I remember as a kid, sitting in the doctor's office browsing
through a "Reader's Digest" magazine and finding a
story called "The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met".
These stories were often somewhat interesting or amusing, but
I remember thinking even then, that that title suited no one
as well as it suited my mother.
She certainly is unforgettable. Her beautiful smooth complexion,
young looking even at 84 years old, drew comments from everyone.
That's because she began doing facial exercises in her 40's,
and she'd be the first to tell you about that. I remember driving
with her as she did her facial contortions at the red lights.
I loved the naughty look in her eyes when she said something
she knew would be a little shocking. That's a characteristic
I think I got from her. And as for being a character, that is
the perfect word to describe her. My mother always marched to
the beat of her own drum, and its rhythm was like no other. Who
else made their own egg plants out of real eggs, or painted their
window shades with Chagallian like abstract paintings, or wore
psychedelic colors before that word existed.
She always spoke her mind. Some people thought her tactless,
but no one could ever question her honesty or authenticity. She
had not a mean bone in her body. Her empathy for the suffering
of both animals and people was extreme. She felt their pain as
Although she may not have thought so, she was an extremely intelligent
woman. She spoke English (with an adorable accent) as well as
French, German, and Russian.
She loved movement and had dreamed of being a dancer or gymnast.
Due to injuries at a young age these dreams never became a reality,
but she did begin to study ballet in her forties when she took
us to dance classes. Even in the last months, through her pain
she pushed herself to be as active as possible.
When she could no longer dance with her body she danced with
her mind. She loved to play scrabble (with her own set of rules),
and when she had no one else to play with, she played two hands
at once against herself. Of course she always won. When she wasn't
playing scrabble she was doing crossword puzzles, or reading
the classics or a biography.
Late in life she began painting in her own distinctive and creative
way, employing her love for brilliant psychedelic colors, and
often sent unique Chagallian-like hand-painted cards rather than
store bought ones. They were labors of love. She also painted
not only her window shades, but the glass windows as well.
She was passionate about flowers and loved to garden. She not
only had a green thumb, but ten green fingers. In the spring,
the front of the house was a symphony of color. The last few
years, as she became less and less able to garden, Mother's Day
became our day for planting together. And when she could no longer
partake in that, she began to make flowers of her own creation.
She saved the shells of eggs and painted them her favorite fluorescent
colors and stood them in pots outside so she could still have
colorful flowers in front of the house. She also began pasting
stickers and stamps of flowers, butterflies, and anything else
I could find for her on all her correspondence. Some of you may
have been lucky enough to receive one of these gaily-colored
letters that she delighted in decorating with all the exuberance
of a child, hoping the receiver would take as much pleasure as
She loved classical music, and we grew up with WQXR. The kitchen
was littered with dozens of tapes made from the radio. They were
rarely labeled, so listening was often pot-luck, a mélange
of mostly Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and Vivaldi. Music could move
her to tears. After my father's death, at the age of 66, she
began to play the piano. It was not easy for her, but she loved
it and practiced four to six hours daily until her arthritis
crippled her hands and she had to stop.
She was a remarkable, loving mother. I remember on cold winter
days, my coat and gloves waiting for me all warmed up on the
old radiator in the dining room. I remember being sung to sleep,
by my mother's sweet loving voice singing Russian and French
lullabies. I remember her love.
No conversations about my mother would be complete without mentioning
my father. Their marriage had its little disputes but they were
rare, and for the most part their union was one of joy, playfulness,
deep love and mutual respect. My mother has missed my father
terribly, every day of these last 18 years since his death, but
she always felt privileged to have been with him, and I would
like to think they are in some way now together.
I want to thank all of you for coming here today to honor my
I want to especially thank my mother's dear friend Natalie, who
particularly in the last few months as my mother declined rapidly,
called her daily and visited her a few times a week.
I also want to thank my mother's cousin Dottie who although unable
to visit, loved my mother and called her often. She could not
be here today due to her own daughter's untimely death last week
but I know she is here in spirit.
I also want to thank my dear friends Sheila, Judy, Ronit, Laurie,
and Evelyn who took the time to call and visit my mother and
watched out for her when I wasn't around. A special thank you
to Ronit who helped my mother come to terms with her life and
her impending death, enabling her to be more peaceful.
A special thanks to our wonderful neighbors the Frys and the
Cohens, who loved her and kept an eye on her, and especially
to Craig who escorted her to the hospital, and told them he was
her son, so he could stay with her and care for her until I was
able to get there.
I want to thank all those people who have stood by me through
this, calling me, sending me e-mails supporting me, and loving
me. My dear friends, some old, some new, who have touched my
heart with their love and compassion.
I want to thank Bill, who brought love and light into my mother's
life with each of his visits, speaking to her in French, laughing,
discussing art, music, philosophy, making her tapes, but most
of all listening to her with compassion and love. Not only was
he there for her, but his extraordinary support and love for
me has helped carry me through this experience. I want to thank
him for his exquisite presence.<
What I am most thankful for is the greatest gift of all, my sister.
Thank you Rosette for being my sister, for being willing to put
the past behind us and to be willing to be back in my life. We
and your beautiful sons are Mom's legacy. I love you.