Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Eulogy

Yesterday was my mom's funeral. I was preternaturally calm in a way that was shocking to me. I had envisioned myself, exhausted by a decade of pain and sadness, having spasmodic episodes of grief. My sister was in an emotionally fragile state and I felt if she wobbled I might fall.

But she was valiant in her effort and, with the exception of a moment or two of difficult reflection, she held together unbelievably well. 

As for her eulogy, and those of her husband, her children, my children and finally me, I think they were uniformly remarkable. One more touching, humorous, insightful, soaring than the next. Each part of a beautiful tapestry that, woven together, provided a wondrous portrait of my mom. 

I was fortunate enough, or maybe unfortunate enough, to be the last of the seven family members who spoke. Having to follow such brave and meaningful tales was, in some respects, an unenviable task as the audience may have been wrung a little dry emotionally.

But my words seemed eagerly accepted and when I concluded by singing a Sinatra song, Young at Heart, to my mom, it turned out to be the perfect closing number.

In analyzing my words, and those of all the others, with the assembled mourners later in the day, it struck me that funerals are in some manner, like a Broadway show. "Ben Brantley of the New York Times raved: "It was the equal of Hamilton. I laughed, I cried. I was swept away in a tidal wave of emotion. The portrait of Dorothy Nussbaum was spectacular, as this woman who lived to almost 100, seemed brought back to life by glorious tales of her splendor. She was a marvelous woman and you will end your evening longing for more. If you have but one funeral to witness this season, make it hers."'

Funerals can thus be hits or flops, the perfect blend of emotions,  the right mixture of happy and sad, or merely a messy jumble, unforgettable and a little unwatchable, like a performance not ready for the bright lights.

I would like to believe that my mom made our work incredibly easy, that the glow from her existence radiated on its own and that we were but conduits, vessels expressing her magnificence. She was surely a special person, filling all those she touched along her journey with a wondrous awe. Maybe all we had to do was not screw it up and she would take care of the rest. 

But the truth is we could have fallen flat on our collective faces, for a life must be portrayed with the right hues and impeccable tone to be appreciated like the finest of paintings. And my mom had the great good fortune to have been the matriarch of a family who paid attention to detail, who understood her essence and who could convey its meaning with all the grace, dignity, laughter and tears it so richly deserved.

With every fiber of my being, and with the blessing of my mom, I thank you. Thank you to my spectacular sister Gail, my brother in law Jim, my nephew Brett, my niece Lindsay, my son Richie and my daughter Alex for being brilliant storytellers. Thank you for showing the world that the heart of Dorothy Nussbaum still beats in all of us. Thank you for making this day one that I will look back upon not with unrelenting sorrow, but with lasting joy that all of you gave Mom a perfect sendoff. Thank you for bringing those gathered to their emotional feet, with a silent standing ovation for the magnificence that was Dorothy Nussbaum.

Thank you for making this day a hit. Mom deserved nothing less.


NL said...

and the hearts of the Kaplan's and Nussbaum's are beating in all who attended Dorothy's funeral yesterday.

Anonymous said...

The perfect elegant description of a beautiful tribute to an extraordinary woman!


Harvey F Leeds said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG7suS4YJWk Your version of Young at Heart was was the ultimate curtain call!!

LPB said...

And I'm sure it's the only time your children put up with you singing... :)

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, dear friend!

....I told everyone I spoke to yesterday that I attended the most beautiful and perfect of funerals.


Anonymous said...

It was a wonderful funeral.... devoted children.. beautiful grandchildren who all spoke beautifully.. a testimony to love..


Anonymous said...

Big smile-Just beautiful😊!


Anonymous said...

I am moved to tears. You and your family are a wonderful legacy, one which Dorothy Nussbaum will love and nurture in the years to come, albeit from a heavenly realm. The memories of her that you carry will always be a part of your lives. And so she lives on. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please extend my condolences to your family, especially Joanne, Richie and Alex.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful! PB

Anonymous said...

I was so moved. Although Your family has painted a beautiful picture of her. She in turn has created a beautiful family.

Anonymous said...

Your eulogy was quite astonishing. If the Pulitzer has a category for eulogies this will be the winner.

But that is a point of no importance, what matters is that your heart was prompted by love and respect to do the very best that you possibly could to honor this person who gave you the ultimate gift in life, that being the gift of life itself; and in that respect your mother certainly could not have asked for more. You paid her back, Robert, and then some. With your gift for words you created a sacred and beautiful space that will be hers forever, hers alone.


Anonymous said...

I have tears in my eyes after reading this. You really missed your calling as a writer.


Unknown said...

So true - a magnificent run of 7 eulogies. A beautiful way to honor a beloved and absolutely impressive woman.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said,(you’re a writer, after all!). WE are so blessed to have so many wonderful and loving memories from our childhood, aren’t we? We have our parents to thank for that… they set a beautiful example of friendship, consistency and loyalty for us. In truth, you’re my extended family.
As sad as these life passages can be, it’s comforting and enlightening to know that there are some bonds that can never be broken.


Anonymous said...

At the Nursing Home - joining in the music session with Mom....

...crying for the second time this week as the piano player is doing: Young at Heart.

You did it better!!