly give me an open door to relatives I do not know well. To add to Dad’s remarkable love for his family he cared deeply for his ‘in-laws’ on the Nyman side. He visited and supported our dear Auntie Fay for many years and they had a very special bond indeed. That Dad hid how seriously ill he was from family and friends was not a lack of love for any of you here today- it was an act of protection towards you from hurt and a way to protect your memories of the kind, strong, gentle and loving man you also loved.
It will always hurt me that, like Dad himself, I will never be able to introduce my future children to their grandma and grandpa but it gave Dad the biggest amount of joy and nachas to be a Grandpa to Rainbow’s two beautiful girls, Alicia and Melody. They were the light of his life and he was the most wonderful grandpa to them, always willing to play with them, read with them, sing for them and pick them up from nursery and school.
the most amazing knowledge of the roads of London and the most instinctive sense of direction
Which brings me on to one of Dad’s other enduring and endearing qualities- the career he never had as a professional taxi driver, or Grandpa Chauffeur as we may have called him. Notwithstanding that my future father-in-law is a musical, West Ham supporting taxi driver called Ian, Dad had the most amazing knowledge of the roads of London and the most instinctive sense of direction you could imagine. As none of his children have yet passed a driving test, giving lifts here, there and everywhere has always been one of Dad’s gifts to us. It showed his natural instinct to always offer to help.
Dad always felt genuinely blessed to have met and spent the last forty three years with Mum, and then with Simone after her, and I can’t speak about him without mentioning them both. Rainbow and I have always counted ourselves lucky to have been brought up by parents who visibly showed their love and affection for each other in front of us, always holding hands or cuddling on the sofa. I admit there might have been teenage years when that was a bit weird but on reflection it is just such a wonderful thing that they were so perfectly matched and made such a good team together.
Dad felt truly blessed that Simone became part of his life in the past eighteen months and although she probably will not appreciate me saying this, he was absolutely right to say that she was an angel sent down to give him companionship, friendship and look after him during such a difficult time for him and our family. In such a situation like this where so much wrong has happened to someone so incredible, it is justice for Dad that he deserved to have your companionship during this time. Throughout the many illnesses that my Mum and David had, Dad was a complete rock to them, completely committing himself to serving them and doing everything he could to help them, and it was fitting that after their deaths he was there to help Rainbow and I come to terms with our loss and support us, but I am glad that between us we have been able to return part of a favour he completely deserved. Thank you Simone for being that angel, supporting him during such a difficult time and for welcoming us into your lovely family.
Just be a bit more Ian
At the beginning of my eulogy I mentioned the importance of looking at the positives, however hard the situation is. There cannot be much feeling lower than how Rainbow and I feel now. But what I take from this is the same as what we said of Mum and David, and my ask to all of you here today and on Zoom is to cherish what we have, who we have around us (despite Covid) and to keep the example and memory of my Dad alive through what we do, to be kinder, more understanding and patient, more selfless, committed to doing the right thing for people. Cherish the precious memories and moments you had with him, as I will, and remember that priceless smile of pride that only he could do. Just be a bit more Ian. Speaking from experience, he is the best role model that any of us could have and quite simply the best man I have ever met. I will always love you, Dad.