EULOGY FOR DR. DAVID A. KIPPER
December 5, 2010
Anshe Emet Synagogue
I knew David Kipper for over forty years. He was a man with many layers, subtle and complex.
David was on the faculty at several universities around the world, and had authored over seventy scholarly articles which had appeared in refereed journals, and as well as an internationally esteemed book on psychotherapy which has been translated into several languages. He was an international expert in Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama; a caring, devoted and supportive husband, father, grandfather, son and brother. He was a provocative and innovative teacher, a Management Consultant, a community leader, … and a very funny man!
Whenever I saw David, he had a new story ready for me. Usually very humorous, often a bit corny, he believed that laughter was an excellent tool to break down communication barriers, to aid in therapy, and to build relationships.
David voiced that one of his major regrets about his life was that he would not be around to share this humor with his grandchildren. I assured him that he had had great impact on others—on Barbara, his daughters and sons-in-law, and that they would continue his spirit. And there was reciprocity here. Whenever he saw his dear Annya, she made him smile. In his closing days, her presence brought so much joy to him. There would always be love and laughter in the Kipper households.
He often reminded me, with great glee, of the funeral that had been conducted at our country home in memory of our imaginary dog, Sparky. The Kippers had provided us an engraved headstone, RIP Sparky, and our mutual friend, Fred Lane, began the funeral by giving an eloquent eulogy in memory of Sparky, followed by David standing up to deliver the Kaddish: “Yiskadal, viyiska DOG.”
He then reminded me of the small dinner party that Connie and I had given at a nearby hotel in honor of the great German character actor, Armin Mueller-Stahl. When we opened the menus, one of the options was ostrich. Barbara and David had made a recent investment in an ostrich and emu farm in Indiana, a topic that led to many jokes, and Barbara wondered if this meant had come from there.
I explained to Armin about the farm and the development of ostriches and emus. Armin turned to me and said: “How-vard, vas ist eine Emu?” My training in Hoch-Deutch did not include such vocabulary, and David made me explain in German, as best I could, what this was all about. It was not until I brought over the Swiss sommelier that we were able to clarify the discussion.
Each time in the future, whenever these code phrases were mentioned—viyiskaDOG and vas ist eine Emu, each of us would break up into laughter.
One of David’s special gifts was that he had extreme patience with annoying and disturbed people, but he always respected their right to be absolutely crazy.
As David got weaker and weaker, he reminded Barbara, and the rest of us, that he had strong beliefs about the quality of life over heroics and the number of days. In this, and in many other ways, he taught us so much.
He kept saying to me: “I’m ready! Each day that I get up now, I’m ready. But the boss on high insists that this is not my decision; that He’ll make the decision about when and how this will happen. I am not on your payroll, David, He reminds me. I’ll make these decisions.”
“Noble Fool” was his one disappointment in the field of humor. Noble Fool provided the format to be able to look at a slice of life, and be able to laugh at yourself. “Humor doesn’t have to be stand-up,” David would remind us, “it is a way of getting insights into yourself.” David was indeed disappointed that people found Noble Fool to be too subtle, and were very much happier with the more heavy-handed pratfall.
David, I didn’t want you to enter the Academy-on-High without your having a fun story to share with your new colleagues. All I ask is that you have one ready for me when I come to join you. Here goes:
Every day for 30 years, old Moishe ate at Abe’s Kosher Deli. He was loved by everyone and was generous to all. One day, Moishe didn’t show up at his regular time. Abe, the owner, was worried, but then got busy and forgot about Moishe’s absence. The next day, no Moishe, and now Abe was really worried. He called Moishe’s home, a few local hospitals, and even Moishe’s daughter in Israel… all to no avail. Next day, again, no Moishe.
Now Abe was really concerned, and just as he was about to call 911, he glared out the window and saw Moishe going into Goldberg’s Deli across the street. Abe raced out and confronted Moishe just as he was sitting down. Abe screamed, “Where have you been? I lost sleep and spent good money phoning around for you. What are you doing here at Goldberg’s? You know he’s my worst enemy!”
Moishe looked at Abe and said calmly: “Settle down, Abe, you’ll be having a heart attack. I’ll tell you what happened. I went to the dentist three days ago and had one of those root canals. Oy the pain! The dentist gave me some pills and said:
“Moishe, for a few days, eat on the other side.”
Rabbi Barbara Block reminds us that Judaism sends each and every one of us a love letter. The message in that love letter is a message of truth, hope, a better world, a world of joy and humor. It is up to us to open that letter and to take its message to heart. David taught us how to open that letter and how to lighten our lives and the lives of others.
May the memory of our wonderful and funny David be a blessing to us all.