Jonathon Sherman pays tribute to his parents Barry and Honey Sherman - Macleans.ca

Jonathon Sherman pays tribute to his parents Barry and Honey Sherman

‘We’ve had to navigate through a terrifying maze of non-information and unfounded speculation,’ Sherman said in his eulogy, adding: ‘Our parents never left anyone behind. They were taken from us.’

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Thousands of people attended the memorial Thursday for Barry Sherman, the founder of Apotex Pharmaceuticals, and his philanthropist wife Honey. Barry, 75, and Honey, 70, were found dead in their home last Friday. Police have released few details about their investigation, but have said an autopsy showed both died of “ligature neck compression.”

During the memorial, which was attended by politicians from all levels of governments, the couple’s son, Jonathon Sherman, paid tribute to his parents and spoke about their “incredibly painful and bizarrely surreal” deaths.

Here is an excerpt from his speech:

Jonathon Sherman: These last few days have been really f—ed up for my family. If ever a crisis would strike, we always had two people to call for help. One would provide calmness, levelheadedness and perspective. And the other would instantly take charge of the situation. As my sisters and I congregated for two days waiting to hear any facts other than through Twitter and the unreliable news media, I kept expecting my parents to walk through the front door and say, “everything will be fine, we’ve taken control of the situation.”

These last few days have been a shocking adjustment to our reality. Before we could begin to grieve as a family and recover in a proper, Jewish manner, we’ve had to navigate through a terrifying maze of non-information and unfounded speculation, all while trying to support each other emotionally. We want to apologize to our close friends for shutting you out, especially knowing how much you wanted to be with us. This has been so incredibly painful and so bizarrely surreal. But we have been taking comfort in knowing that your hearts have been breaking for us. And for those of you, especially in blue, who are experiencing similar feelings of loss and emptiness and loneliness, remember this. Our parents never left anyone behind. They were taken from us.

These last few days have been crushing, and would have extinguished my family without the love and outpouring of support coming from all directions. Almost immediately upon hearing this terrible news, and as my family began congregating from places as far as Apsley, [Ont.], Mexico, Florida, California, Chicago, Europe, Australia, and Israel, the condolences started flooding in. And so did the bagels and the smoked meat, and the baby- and dog-sitters, and the car pools, and the bottles of scotch and other stuff. We are very fortunate to have so many amazing friends. I won’t even start naming as there are too many, but you know who you are and what you mean to us.

RELATED: Linda Frum pays tribute to Barry and Honey Sherman

These last few days have reminded us what it means to be a Jewish family. When someone tries to snuff you out or eliminate important parts of your family, we rally together and emerge stronger than ever. Our family legacy, like so many others, emerged like a phoenix from the ashes of the European Holocaust, shattered and broken, only to rise and rebuild and to thrive. In honour of our parents, we promise to do the same thing now. My sisters and I pledge to rise again and to continue thriving and to continue building our parents’ legacy of loving life, caring for others and knowing, as our parents always reminded us, that with great privilege comes enormous responsibility.

 

WATCH: The memorial for Barry and Honey Sherman

These last few days, and in the coming speeches, we are all hearing a lot about who Honey and Barry were as a couple. We could talk for hours and days, and we can gather testimony into eternity, and we will still be scratching the surface of Honey and Barry. Like yin and yang, they completed a circle that encompassed everything important about what it means to be human, neither one perfect, but together wholly balanced and exceptional. One may have been soft, calm, brilliantly logical, staunchly atheist, and unconditionally loving and proud, while the other may have been firm, intensely energetic, brilliantly gregarious, silently spiritual and unconditionally honest and caring. But together, they were everything and perfect.

In the coming speeches, we will be hearing about Honey and Barry and the incredible contributions they made on so many fronts. We’ll hear about business leadership, advances in medicine and health care, generosity in charity, supporting the Jewish community here in Toronto as well as in Israel, receiving various awards for various accomplishments, and so much more. Our parents were clearly very involved. But for the next few minutes, I would like to talk about my mother and my father. This will be honest and raw and from my heart. I’m sorry if it’s not complete or if I miss certain elements. And I’m sorry, Dad, if the grammar isn’t perfect. I haven’t had much time to compose my thoughts.

In the past few days that my sisters and I have been gathering with our spouses and children, we’ve been talking a lot about Mom and Dad. On the parenting spectrum, each parent can sit somewhere between mother and Mom and father and Dad. Our Mom was an amazing mother. Every important detail of our early lives was so well managed, and with so much care and competence. From car pools to medical appointments to after-school activities every single day of the week, to summer camp and parent-teacher interviews, and on and on, our mother always had everything taken care of.

Our father was an amazing dad. We clearly knew why our dad wasn’t always present. He was a pretty busy guy. But I can remember literally every single individual occurrence when my dad did father stuff with me. He would come watch me play hockey or baseball once every season or two. But those few games were my Stanley Cups and my World Series.

As the children, each of us has had a unique and special upbringing. Born over a spread of 15 years, my sisters and I related to our parents in our own appropriate ways. As a six pack, we travelled together around the world and accumulated memories that will last our lifetimes – times like watching Dad act like an elephant while on safari in Africa, or driving around in a jeep in Israel looking for Mom’s lost wallet, and her lost keys, and sunglasses, and her jacket too. They were funny people, and they loved sharing their enthusiasm for life. Any event, be it a bar mitzvah or a wedding or just a simple Passover dinner, was an occasion to celebrate with gusto. Our parents loved life so much, and they loved celebrating. We felt our parents’ love so intensely in so many ways that we will cherish forever.

Nothing prepares you to sit down and write your parents’ eulogy. To lose a parent is a difficult thing. But to have both parents taken from you before their time… My parents were exceptional people who loved life and deserve to be honoured and remembered to the highest degree. But to me, they were just Mom and Dad. There’s no right or wrong way for me to do this.

To my mother, you were always such a good sport, and so animated. You were my first golf partner, and the only witness to my only hole-in-one. Well, Dad was there, but he was buried in his briefcase, I’m sure. Although I was only about 10 years old, I remember how proud and excited you were for me. And if anyone else has ever played golf with Honey or been on the same golf course as her at the same time, you’ll know what I mean when I say that everybody was hearing about my hole-in-one. Dad wasn’t thrilled to learn about the tradition of buying all the drinks in the clubhouse. But he clearly—he—he gladly paid it.

On another trip, skiing in Vermont, you let me choose the next run after spending all morning on the greens and blues. So when I picked the black run directly below the chairlift, you were reluctantly gung-ho. I’ll never forget watching you wipe out on the first turn and slide down the entire run for everyone to see. It was effing hilarious—until you made me march up and collect all your gear.

You were the eternal party animal, and you wouldn’t let anything get in the way of having a good time. We all know that you suffered pain from arthritis. In fact, we called you the Bionic Woman because of all your replacement parts. But after every surgery, you would come out dancing, even if you needed the help of your super-trendy hiking sticks. One of my fondest memories was watching hip-hop Honey dancing with the stars to raise money for Baycrest. Winning that award stands out amongst all the others because I know how physically gruelling that was for you and how strong you were. My mother was incredibly stoic.

Mom, I love you, and I’m gushing with pride and bursting from pain right now. Nothing I can—nothing can ever fill the incredible void in our lives. You were the magnet and the glue that pulled us together and made us stick. We promise to honour you by staying together, staying strong, and of course continuing your legacy of giving. To that end, we would like to announce the creation of the Honey and Barry Foundation of Giving. We would also like to ask our Aunt Mary, Honey’s sister, to help guide this foundation in a way that best honours our parents. If you’re willing, please join me.

To my father, you were my hero. And I don’t mean that like how other—sorry. I don’t mean that like how all dads are heroes to their sons. You were a real-life superhero. When I was a kid in elementary school, we did these book reports on great Canadians. And I would always choose someone like Wayne Gretzky or Terry Fox. I didn’t know at that time that you were one of those types of people. What it means to me to be a great Canadian is to set an example for the world to see, to be successful in business and make contributions to charity, and to advance the quality and access of much-needed health care and education, and to raise a family. That is what it means to be a great Canadian. You contributed enormously to so many fields, and have received so many honours and awards I could not begin to name them off.

To me, each new award was just another in the pile, and no additional award was going to alter my perception of your greatness. But just two weeks ago, you privately told our family that you had been appointed to the Order of Canada, the greatest recognition of Canadian greatness. You were always so humble, but I know how proud you were to get that news and how excited you were to finally be recognized for what you are. I don’t know what will happen now with that award, if anything. But to our family, you were always the greatest Canadian.

You were also my business partner. When I entered your office about five or six years ago with my good friend Adam, we told you about our plan to start a business together, and you were so incredibly supportive and excited. We had the world’s shortest shareholder agreement, which basically said anything, any time. As our third partner, you watched from the sidelines and gleamed with pride as we began building our businesses. You were always available to help us with funding and guidance, but your greatest contribution to my enterprise has been your [inaudible]. It gave me so much motivation to succeed, knowing that my little business meant so much to you. I promise to carry on and to treat my employees and my customers in a manner that will make you proud.

Dad, I’m sorry that I could not possibly cover everything I want to say here today. No amount of rhapsodizing could do you justice. Your kindness and brilliance and generosity is historic. And your humour is second to none. I can only speak to my own experiences. When I was a kid, maybe eight or 10 years old, we used to play baseball in the back yard, like at least three or four times. One time you hit the tennis ball over the fence, and you told me that when you were a kid all of your friends called you Slugger. I know now, because now I know some of your childhood friends, that you were just pulling my leg, and that you likely picked up a bat for the very first time just so that you could play with me. But that was you: always so funny.

You were entirely tone deaf, but you had the sweetest rendition of “You are My Sunshine.” And you lacked all social cues, but everyone loved you anyhow because you were so genuinely cool and nice. Most recently, you have been helping my husband Fred and me to build our family through the long and expensive path of surrogacy. It annoyed me how often you would ask me for an update, but I know it’s because you were so excited. I love you, and I thank you for everything.

Mom and Dad, I’d like to talk forever as there is so much that needs to be said. But let me finish with some words of comfort. We have pulled together during this most tragic time, and we have a renewed focus on each other. We are protecting and loving each other, and we swear to check on each other every single day. We are taking some comfort in knowing that you two are together forever, and neither of you had to suffer like we are suffering now. You were like a lock and a key, each pretty useless on your own, but together you unlocked the whole world for yourselves, and for us, and for so many others. We promise to carry on your legacy of greatness and giving from now until forever.