My maternal grandmother passed away almost four weeks ago, on Thursday evening, June 28 (12 Tammuz). Her death was not unexpected, since it was preceded by a year of ovarian cancer, chemotherapy, and recurrence, but it was of course still very sad. Even before the cancer, she withstood years of slow deterioration in her motor skills from multiple sclerosis with what can only be called extraordinary good cheer and equanimity.
This is a what I said at the funeral. It was my first reaction, written almost entirely during the half hour preceding the funeral, with input from my older sister, younger brother, and mother. I read parts of it from what I had prepared beforehand and made some up on the spot. This is what I actually said, based on the the video my brother took.
I hope to blog more about my grandmother, her life, and our loss at some later point, but this should at least give you a little picture of who she was.
ד,א בן זומא אומר...איזה הוא עשיר--השמח בחלקו, שנאמר "יגיע כפיך, כי תאכל; אשריך, וטוב לך" (תהילים קכח,ב): "אשריך", בעולם הזה; "וטוב לך", לעולם הבא
4:1. Ben Zoma would say: Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot. As is stated in Psalms, "If you eat of the toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you"; "fortunate are you" in this world, "and good is to you" in the World to Come.
I never knew anyone as happy with their lot as Grandma was. What was most important to her was her family. Whenever we came to visit, she was overjoyed--so much so, that she made us happy! When I used to tell her of an upcoming visit—and I told her as soon as I bought the ticket, because I knew that anticipation was half the fun for her—she always worried that I would be bored—she didn't know what I would find to do in Palo Alto! She always said that she didn’t know why I kept coming. It was never a problem—being in the house with her was a joy for me, even if she couldn't promise good weather—that was always the caveat she gave.
From an early age, I associated my grandmother with her matriarchal role of sustainer and food provider. She made us French toast with extra eggs—more than our mother would allow—and brownies that were out of this world—and she let my sister and I lick the bowl and the beaters. She once let me in on a special secret: an excellent way of getting two things done at once is to watch a football game while chopping walnuts for brownies. Nobody else’s grandmother that I knew watched football while chopping walnuts for brownies. She was also the only grandmother I knew who was a good shot. Once I heard a story about my uncle challenging her to a match—and she beat him. I’m sorry [I said this to my uncle], but I had to share that.
I was particularly enamored of my grandmother's tuna salad with pickle relish, something that I was not accustomed to. Even after she was unable to cook for us herself, she directed kitchen activities from her couch and then her chair, answering questions about egg to tuna ratio in tuna salad, how long to cook the roast for, and where a particular pot was located in the kitchen, even though she might not have personally stooped to get it out of its location in many years.
My grandmother, in addition to her continual joy at the presence of her children and grandchildren, was quite…spunky. When my sister and I were interviewing my grandfather, Bapa, before he died, she interjected with a wonderful story that I’d never heard before. Once, when she was working at a five-and-dime, I think during my grandparents' first year of marriage in
Once, her wise counsel helped me get out of a jamb. When I moved between apartments in
In thinking about my grandmother, there were certain things that she always said. One of them was always take a sweater when you go to
I feel very fortunate that I’ve gotten to know my grandmother so well. To reach the age of 28 with a grandmother as such a constant presence in your life is a very special thing. I think I speak for all of us, the grandchildren, when I say that we will never forget all of the things that she taught us. Her life, and the way she was, was an inspiration to all of us.
I am sorry that we didn't tape what I said at my grandfather, z"l's, funeral in February 2004. I spoke from a few words jotted down on a piece of paper and was unwilling and then unable to reconstruct it afterwards. I would have liked to know what I said, but speaking from such an emotional, difficult place made it hard to even look at the notes afterwards, never mind reconstruct my actual words.
One of the many, many benefits to having close relationships with your grandparents is that you learn all kinds of things that your parents can't teach you. For example, if it had been up to my mother, I never would have been indoctrinated into the ways of nail polish at the age of six, nor would someone have told me (although I often ignore it) that serving food in the dishes in which they were cooked is uncouth.
I miss my grandmother so much, and I am sure that I will continue to miss her as life continues on its merry way and I realize how much left there was to learn from her.