Lighthearted and occasionally sarcastic sharing of my experiences with infertility, baby-raising after infertility and life after losing a parent.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Mom's funeral was held on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 12:00 Noon. Below are the eulogies delivered during the service:
There is a song we learned many years ago at Girl Scout Camp…”Make New Friends, But Keep The Old.Some are Silver, The Others Gold”.I am very touched that D wanted me to say a few words about the OLD.
Some people are lucky enough to have , what I call, “Forever Friends”.D was one of mine. And it all started back in Scranton, PA. Growing up there in the 50’s and 60’s was a unique experience, but no one realized it at the time.We thought everyone had the childhood we had.But then we grew up, moved away, started our own lives, and made new friends.
It would always amaze people when we told them how we lived as a pack – not a clique – but a pack who did everything together…from walking to school taking up the whole sidewalk, to Hebrew school right through to Confirmation, to Saturday afternoon movies where we took up a whole row saving seats for each other,toSunday clubs at the JCC, to summer camp, to high school reunions, to each other’s weddings.There were never 2 or 3 of us; it was always a pack.
About 5 years ago when we were all turning 60,and lifebecame a little less hectic, income a little more disposable, we decided to celebrate with a Birthday Bash Vacation. Seven of our group were able to make it, so off to Cancun we went, dubbed by the staff there as The Seven Lovely Ladies.We caught up, rekindled, vowed to keep it going.And we have.
Now there is one less member of our pack. One of Our Lovely Ladies is gone. There is a great void; an emptiness that can never be filled.But D has shown the rest of us how to meet the end of our days with such grace and dignity and bravery and, most of all, surrounded by so much love.D has had a profound impact on each and every one of us here today and it all started way back when in Scranton, PA where we learned the true meaning of everlasting friendship.And now, we are Six Lovely Ladies.
Co-Worker: I am so very honored that D asked me to speak today.I met D when she began her employment at the library where I was a librarian.Eventually she became a supervisor of 12 staff and numerous student aides and I became her supervisor as the Head Librarian.Over the next 25 years, I came to know D from many perspectives.I would like to talk about just 3 of those today.
The first perspective is one we all know—which is—with D you get M.You can’t avoid it! It is not a coincidence that both of them wound up working at the same place of employment.I can only imagine that when the children were old enough to be thoroughly engaged in school and friends, M began to “shop” for a job, “shop” is the operative word here for those who know M well.Yes, M began to “shop” for a job, where he could keep an eye on D, OR was it the other way around—where D could keep an eye on M?
There were more times than I can count when D was in my office to go over a process, a problem, or an update of importance in the daily affairs of the library.More often than not, my phone would ring, and I would answer. “Hi M.”M would ask, “Is the boss there?”I’d hand the phone to D who was clearly agitated-- “What the heck do you want? [But she didn’t say ‘heck.’]She said, “What the heck do you want?Don’t you have a job?”M most likely wanted to know if she had all the ingredients for what they would be cooking.Should he go buy that shirt he wanted?What else did she want him to pick up from Costco?As M received his instructions from D, D’s eyes widened and rolled in half circles, she shifted impatiently from one foot to the other, and ended with, “Is that it?! GOODBYE M!” And she hung up.And as though she had to explain further how she felt about his intrusion, she slurred her words in a huff of irritation, “Such a pain in the ….”In the pause that followed, I felt like an intruder during their private moments of marital bliss.
While D played the perturbed wife when M did the dialing, she also knew M’s strengths.One day shortly before Christmas, D stopped by to chat.She asked if my son got everything on his Christmas List.I replied proudly that yes indeed he had, all but one gift. Being married to the extreme shopper, she found that concerning and asked what Santa couldn’t find.I told her and within seconds she was on the phone to M with the latest instructions, “M, listen to me, N asked Santa for a stuffed Cat in the Hat, and Santa couldn’t find it.Can you pick one up today?”They said goodbye and two and a half hours later, M stopped by with the last of Santa’s gifts.D couldn’t be more proud.They were a team!D and M were a team!
D’s ability to solve problems applied to her work in the library, as well. D’s attitude towards work was always focused on getting things done.Many considered her to be the “go to” person.She kept a catalog of supplies, resource people, and furniture in her head so that at any given time, she could find what you needed or knew where to get it.She was dependable.She often came early or left late. She developed the scheduling for her staff to make sure the desks were always covered even if that meant staying later to cover for someone else.
She was very detail oriented and enjoyed working on the database system that controls our collection.I was impressed with the knowledge she developed over the years about the record structure and the complex relationships of an integrated catalog.She liked to work on projects to clean up the catalog from a circulation perspective.She encouraged her staff to bring problems to her.She was a good listener for those employees who consulted with her.She thought carefully about appropriate solutions.It can be said that D gave 100 percent effort to provide service in our very busy library over the 25 years she worked there. I immensely enjoyed working with D.
Not only was D knowledgeable about how the library functioned and knew how to get the work done, she brought her thoughtfulness and caring to work and made family out of co-workers.She organized and participated in showers and birthday parties.She knit sweaters or blankets for expectant moms and dads.She cooked from her own library of recipes that became signature at library parties.I know so many of you that worked in the library during those 25 years who invited D to your family functions.D always looked forward to attending and shared your special joys and even your sorrows.
Lastly, I wanted to mention how D impacted my life as a human being.While I was her boss, she was my mentor.She taught me so much but perhaps her greatest gift was to show me how to be a caretaker.Long before my mom and dad became ill, I watched how D cared for her own mom.With responsibility and love, D did everything for her mom.She moved her mom from Scranton.She set her up in appropriate living facilities.She took her mom to medical appointments, bought her clothes, medicine and, yes, Breyer’s Chocolate ice cream.She was the ultimate devoted daughter not only for her mother but for M’s mother too.In an odd turn of events, her mother was placed in the room next to my mom’s in the Nursing Home for the last 2 weeks of her mom’s life.I stopped in next door to see how she was doing only to see D lying on the bed, her arms wrapped around her mom, gently comforting her mother in the last hours of her life.It was poignant and touching—it was a moment of beauty.D’s gift of love and caring was given back to her.During her illness, her family, visitors, and guestbook friends formed a support system of inconceivable magnitude.I can only imagine D’s satisfaction on this very day--that she was so loved and cared for by all those lives she touched.I am grateful that she touched mine and was proud to call D my dear friend.
As all of us here feel, it is with much sadness that I am before you to say a few words about our beloved D.
A and I met D, M and T soon after we moved to our neighborhood about 34 years ago. Soon thereafter, J was born and then our daughter R was born and just a few years later our son S was born. Our neighborhood friendship developed into a real friendship and then, as I believe is the case with many of us here today, an even closer family-like relationship.
We all knew D as a very warm, friendly person who would go out of her way to help a friend. I will never forget when D, at her request, stayed at our house overnight to be with R when A and I left for the hospital for A to give birth to S.
All of us here have been extremely saddened since we learned a few months ago of D's serious illness and we have done much to help and support M, T, J and their families during this very traumatic time. M, T and J, please know that we will continue to help and provide support to you.
M, T and J, all of our lives will continue on, but with more strength and devotion to our family and friends because of our wonderful memories of D.
Son: So how does a son talk about his mother?How does he stand in front of family and friends and honor her memory?How does he sum up a life in a few minutes?More importantly, how does he say goodbye?
I’ve been thinking about these things for a few months....and the only answer is, “he can’t....but he’s needs to try.”
Most of you in this room know me, some intimately, some casually....but I don’t think it’s a stretch for me to think that all of you, every last one of you knows how much I loved mom.In the past few months I have really done my best to be there for her, to remind her that she has fulfilled her destiny on this planet, to let her know that NO MATTER WHAT........NO MATTER WHAT, she will NEVER be forgotten, and to further ingrain the fact that she has had such a PROFOUND part in making me the person you see before you.I hope she left us knowing that.
Children are supposed to learn from their parents--right from wrong, how to be independent, how totreat others, all of that stuff.Somehow you grow up, you move out, you start a family of your own and your parents are no longer parents in the truest sense of the word.What they become are confidants and friends....and in many ways you feel like you have nothing left to learn from them except the occasional sage advice from an elder.But since mom’s diagnosis she taught me SO MUCH.She taught me that fighting a win-less fight for the right reasons can be admirable and honorable.She taught me that strength really does come from within and not some bullshit made in the gym or the practice field.That’s fake strength and at any moment that can be taken from you.You couldn’t take this strength from her, it was nothing short of incredible. Mom was debilitated, she couldn't hold my children anymore, she couldn’t walk, she couldn’t see very well, she became a shell of herself.But she trudged on...and with very little hesitation.She AMAZED me EVERY SINGLE DAY, because I know that in my life there are many days where I just want to give up, I just want to pack it in and be done with everything, everyone....and quite frankly, my problems are trivial at best when held next to hers.She showed me what strength and resolve really is, how powerful love is and that extra time with family is worth getting poked, prodded, moved, rolled, wiped, fed, cut open, radiated, pumped full of poison, and confined to a bed or wheelchair.I envy that strength and I hope that she knows how much I admired this tenacious attitude from day one.
She didn’t have to fight, but she wanted more time with her family....and that’s not just Dad, T, E, Micah, Maya, J, Paige, or Peyton, that’s everyone in this room.I wanted her to fight and told her this, but I never kidded myself that this was going to have a good outcome.Right after the surgery when she was pretty banged up, I questioned whether or not this was a good thing after all....and I did for quite some time.But then something amazing happened.Something I only thought possible in Hallmark movies or one of the Lifetime flix my J loves so much.........I saw family and friends alike rally around her in a manner that is nothing short of shocking.I knew she was loved, but I never knew how much she affected so many people.....and how much she continued to do so through this entire process.From the absolute bottom of my heart, I thank each and every one of you as well as the countless people all around the net that reached out.If something like this were to happen to me and I received 10% of that love, I would be an extremely lucky man.
That’s the thing that really set in with me recently...Mom WAS a lucky woman, she was raised as an only child but never felt too alone due to friends.She got married to a man who was educated, caring, and because I think I look a bit like him, STUNNINGLY HANDSOME.Together they had 2 children and they raised these kids to the best of their ability.They never wanted for anything and the house was filled with love (most of the time....when it wasn’t love, it was noise........). These kids were very different from one another, One of the kids exceeded all expectations when it came to schooling, the other........yeah, not so much, but he came around eventually.The one thing that they always had in common was their family.That never wavered.One of these kids grew up to be nothing short of incredible throughout this ordeal.My sister laid her life down to take care of mom at the end and I don’t know that I could have been more proud of her.I see what she did and all I could do is sit and watch in awe and know that in a million years, I could never be as incredible as that.Mom was lucky...but not nearly as lucky as Dad, T and I....because we got to spend 33, 37 and 42+ years with her.Without mom, I am nothing.........and I mean that literally and figuratively.I know that T and Dad feel the same.There is a void in our lives that I don’t think will ever be filled, and I am overwhelmed with a profound sadness in my heart the likes of which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
So here we are today, saying goodbye to the single most influential female in my life...perhaps some of your lives as well.I know I could have and should have been a better son in so many ways.But I don’t harbor guilt over this, because I know that mom was proud of the friend, the husband, the father........well, really, the man I have become.The truth is all I ever wanted was for her to be proud of me.When something good happens to me, the first person I always called was mom (much to the chagrin of J)....I got promoted, I got a raise, whatever, take your pick.......and the reasoning behind that call I have realized as of late is that I just wanted her to know that I wasn’t that screw up from years ago.I have always felt like I needed to make up for that little shit I was.I probably didn’t, but I wanted her to know that she didn’t go wrong with me, she actually did good.SHE deserved that.......I know that the next time something great happens I am going to pick up my phone and just dial instinctively and I know at that moment it will be like this is happening all over again, but that’s ok, because I know she’s watching me and I hope it is with a swelled chest full of pride, because again......SHE DESERVES IT.
Mom, I need you to know that J and the girls love, I won’t say “loved”, they love you and I feel terrible that they won’t get to know you as I did.Know that you DID affect them, and you WILL NOT be forgotten by them.
I am going to miss you mom, and I don’t blame whatever power is up there for wanting you to come back..........because I WANT YOU TO COME BACK, but I don’t have that power.I don’t NEED you anymore, I just really really really want you around.I promise to try to be a better man, to have more compassion for my girls, to be nicer to people, to treat J more like the goddess she is, but most importantly, to be a good son and brother to the people who meant the most to you in this world.
I have given up trying to find answers, even if there were any, none would satisfy me.But I will say this....It wasn’t supposed to be like this...........but that’s OK, because you are no longer struggling, you can rest, it’s over.You left this world knowing how much of an impression you had on so many people, I can only hope that I have that honor one day.
I love you mom and I won’t ever be the same without you.So say hi to all the grandparents for me and you better have some sweet and sour meatballs for me when I arrive someday.I love you so much and I am so sorry any of this happened to you, you deserved better.
T: First of all, I wanted to thank all of you for coming today.Over the past few months, we have been humbled by your support…on the blog, your emails, your visits, your calls, your food, your offers of help, your love and your support. My mother often said how this experience had changed her.She said that the outpouring of support for her was mind boggling, and it taught her that we should never sit back when those we know, even just acquaintances, are going through rough times.I have learned that lesson, too.We had always believed that in hard times, families needed to be by themselves…to be private.Through this experience, we learned that the love, support, encouragement, kind thoughts, and offers to help are invaluable, not intrusive.I will forever be grateful for all that you have done for me and my family during this trying time, and I am lucky that so many decided not to just let us be.My family owes so much to so many of you, and all I can do is express our thanks, and tell you that it mattered.It made life easier, it made life better, and your strength helped carry us through.We are forever changed because of this experience, and I hope that we will all be better people for learning that lesson.
Today we are here to honor my mother.I think the outpouring of support is a testament to her life….to the person she was, to her kindness, to her humor, and to the friendships she cultivated over a lifetime.I could spend days talking about my mother (and as you all know from the blog, I can certainly wax poetic at the drop of a hat).It is so difficult for me to think about where to begin, what to say.How do you summarize the essence of a person?I could tell you all that my Mom grew up in Scranton, PA, that she was an only child, that she graduated from college, that she was a social worker when she met my father, that they met when he crashed a wedding, that she worked in a series of part-time jobs when she moved here, that for the past 25 years, she worked as a Library Assistant (and eventually became the Supervisor) at a library, and that she was a loving daughter, an amazing mother and grandmother, and a good wife.I could tell you that my mother loved to read, that she was a wonderful baker and a cook, and that she crocheted and knitted some of the most beautiful afghans, sweaters and scarves I’ve ever seen in my life.My mother was kind.She loved her family, and she loved her friends.I could talk about my Mom’s humor, or our relationship, or her friendships, or how much she loved us.All of that is true. And yet…it somehow doesn’t say enough.
One of the things my mother hates most about funerals is the poem “Eishet Chayeil” – Woman of Valor.My mother felt that it extols values that she did not represent or even appreciate…a submissive woman, toiling day and night to keep the perfect Jewish home.When we received my mother’s diagnosis, I knew that there would be no reading of Eishet Chayeil at her funeral.At the time, I posted something on the Caring Bridge site about needing to find a better poem to read, and my Mom’s friend, S, gave me a card the next day, with a poem folded inside.I’ve carried it with me ever since, and I think perhaps it does a better job of identifying the “value” of a person’s life, and maybe a better framework for me to tell you about my mother:
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning…to the end. He noted that first came the date of her birth, and spoke of the second with tears, But he said that what mattered most of all was the dash between those years For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth, And now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth. For it matters not, how much we own; the cars, the house, the cash. What matters is how we live and love when we’re living out the dash. If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and what is real, And always try to understand the way other people feel. And…be less quick to anger and show appreciation more, And love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before. If we treat each other with respect, and more often wear a smile, Remember that this special dash might only last a while. So, when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions to rehash… Will you be pleased with what there’s to say about how you spent your dash?
Each of you here today (and so many more who are unable to be with us) are part of how my mother spent her dash, and those of us who loved her do understand the value of that dash.I think one word that can easily be used to describe my mother’s dash is “friend.”She was a wonderful and kind friend to so many, including me – a sounding board, a confidante, and a cheerleader.My mom is a rare breed…she has so many lifelong friends since her childhood in Scranton, friends she met as a young, newly married adult building a life in a new city, friends she met through work, and more recently, friends that she collected through her struggle with cancer.
Mom would do whatever she could to help a friend…make food, run an errand, babysit a child, drive somewhere, rescue a knitting project, hold a hand, sit in a hospital waiting room, drive 8 hours to a funeral, teach their children to drive, pull loose teeth, or just sit and listen and laugh and talk.She tried her best to always be there for her friends whenever they needed her.In recent weeks, she read the bookTuesdays with Morrie, and when she finished, she asked me if it would be okay to take Morrie’s line from his tombstone (“teacher to the end”) and tweak it a bit…she wanted to put on her tombstone “friend to the end.”Friendship was one of the most important parts of Mom’s dash.
Humor was another huge component that defined Mom’s dash…she was snarky and spunky and funny, right up to the end.She had a keen sense of humor and a quick wit, and she could always deliver a well-timed line.She loved practical jokes, she loved to laugh, and she loved to yank people’s chains.Her eyes would dance when she was looking to laugh…and when my Mom decided it was time to laugh, well, it was time to laugh. I’ve often spoken of our inside jokes on the Caring Bridge site, and I’m going to miss laughing with my Mom and our silly little sayings.
I think food defined my mother’s dash.She loved to eat (especially on those steroids), she loved to try new and different foods, and she loved to cook and bake…but only from scratch.She made the most delicious apple cake, and cookies, and applesauce and mandel bread and brownies.She was constantly trying new recipes, but there were certain foods, especially holiday foods, that we liked a certain way…like her brisket, and her filled cabbage, and her blintzes, and her Thanksgiving stuffing, and her pumpkin pie.She loved a good holiday meal, and while she hated the mess and the effort, she loved doing the holidays “just right” with our food, done our way.
My mom was also a bit quirky, but her quirks were endearing and why she has been so loved during her dash. I loved that she started cooking or baking whenever a snow storm hit…usually soup, or filled cabbage, or her latest baked goods obsession (one year it was blueberry muffins, the past two years it has been mandel bread).She loved to guess the voices in television commercials (I think it is something she started with her father many years ago).She had a tendency to goose us (particularly my father) in public, just so she could hear a good squeal.I loved the silly little dances she would do for me singing the Chip and Dale song, and I loved when she would imitate cookie monster and sing “C is for Cookie…”Mom loved beautiful voices and singing…she always joked how in her next life, she wants to be able to sing.
I would also say Mom’s dash was defined by all the little things she did, especially for us.I remember as a child that she always made my lunch…and would use cookie cutters to cut my sandwiches into different shapes.She often put post-it notes in my lunch, and she would hide post-it notes with messages like “I love you” and “I miss you” in our clothing drawers when we went off to camp.My mom always had homemade soups and baked goods and applesauce for us.Every year, we would go out to the orchard and pick fresh vegetables and fruit, especially strawberries.We would pick 10 flats, and my mother would spend a day making strawberry jam and pies.We always had enough jam to last us the entire year through.I think I must have been well into my teenage years before I ever had store bought jam!Every year, she made sure to give gifts for all of her co-workers.She would start searching in July, trying to find the perfect gifts.I remember as a child all of the craft projects she did…crocheted bookworm bookmarks, pom pom magnets, lanyards and so many more, often as gifts for goodie bags or holidays.Mom was always working on a sweater or an afghan or a scarf.She used to make us hats and gloves, and I remember that she would crochet a string and attach our mittens to each end and thread them through the sleeves of our jackets so we could not lose them.She did so much for us and for everyone to make our lives…nicer.
The end of Mom’s dash has been defined by her strength and courage.This year, we lost Grammy, my mother’s mother.At times, watching my mother through this battle was like watching her become my grandmother.It was difficult to see my mother age, almost overnight.As the brain tumor and surgery affected her, I noticed some of my grandmother’s nervous habits surfacing in my mother.It was bittersweet…terrible to see in my mother, and yet it made me smile to catch a glimpse of my grandmother again.At her funeral, my mother said that my grandmother’slast 2 weeks were a true testament to her strength, both physical and mental, and that my grandmother raised the bar high and my mother only hoped that she could reach it as Grammy did.Mom – you did.You faced this horrible illness with such strength and courage, and you fought hard, and you did better than anyone predicted.I’m stunned that this stroke came along and took you out after all your fight and hard work.It isn’t fair.You faced this battle with courage, grace and strength.You earned the right to have more good time, and frankly, we were all robbed.I’m angry about that, but so proud of you and all you did.I’m sorry for all the things the cancer stole from you, and yet proud of how you held on to yourself…you were kind, you worked hard to improve, and you always kept a positive outlook.As you have said before, you raised the bar, and I hope that I can reach it the way you and Grammy did.
Before she learned of her diagnosis, my Mom never realized that she had touched so many lives.Through the blog and your messages, she learned at the end of her life that she mattered to so many, and that the things she had done made a difference.That knowledge touched her, and meant the world to her.She told me one day that you never know how the tiniest little nothing you do can be a big something to someone else.I think that is an important lesson for all of us.
Towards the end, my mother gave us a list of things she wanted to “take with her.”I think many of those things represent what she valued in living out her dash…pictures of her family, a hat crocheted for her by a dear friend, a phone so she could “keep in touch” with her loved ones, and Nugget’s remains.
I have asked the Rabbi to read the Yizkor poem “As We Remember Them” today.I have always found that poem beautiful, and I think it is true…it is in all the little things of every day life that will help me remember my mother.I will take her with me, and she will live on in each of us, in our memories of her.I believe that “As long as we live, she too will live, for she is now a part of us, as we remember her.”
I’d like to part with a poem that my Mom’s friend and co-worker, G, brought to her when she was in the hospital.It resonated with her, and I think it speaks to the value of my mother’s dash:
Count your garden by the flowers, Never by the leaves that fall. Count your days by golden hours, Don’t remember clouds at all. Count your nights by stars not shadows, Count your years with smiles, not tears. Count your blessings not your troubles,
Count your age by friends not years.
As We Remember Them Poem read by Rabbi:
At the rising of the sun and at its going down, We remember them. At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, We remember them. At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring, We remember them. At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer, We remember them. At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn, We remember them. At the beginning of the year and when it ends, We remember them. As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them. When we are weary and in need of strength, We remember them. When we are lost and sick at heart, We remember them. When we have joy we crave to share, We remember them. When we have decisions that are difficult to make, We remember them. When we have achievements that are based on theirs, We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live; for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
I'm an attorney and policy consultant, and DH is a consultant to nonprofit organizations. We met at a Superbowl Party in 2005, got engaged the following year, and we were married in November 2006. We had a long and rocky road before finally welcoming our first baby, Micah, into this world on December 14, 2008.