When someone that you really knew for a long time passes away, there are many memories that fly around in your mind. Some of the memories are your own; some feel like they’re your own but they are really memories that others told you about or shared with you. And you try to select those memories that best represent who the person was.
So let me give you just two bits and pieces that are flying around in my head that I think are representative of June’s life.
The first is of a cold winter day. I’m walking out of June’s apartment building on Hard St. I’ve been talking with June and she’s in pain from a fall and she’s anxious about everything. And the wind is ripping through me. And I think, the wind blows cold on Hard St.
I remember this tiny scene because the unvarnished truth is that for a long time; life has been difficult for June, both physically and emotionally. How many times has she been in and out of the hospital? How many days and nights has she been frightfully worried about what was coming next? And now, after all the scares, it’s really happened. It’s strange to think that it’s really happened. But her body had failed to such a point that it wasn’t life any more, and we should be content that she’s at rest.
Judaism believes in an afterlife. We don’t think that this is it. And my prayer is that June is with Albert and that she is really at peace now in every way.
The second little scene in my head is of June sitting in Ellen’s house at one of their wonderful parties. She’s sitting in the kitchen and she has a great look on her face. There have been many such celebrations, for graduations and birthdays and so on, so I’m not sure whether this is one memory or several conflated into one. But June is a queen, sitting with a cane as her scepter, and she is thrilled and happy and proud about the occasion, focused on the meaning of the day, and she is in her element, she is holding court. And since she helped prepare the tuna fish in the shape of a fish or the elaborate fruit bowl, she is pleased as punch and she directs you to eat this or that and to tell her what you think of it.
This scene represents June in the midst of family, June at her best and happiest, without a care in the world.
Two scenes; one person, at opposite extremes. Two scenes representative of June’s life in these last years.
These are scenes from the last stages of June’s life. Let’s also remember the very full life that she had before these stages.
She was born and raised with her beloved sisters Jocelyn and Joanna in Newark, New Jersey. We mourn today with Jocelyn and Joanna and wish them well at this sad time. June went to high school and was a cashier. She met Albert in 48 and married him in 49. Throughout her life, she always worked or helped out at the movie theaters or the luncheonette. She was a doer who was always busy.
She and Albert had a wonderful family of four children, two boys and two girls, Howard, Ellen, Jill and Marc. She was a firm mother who wanted her children to be moral human beings and make the most of their lives. As Marvin could tell you because he has had a lot of experience hanging them in different places, there are 4 portraits of the four children that were perhaps her most cherished possessions. She loved her children very much.
June was proud of her children and their spouses
Ellen and Marvin
Jill and Daniel
Marc and Alyssa
Howard and Cathie
And then of her grandchildren
Paul and Lindy
She has been a kind of family historian who was always telling kids about things they did when they were little. She wouldn’t mind telling the little anecdotes countless times.
She always gave the kids thoughtful presents, music boxes for the girls, coin banks for the boys, wonderful age-appropriate gifts. It’s a nice tradition that is worthy of imitation.
To say something that’s very painful: If there’s one thing June was trying to stay alive for, it was Paul and Lindy’s wedding. If there is one intense regret about her passing at this time, it’s that she won’t make it physically to that even that was so close to her heart. But she’ll be with us in other ways.
Ellen says that her mother’s three highest priorities were Children, Bingo and Bingo. Bingo was a very serious business for her. She was a big winner at Bingo. She took Ellen and Amy to Foxwoods and had three generations play. This was very serious.
She did have other pursuits, including Mah johngg and Crossword puzzles. She was a serious Scrabble player who left family members thirty points behind.
She had Poker nights with the kids.
She was famous for her Banana Cake.
When she went to Tower One, she volunteered and became involved. A highlight was last Hanukkah when she became a Bat Mitzvah.
She was called up and she was presented with her Tallis by Amy, Paul and Lindy. Her face was shining. She came up for her aliyah and chanted the blessings. That was a great moment that I’ll always remember. Her tallis will be with her.
I’d like to say something if I can, and this is hard. For every phone call or visit that anyone here made, Ellen made fifty phone calls or visits. Ellen was her mother’s lifeline and her mainstay and there were times when Ellen really needed to take care of Ellen yet was beset with her mother’s emergencies. June would talk to me openly and directly and would say that she knew that Ellen needed a break sometimes, but the reality was that there never seemed to be a break. I don’t know what June said to Ellen, but I know what she said to me, many times, that she would never have had these last years if not for Ellen. And her gratitude to Marvin was very special; she saw him as her son.
Yasher Koach means, “Way to go! May you be strengthened!” Ellen doesn’t need our yasher koach, she did what she did out of love and out of what is right, but she should have our thanks for everything she did for her mother, more than she can even remember.
We’re sorry June’s gone, but we know that her body couldn’t go on any more.
To June’s children and grandchildren and her entire family, we ask G-d’s comfort at this sad time.
She was a righteous woman. May she rest in peace. Let us say Amen.