My Bubby died. Friday afternoon if you want to be technical. She wasn’t in good shape for a while but it was still a shock to the heart, I guess you always expect death to happen in tiny increments like filling up a measuring cup to the line you want – bit by bit by bit by bit until you’re at a whole complete measurement.
But it’s not like that. It’s alive. Then gone. Alive. Gone.
And it’s strange to think that she’s just not here anymore for me to call on Friday afternoons before Shabbat to hear her tell me she loved me. That there will be no more Florida visits every June which I’ve been doing every year for the past five years. She was 90 years old and I seem to keep focusing on what she might never see, as opposed to all the amazing things she had the ability to witness – a gift that was denied to many not just in her generation, but in her own family.
Today was the funeral. The whole day was an exhausting mix of hugging visiting relatives, crying, laughing, eating, hugging, reflecting, more eating, running out to Starbucks after the funeral, more laughing. So many friends and family came, I whispered to my sister that if Bubby were here she’d be demanding to know why all these people came here – how did they get here? Who invited them? And then she’d wave and smile and blow kisses to everyone, adoring the spotlight. I assume she’s bending God’s ear with these interrogating questions and comments now.
I had offered to speak at the funeral. For those of you who asked, I have put it here. For everyone who texted, called and FB messaged me sweet thoughts and condolences I thank you from the bottom of my heart – I am so lucky to have caring and considerate friends and family. I’m sure Bubby would agree (and then tell me that it was time to say goodbye to those friends since my husband was my only friend now).
Here is what I said at the funeral:
“I’ve never given a eulogy before.
But then again, there’s a lot of things I’ve done this year that I’ve never done before. I graduated college, I got married, I got various jobs. And I wouldn’t have been able to do that without my grandmother, my Bubby.
I don’t just meant that in the sense that if she had never been born neither would I but in the sense that Bubby believed that I could do anything. That all her grandchildren could. You could tell her you were going to be a doctor and she’d say “Great! You can operate on me,” or “Bubby I’m going to be an accountant” and she’d reply “Wonderful – you’ll make a lot of money and send some to me.”
My Bubby was friendly. She had to stop and talk to. every. single. stranger, neighbor and waiter. If only to tell them that her grandchildren were visiting….and maybe did they have a Shidduch in mind for us?
My grandmother was also stubborn. She refused to accept the fact that if you turned on the TV during a thunderstorm you wouldn’t get electrocuted – or that men could competently take care of babies.
I believe that she survived the Holocaust because she was too stubborn to do what Hitler so wished she would do – give up her life and heritage. He only made her dig her heels in harder.
In that way, my Bubby was a maccabee. I truly believe she would have fought right along side Matityahu – as long as it wouldn’t ruin her manicure. Bubby was all about having perfectly painted nails.
It’s almost fitting that she passed on Hanukkah because there is a story she once told me that I have come to associate with the holiday.
When she was a young girl in Czechoslovakia, she told me, she had found a bag of gold coins and gave them to her parents. Instead of spending it responsibly on food or shoes for their five children, they took them to the circus – a rare and wonderful treat for the poor family. Years later, when the Nazis and fate had taken their shoes, taken their food – she still had those glorious memories of that happy day at the circus – that was something no one could ever take away.
During Hanukkah – when the Jews found the small jug of oil that would only last a day when they needed a week, they could have done the “responsible” thing and just lit a tiny bit each night to make it last but they didn’t. They spent it all and hoped for the best. They decided that the inspiring and wonderful sight of the menorah burning was more important to a tired and torn family – that sometimes people are more important than protocol.
My Bubby was a Macabee but she was also a flame. She warmed others with her food and her home. Her smile lit up when family and friends visited. She kindled Shabbat candles.
She might’ve burned too hot at times or scorched those who didn’t deserve it but Bubby was like that stubborn menorah flame that refused to conform to logic or nature.
In the circumstances surrounding her birth, she should have lasted only one generation but instead lasted many more.
And like the miraculous oil, only once she saw that her family and the Jewish people were going to be okay did she finally fade into a small spark and leave this world.”
My Bubby was a complicated lady who could be difficult and impossible sometimes. But she taught me that it’s good to have convictions, it’s even better to have something to fight for, its important to have family, it’s vital to have confidence in yourself but sometimes all you can do is try, and have faith that everything will work out in the end.
And it’s essential to always have perfectly manicured nails.