A lot of writers get published posthumously. Very few write books after they actually die. But Memories After My Death succeeds where others fail. The book begins like this: “I am writing this book after my death. Most people write nothing after they die, but I am not most people.”
He was right. Is right? Was right? Joseph Tommy Lapid the “writer” of this book was a very interesting man. He was named Joseph after his grandfather and Tommy after a Hungarian prince. He was an orphan who went to Israel at 17 after smuggling horsemeat into the ghetto and entertaining SS soldiers. He ran what was at the time the only TV station in Israel and went on to run his own political party. His life was so interesting and he talked of it in such detail that his son, Yair, felt he could write a book in his father’s voice recording his father’s life. And it works.
Yair Lapid has been in the news quite a bit these past few days. His political party in this past week’s Israeli elections had a sudden, meteoric rise. Lapid, a journalist who has written over a dozen bestselling books in Israel, ran on a simple platform of social equality. He wants to bring the price down on housing, education and cottage cheese (no joke). His father loved to eat, and after becoming financially well-established, claims to have stained his necktie in Europe’s finest restaurants. But his son is trying in some way to equalize the extremes his father experienced in his lifetime in a society of haves and have-nots.
In the introduction, “Tommy” writes that he would never have written the book had his own funeral not been so impressive. “It was, without a doubt, a stunning success,” he writes, watching the prime minister cry over his grave. Lapid's wife whispered to a friend how embarrassed she was that she did not know, until he died, how important her husband really was. But Tommy acknowledged that he had no idea himself until people mourned for him. He had tried on numerous occasions to write an autobiography but was not able to identify what was important. Whatever he was doing seemed the most important thing at the time.
Tommy Lapid is a lucky man. Instead of writing his autobiography, his son wrote it for him. Most of us are not so lucky. And while it may be difficult to sort out the wheat from the chafe of a lifetime, we may owe it to a generation that follows to give them a taste of our own life experience and lessons learned before we go. Wisdom comes in interesting packages, unexpected twists, unanticipated joys and painful memories. Some of us may be able to write it all down and share it after we die but don’t count on it. Better to take your pen out now.