January 21, 2000
My wife will tell you that I have to really, really love someone to put on a suit and tie for them.
I have a confession to make to Josh's family. I made him swear not to tell you this, but now I'm going to spill the beans myself.
I first met Josh in '86 or '87. He was eight years younger than I but I liked him right away and we became friends immediately. Around that time, he went to work for me. I was working on my Lenny Bruce documentary and he was running errands for me. I paid him five dollars an hour and he would bring back lunch and go to the bank or go to get copies or whatever.
At one point, he announced he was going to Brown University and he told me he was very conflicted about it. He wasn't certain whether he should take the standard route and continue his education or stay in L.A. and pursue his dream of creating music. We talked a lot about that and I told him that I, in fact, had never finished college and he said, "Really?" I said, "Yeah, I went for a few semesters but then left to pursue my dream of being a filmmaker."
Anyway, he did go to Brown, but a few months later there was a knock on my office door and there was Josh. I said, "What are you doing here? I thought you were at Brown." He said, "I took your advice." I said, "Advice? What advice??" He said, "I left college to pursue my dream as a musician." I said, "Hey, wait a minute! I never told you to do that! I only said that's what I did! I'm barely making a living! Why do you think I was only paying you $5 an hour?"
So, thirteen years later, I figure the statute of limitations is up and I can confess that to his parents. And anyway, all's well that ends well.
I want to tell you that Josh and I lost a mutual friend a couple of years ago -- Lotus Weinstock, who was Lili Haydn's mother. (Lili played violin at the funeral.) Josh and I were both present when this was going on and as sad as it was, there was something very beautiful about those final days and final moments and in the days following her passing. Josh and I even sat Shiva, if you can believe it. It made us both feel more connected with our Judaism. But it inspired us to talk a lot about what happens when we pass from this world to the next and how we felt about it. And I can tell you this... Josh didn't fear death. We both agreed that the main thing was to know towards the end that you were surrounded by family and friends and loved ones and to have them around in the final days. And Josh had that in spades. He got his wish.
I don't pretend to know what happens when we leave this world, but I have a guess. I think that for a while we do float around a bit to make sure everyone's okay. And of course, we all know how important it was for Josh to make everyone feel okay. And I do believe Josh is here with us. (I think he's embarrassed by all the flowery speeches, but I do think he's here.) And if I may be so presumptuous, I think I'll guess what he'd like to say to us. I think he wants to tell us that it's okay to grieve and cry because he knows we're going to miss him. But he wants us to know that we don't have to grieve on his account. He's telling us, "I'm fine. I'm in a groovy place." (See, that proves it's Josh talking because I would never use a word like, "groovy.") I think he's telling us that we now have to get on with the business of taking care of each other.
And I want to let Josh know that we will miss him, but we will be okay, so he can rest easy. I also want to tell him that I'm going to miss those late-night conversations, usually in restaurants, where one moment we'd be talking about the meaning of life and the nature of love, and the next moment laughing so hard we were afraid of being kicked out of the joint.
I want to say one last word about Josh's legacy. I'm going to ask you three questions. You don't have to physically raise you're hand... we're all too shy for that... but just think if what I ask applies to you.
First question: How many of you find that when you close your eyes and get a picture of Josh, that he's always smiling in that picture? And how many of you find that when you see him smiling, you can't help but smile too?
Second question: How many have found over the past few days that you have a song of Josh's going through your head -- maybe a few of his songs -- and you just can't shake it?
And third: How many of you feel that in some way you are a better person for having known Josh... or that you're inspired to be a better person -- even if it's something as simple as being a bit kinder to a stranger?
I'll bet that almost all of you responded positively to all three questions and would have raised your hands if we were doing so.
So then what have we established about Josh's legacy? We've established that although he was here for far too short a time, knowing Josh has left us all with a smile on our lips, a song in our heart, and we are better humans for having known him.
And if there's a better epitaph than that, I don't know what it is.