Michael Gottlieb

Michael Gottlieb

01 September 1946
East London, South Africa
17 April 2020
London, United Kingdom
Words by
Rivka Gottlieb Michael's daughter

My brother spoke beautifully at the funeral yesterday, and shared his words again last night when we met on Zoom with family. I’ve never had Yoni’s gift for humour – which I’m pretty sure he got from our dad – or his gift with words. So please bear with me.

These last few weeks are a bit of a blur. Days seem to merge into each other, and time seems to pass both faster and slower at the same time. It’s very strange – for everyone.

I don’t think he had a clue how much he was loved

I was trying to remember when exactly was the last time I saw my dad. I didn’t know then, of course, it would be the last time. I think it was Friday 13 March, when he gave me a lift to the garage to pick up my car. In true Michael fashion, he wanted to come in to check the place out for me – it was a garage none of us had ever used before. I didn’t want him to come in – didn’t want to risk him being exposed to the coronavirus – and after a hug (as his grandchildren can attest, he was the world’s best cuddler) I got out of the car and sent him safely home. Or so I thought.

He’d been furious that work had told him to stop coming in. He didn’t want to be treated like an old man. And he loved being out and about, loved people, loved being in the pro shop, fixing and regripping golf clubs and all the other golfy things he got up to in his little workshop. And of course he loved playing golf, talking about golf, watching golf…

He just got on with life, no matter how he felt

In so many ways, I found my dad incredibly inspiring. He lived with constant pain from rheumatoid arthritis, and a compromised immune system from medication for lymphoma, and yet every day, he got up, went to work, or to play golf, ran errands for anyone who needed anything, picked up and schlepped around grandchildren, took Yasha to golf lessons, mowed the lawn… He just got on with life, no matter how he felt. You could see him wincing in pain, all the time, but it didn’t stop him.

When the arthritis became too much for the fiddly work involved with picture framing, a hobby we all benefitted from – my parents beautiful house is full of art that my dad framed, and even a couple of incredible pieces he painted – he inspired me again by going on a course to learn to fit and regrip golf clubs. He took enormous pride in his work, in doing a good job and pleasing his customers. I think he was in his late 60s at that point. Every few years, he would start learning or doing something new, and I’m certain that if this virus hadn’t got him, he would have come up with yet another new skill to learn.

he was always reading, learning and growing

The past month has been horrendous. When he came down with a fever on 22 March, he absolutely would not accept that this could be Covid. As his temperature yo-yoed and his cough and breathing got worse, he got scared. We were all scared. My poor mum cared for him, so carefully, so lovingly, so worried about him, and at the same time utterly terrified that she would also become ill – which she did. She went into hospital two days after him, and there were a few days there when Yoni and I thought we might lose them both.

The messages we have received, from all over the world, have been wonderful, and so comforting. Thank you. And we have received hundreds, from people he went to school or university with, friends from the past, golf buddies, family friends, members of our community… He touched so many lives, and I don’t think he had a clue how much he was loved. Message after message talks about his kindness, his humour, his warmth. He was utterly dependable, caring, open hearted, generous to a fault, the first to offer help when help was needed (and when it wasn’t), sometimes incredibly patient – when teaching Hebrew to children at Haderech for example (sometimes not!), passionate about the things he cared about, and incredibly proud of his family.

He relished the simple pleasures in life

There is a hole in my life right now – not just mine, of course – that will never be filled. I will miss him forever, and I will think of him and wish he was here every time I see something funny online I know he’d appreciate, see a news item I know he’d care about, every time I cook or eat something I know he’d love – he really knew how to enjoy food, and boy will I miss him whenever I perform, if I ever perform again. He was my biggest fan, and always there, usually in the front row, shepping naches – well deserved after all the years of harp schlepping! He relished the simple pleasures in life: tasty food, being outdoors, playing golf, chatting with people – he really loved people – spending time with his grandkids, watching the most cringey appallingly bad slushy romantic movies – he was such a softie at heart. And he was always reading, learning and growing, in ways that we often didn’t notice at the time.

I will so miss his presence, his solid, reassuring, warm, teasing, loving presence.