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Monday, July 8, 2013

The Passing of My Friend and Mentor John D. Weiss

My friend and mentor John D. Weiss passed away on Saturday. 

Many of you who read this blog knew John, or J.D., as most called him. He practiced employment law for more than 30 years, representing individuals and advising businesses on compliance issues. He also frequently helped non-profit entities gain and keep their 501(c)(3) status. For the last several years he focused on helping people resolve disputes as a mediator. 

John was an avid bicycler, baker of challah, teacher of baking challah, and musician. He was one of the most gentle, loving, genuine people I have ever met. He was a true mensch (a word sometimes used too loosely): one to admire and emulate, one of high character, integrity, dignity. He also was just fun to hang out with. 

John offered many lessons in the things he said and the way he lived his life, but not at all in a pedantic or heavy-handed way. At the funeral yesterday, a couple of people remembered John saying, "The most important person in the world is the person you're talking to -- right now." And that was how he treated people. He listened, he asked questions, he paid attention to what you had to say. 

John fought brain cancer for about the last three years. He told me that he was going to kick its ass back to whatever rock it had come out from under, and I believed him.  His conviction and optimism gave me strength and hope.  

When John was taking chemotherapy at Cedars, he would bring his guitar to play for everyone -- the other patients and the nurses. After he finished chemo, he continued to go to Cedars with his guitar.  He was grateful for the opportunity to help lift their burden. 

The Rabbi at John's funeral yesterday, Tsafi Lev, said something very profound. "Many of you are thinking, 'Why do bad things happen to good people?' The answer is, they don't." 

Rabbi Lev then spoke about John's response to the news that the experimental treatment he was trying had not worked, and that the cancer was terminal. John said that he was honored that the treatment, even though it had not helped him, would help others who would follow him.  In the face of his own passing, John chose to see the good. He felt honored by the fact that his treatment would help others.  Honored to be in a position to help other people.  

Even though John has passed, he did kick cancer's ass -- just like he said he would -- by continuing to live his life the way he always had: with love and compassion, hope, integrity, devotion to his family. 

John is survived by his lovely wife Janis and their three beautiful children: Sarah, Jacob, and Charlotte. John's physical presence in the world will be missed so dearly by so many. May the memory of this righteous man be a blessing. 

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