This past week has taught me, that in learning how to die we learn how to live. The three prominent female figures in my life were struck by disasters. My 79 year old mother fell off her horse and sustained a severe subdural hematoma and has been in ICU, my mother-in-law, Jeannine is on a remote cardiac monitor and my favorite aunt Lilly and second mother, passed away. I don’t know who to write about first, as they are all such unique and dynamic women.
My mother has been riding since an early age and even though we tried to get her to stop she said she wanted to die on her horse. She always hung around with younger riders and has had a youthful spirit. I am happy she’s had this passion, but now as she slowly reclaims her memory and talking abilities after the accident, she finally agrees that she must give up riding and find a more age-appropriate hobby. We were told that her subdural hematoma was so large that if she was 20, she would probably be in a coma.
Aunt Lilly is my husband’s aunt, but I’ve known her for more than thirty-five years. She died in her sleep at the age of 88 after a tumultuous yet successful life. I suppose what I admired about her most was how in spite of all she had been through, she never wore her heartaches on her sleeve. She was a bright, vibrant and positive woman who was a successful clothing designer in Montreal where we lived during our early marital years. When Lilly’s daughter, Norma, phoned to ask if I would speak at her memorial I was honored to be included.
Here is my eulogy: Some people are immortal and Lilly Dee is one of those. I met Lilly more than 35 years ago when I married Simon. We immediately had a connection, but, more importantly, I so admired her vibrant spirit, positive attitude, sense of humor and snippets of wisdom. Lilly always seemed to say and do the right thing at the right time. Uncle Ernie called her the family diplomat as she always told us like it was with the right balance of honesty, grace, and compassion and like her brother Alex, with the sensibilities of a wise sage. I’d like to read a poem from my recent collection, Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You. (Note: For those of who have my book, you will notice that I modified the last stanza for the occasion)
Dedicated to Aunt Lilly
From the moment we met
I loved you, right there,
in your country house on a remote lake,
Hungarian cheese spread smeared on Swedish crackers,
chicken paprika draped over a mound of mashed potatoes,
that long French Canadian wood table,
delightful culinary aromas from your kitchen,
lively paintings and portraits enveloping your walls,
books piled on your bedside table.
Oh how I miss the warmth of your home,
nestled in your easy laugh and zest for life.
I knew I wanted to grow old like you,
proud shoulders pulled back,
despite years in concentration camp
and the loss of two adoring husbands.
I shall forever be impressed by your sense of humor,
how you called my husband the glue doctor
after he developed a prosthetic cement;
your fine attire as a clothing designer,
positive tint to life’s idiosyncrasies, and yearning
for learning and travel.
I sit here with the memory of your accented voice
and how you said you had to go to your room to
‘brush your tits,’ and how each time
we looked into one another’s eyes
we had a connection which transcended
any words I could blend on these lines.
You’ve helped me navigate through every
stage of this woman’s life and shown me
how to survive all that I’ve been through
and for this I thank you.
Lilly, your spirit remains forever alive.
Rest in peace.