Social work professionals would probably refer to Murray Hysen as a support system. My friend Jeff simply called him “Dad”. He was the dad who took Jeff to his first Mets game at the age of eight, the dad who sent Jeff to Mets fantasy camp as a fiftieth birthday present. Murray passed away last week, an occasion laced with sadness, but one that served to enlighten me as to what kind of man he was.
I attended Murray’s funeral on Thursday. I didn’t know him well by any means, yet I felt I got to know him twice over by hearing what those who did had to say about him. Jeff, Jeff’s son, Jeff’s brother, Jeff’s brother’s father-in-law and two rabbis eulogized him in remarkably similar terms. Murray, every one of them said, was more interested in your good fortune than his own.
Nobody doesn’t say something nice about the guest of honor at a service of this nature, but it was striking that each person who spoke from the pulpit — along with those I met across the course of the morning and afternoon — hit the same note. Murray wanted you to engage opportunity, wanted you to succeed at what you loved, wanted you to enjoy your life. Murray didn’t need to talk about or hear about Murray. Murray was about you, whoever you were, whoever you are.
It hasn’t been uncommon since I’ve known Jeff for him to relay to me some nugget of concern or piece of advice Murray had for me. “My father hopes you’re…” was a recurring sentence-starter. So was “my father was asking if you’ve thought about…” It always seemed nice but odd to me. We shook hands and said hello maybe once, yet Murray Hysen was, via Jeff, looking out for me.
I never read much into what I considered Murray’s harmless kibitzing until all those eulogies made clear this was more than that. This was who Murray was. Murray’s instinct was to look out for everybody, whether they were his family, his friends, his family’s friends or, basically, anybody.
That was a plenty warm revelation with which to leave an inevitably melancholy gathering, but I said I felt I got to know him twice over. Once was from the direct testimony of those who swore by Murray’s humanity. Twice was from when it hit me that Murray instilled that characteristic sense of selflessness in those he touched most. Jeff, my friend, is like Murray, his dad. Jeff regularly asks have you thought about… Jeff always hopes you’re… I’ve always found his brand of friendship extremely considerate, but I never wondered where it came from.
It came from Murray.
The funeral took place out of state. It was a bit of a schlep to get there, a bit of a schlep to return to the city. I have to admit I’m pretty schlep-averse. By the time I alighted in Manhattan, it was almost time to take off for Citi Field and the Mets’ previously scheduled blogger night plus their ensuing game against the Dodgers. That meant a day that had shifted into gear uncomfortably early was going to stretch until who knew when with this team. I was briefly tempted to hop on the next train home instead. Citi Field is fine, blogger nights are swell, I always welcome an evening with the Mets, but I was tired and it looked like rain and…
And I realized, no, Jeff would be disappointed if I didn’t go. Murray would be disappointed if I didn’t go. They’d both want to hear the details and they’d both want to follow up with questions and they’d both want to know somebody they cared about did something he enjoyed and got the most possible out of it.
I went and I enjoyed and I got plenty out of it, but probably not as much as I got — even at this extraordinarily late date — from getting to know Murray Hysen as I felt I suddenly did.