I used to wonder a lot about the advertising slogan, "Give the gift that keeps on giving." What kind of a gift was that?

I got my answer at the funeral service for my father, Paul Magill, may he rest in peace. The man who meant so much to me had been killed in an automobile accident, and I was in a state of deep despair, numb to the well-wishers who were walking by and offering consolation. None of their words could break through my shell of shock as I focused on how much my Dad had given me over the years – a lifetime of material gifts, ethical values, encouragement, guidance, love – and I despaired that I would never be in a position to give him anything again.

One example of his giving: When I was away at college, some 350 miles from home, I continued my interest in playing street hockey. The puck we were using was getting progressively harder as the weather got colder.He had a knack for giving me just what I needed One cold day, the puck struck me in the shins, and I was aching all the way home. I decided to write a letter to my father and ask him to send me some cold-weather pucks that didn't get so hard as the temperature went down. They didn't sell them in my college town, but my home city had stores that sold them. But I never wrote that letter. When I got home, I found a package from my father that included some cold-weather pucks. In his note, he told me that he figured I could use these pucks around this time of year. In this, and in countless other examples, he had a knack for giving me just what I needed.

Another form his giving took was in setting an ethical example. I recall as an 8-year-old at the Washington Monument being in awe as I watched my father move a stranger's car up about three feet (this was in the '60s, and people left their car windows open, so you could reach in and let out the emergency brake and push) to allow another stranger (soon smiling and thankful) to fit into a small parking space. It filled me with a sense of wonder that the world was a place for doing good deeds in. And the way my father took care of my ailing mother for years – even having doctors call him in to do certain procedures on her himself – gave me first-hand knowledge of the power of caring, commitment, learning, and patience. My father never told me that you should use your skills to help others; rather he showed me through his actions, such as volunteering and going far beyond the job requirement during his retirement years helping newly arriving Russians to acclimate themselves to the U.S.A. (e.g., giving them driving lessons, teaching them how to look for jobs, how to interview, etc.).

So it was no surprise that when I became religious, my Dad was very understanding. From what I've been told, not every parent has been so accepting of a son's new lifestyle as my father was—and immediately. "We have to eat in certain restaurants now? — Then show me where the restaurants are." What used to be a two minute ride for a meal sometimes became a half-hour.

We ate Shabbat meals together, sang Shabbat songs togetherWhen I brought Shabbat into the home, my father and my mother, may she rest in peace, joined me. We ate Shabbat meals together, sang Shabbat songs together. Dad never complained. In fact, he never said much about it. His actions did the talking. All I could think of in that funeral home was how my father had given so very much to me, and in my deep sadness, with his coffin a few feet away, I struggled to figure out what I had given him in return.

Just what had I given him? Gifts for Father's Day? Birthday presents? My poems? The thought that I had been on the receiving end of so much and had not sufficiently shown my gratitude only made me more desperate to discover something that I had done. The line of well-wishers kept moving by us, but they seemed in another dimension. I knew they meant well, but how could they reach me? I was so far away.

Then a man shook my hand and said, "I just wanted to tell you, Alan..." I looked at him. I realized I hadn't the faintest idea who he was. "...that I worked with your father and he often told me how you including him in Shabbat meals and other parts of Jewish ritual meant so much to him."

I smiled. I shook his hand vigorously. I was immediately engulfed with the kind of warmth and comfort that moments before had seemed unreachable. My father had never said anything to me about this.

In my mind's eye, I saw my Dad sitting at the Shabbat table, having put on a kipah for the occasion, singing along with gusto to a Shabbat song, reading the transliteration, looking happy, and I thanked G‑d (and I still thank G‑d) that I was blessed to have given him a gift to express my gratitude for his precious love, the gift that truly keeps on giving to him, even now, the eternal gift of Shabbat.

With special thanks to Miriam Adahan and 'The Jewish Press' for previously publishing this article.