On Sunday, Stephanie Prezant went rock-climbing in the Catskills. After a successful climb, the Haworth resident was descending when her equipment failed. What should have been a triumphal moment ending another adventure became the beginning of a tragedy of infinite moments for her family, her friends, and all the children, her peers, and the elderly – including those with special needs – whose lives she touched in profound ways. (See the article on page 7.)
The death of anyone is a tragedy for someone, but on a number of levels, Stephanie Prezant was a tragedy for everyone. She was a vibrant, vital 22-year-old, yet in her brief life she had done so much good for so many people. She was a young woman who you knew for certain was destined to do great things for many more people over the course of a lifetime that now would never be.
Her funeral alone testified to the effect she had on those into whose lives she had come. Originally planned for a local funeral home’s chapel, it had to be moved to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades because so many people wanted to pay their respects. Without exaggeration, there were at least 1,000 people in attendance, many of whom had traveled great distances to be there.
Larger than average crowds are not uncommon at a young person’s funeral. We feel the death of the young more keenly than any others. We prefer death to be something that awaits people who have lived full lives and earned their eternal rest. We believe that children should bury parents, not the other way around. We expect young people in the midst of finals to be looking beyond graduation to a productive life ahead of them, not burying a friend, and being forced to confront the fragility of life.
The death of someone like Stephanie Prezant, however, moves us even more, as the number of attendees at her funeral attests. Here was a life filled with promise – not just the promise of her future successes, but the promise of a life dedicated in no small measure to improving her community, bringing honor to her family, being a credit to her people and her God, and doing all within her power to repair the world.
When someone dies, his or her loss is felt by family and friends. When someone who reached out and touched so many other lives dies, the loss is also suffered by people who will never even know that they suffered a loss. It will be felt in a touch not given, in a smile not seen, in a kind word not spoken, in a good deed not done, in an idea not thought. Hers is a loss we all share, regardless of whether we knew Stephanie Prezant.
Yehi zichrah baruch. May her memory be as much of a blessing as her life surely was.