Averell “Ace” Smith

Lili’s Father

As you all know – simply by the fact that you are here – Lili loved people.

And boy from the number of people here I can guarantee that gregarious little girl would have had a big smile on her face. Lili was a true character and every one of you has your own special memory of her. As you walk through the world bind those memories to your hearts because they will forever put a smile on your face.

Two years ago I stood at this very spot with Lili as she became a Bat Mitzvah. I remember talking about the account of God asking Moses to lead his people out of Egypt. An account we always tend to overlook because, at first blush, it seems to diminish Moses. It goes like this:

As God implores Moses to lead his people, Moses flatly refuses saying he is unworthy of the task because among other things he stutters. He tells God that he cannot lead because he is “slow and hesitant of speech.” As we all know Moses overcame this challenge and led his people out of slavery. But I always used to wonder what was the lesson here? Why did God choose someone who needed to overcome such a flaw to lead his people? But as I watched Lili every day and marveled at her strength, her good nature and her perseverance I understood – because in doing so she was an inspiration to us all.

Lili stood on this bimah and spoke about Moses commanding the building of cities of refuge to stop the seemingly endless cycles of violence. She applied Moses’ concept to the modern world saying that: “By building more shelters and creating more ways to help battered women, to help women escape lives as prostitutes, to help youth who live in violent homes you can see how we can apply this ancient idea of cities of refuge to the world we live in…only then do we have a chance to end the cycle of violence.”

As Laura and I made our sad journey to her Iowa school last weekend it kept on striking me that Lili had fooled us all. She tricked us into thinking that we were teaching her all of these great things. Nothing could have been further from the truth – we were not teaching Lili, she was teaching us. She was teaching us each and every day. On the morning that Lili passed, the students gathered outside in the courtyard. The first glistening cover of snow rested on the ground. One of the students broke the silence and simply said: “I know this is Lili because we are looking at the snow and it is making us smile just as Lili always did.”

I know that it is common at a time like this to seek a great truth. I have no such thing for all of you.

I can only offer three small suggestions.

If you are sad, think of her smile.

If you are struggling, think of her determination.

If you walk through the world fighting for human rights and equality, glance down at your side for she will be there.

Our family is so grateful for all of your love and prayers. God bless you all and god bless you my beautiful daughter.