by Saralee Rosenberg
Not every writer enjoys public speaking but I live for opportunities to be in front of an audience. Maybe it’s because as a wife and mother I look forward to talking to anyone who will listen.
It is oh so different, however, when the woman behind the podium is neither a wife and mother, but a daughter. A daughter who must eulogize a parent. In my case, two parents within the past fifteen months.
With all of my writing and public speaking experience, nothing prepared me for the time I would have to condense a lifetime of love into a short memorial and then present it with grace. The operative word was compose. I had to compose my thoughts. Compose my words. Compose myself.
My father, Harold Hymen, passed in November, 2012 at the age of 86. Miraculously the right words came easy as my dad was like a compelling, memorable character in a novel. He was full of wit and wisdom and so certain of his principles. He had many passions, but none more than his beloved family.
At the end, when the dementia was an unwelcome and unwavering guest, he struggled to get out a new edition of the Hymen Herald, the newsletter he created to communicate with his eight grandchildren. Mind you the email was never about him or my mother. It only featured news about “the kinder” (the grandchildren) so that they would know what was happening in each others lives and remember to stay in touch.
His was an easy story to tell.
But her death wasn’t just the end of a life, it was the end of an era.
For nearly sixty years I was blessed to have had two healthy, independent parents who could never be reached because they were never home. Parents who were avid tennis players and fitness enthusiasts, leaders in their community, active in Synagogue life and always the first in line for the early-bird special at Outback.With a coupon.
How would I be able to write this eulogy? Condense my mother’s essence into a few short pages? Make this most public address and not fall apart?
The morning of the funeral I was still at a loss for words, but reminded myself I knew a thing or two about overcoming writer’s block. First strategy was to send those twin demons, doubt and fear, packing. The only thing that mattered was speaking from the heart. I also reminded myself that as with any challenge, there was always more than one option. When nothing was going right, go left.
I did write a loving tribute to my mother and delivered it with the poise she would have expected. She was never one to bow to fear and she taught me well. But there was another lesson. A poignant lesson. One that my father taught me and which I'll never forget.
Do for your parents so that one day your children will know to do for you.
Rest in peace, Mom and Dad. The legacy you left, three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren means that your loving hearts will live on in all of us.
Teach your children well, indeed.
Saralee Rosenberg is the author of A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE, CLAIRE VOYANT, FATE AND MS. FORTUNE and DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD. Her work-in-progress, THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MEDIUM is her first novel for younger readers. Visit her website. www.saraleerosenberg.com