I never wrote a eulogy before but have often thought about it, which doesn’t make me morbid since I have spent equal time pondering my Oscar acceptance speech.
Tomorrow we bury my aunt and when they ask if anyone wants to say anything, I will feel the weight of eyes on me, the vocal one, and I will feel compelled to say something but I am not good on the spot. The formula for an essay is an introduction, supporting evidence, and a conclusion but what is the blueprint for a graveside eulogy? Maybe I should jot down some notes. Not a formal speech, but a few random sentences so I sound cohesive.
I don’t have to tell anyone about what kind of a human she was. Everyone who met her instantly identified she was a gentle, kind, soul who loved her family. She took life seriously, every little part of it, including dancing the hora like a professional.
I will forever remember how she sent me a card and present for every single birthday of my life. The card came on my actual birthday or the day before. When I had my children, they too received the cards and generous presents every single year; never one day late.
She didn’t just send any card. She went to a legitimate Hallmark-brand store (no 99-cent cards for her) and would spend an entire lunch hour selecting THE PERFECT card which would convey the exact sentiment she was feeling. Of course, she also included her own standard amendment in typical Russian prose: wishing you health, happiness, luck. “ENJOY your life,” she always added.
My aunt came to the hospital the day after both of my babies were born. I remember I was annoyed that when my daughter was born, she just SHOWED UP! I didn’t feel like receiving visitors but when I saw the smile on her face and the joy in her eyes when she held my baby girl, I felt like an asshole. She came to welcome our family’s next generation and brought me soup and for my baby, her first doll, which we named after her.
When I visited my aunt in the hospital after her first cancer surgery, I wanted to bring flowers. I spent 40 minutes going through every bunch at the corner bodega searching for the ultimate bouquet; I wanted to make sure they weren’t too smelly. When I brought them, she smiled and told me they were her favorite, but “could we please move them to the nurse’s station because she couldn’t possibly tolerate the smell.”
When she first came to America; I was a bitchy teenager and she was always calm, there to love me no matter what, and tell me I looked like my grandmother, her mother. She lived in our basement in Staten Island for four years before moving to Brooklyn. I remember when they discovered cream cheese and incorporated it onto everything in their diet.
Finally, I got my fanciest shirts from my little humble aunt who spent a decade working for the fashionable Vivienne Tam. On top of it all, my simple aunt will always have been my closest link to haute couture.
When one person dies, it seems the effect on the huge universe is small, like a tiny grain of sand disappearing from a beach. But for one family, it’s like you’ve pulled a support beam from under the house. It’s not a matter of how far-reaching any one person’s life is, it’s a matter of how deeply one person’s life impacts those it touches.