The following are excerpts from the tribute I wrote to my mother--in a letter form--that were read at her memorial service. I realized that some of the things I'd written were so personal that only her family members and friends would appreciate them. So...I'm including the parts that I feel everyone might enjoy and understand.
Mama, when I think of my childhood, there are so many stories to tell and impressions to share. You were an exceptional role model in so many ways, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized how special you were. When I was young I guess I thought that everybody’s mother could write wonderful poems. This is one I know by heart because you wrote it about me:
Do you have the problem of a middle child?
The consensus is you do,
if you’ve an older one and a younger one,
psychiatry says you’re through.
In our house, the big one
is the very first grandson.
And the little one
is precocious and wild.
But the one in the middle
plays the fiddle
and her charm has us completely beguiled.
As I got older I learned that everyone’s mother didn’t write poems, and I certainly knew they didn’t wrote a newspaper column, but you never made a big deal about it. Writing was just something you did…all the time.
What amazes me is how many of your readers called our house, and you always had time for each and every one of them—whether they truly had news items for your column or they were lonely and needed someone to listen.
Growing up as one of the Schwartz children whose mother wrote Speaking from Cheviot also meant that everywhere I went—everyone knew me because everyone knew you.
And our home was the cornerstone of abundant joy and happiness. You and daddy were so welcoming to our friends, and you entertained grandly. Who can forget the March birthday party celebrations? And what about our ecumenical Passovers where you included people of different religions and everyone read from the service?
I’ve often thought about how inclusive you were to so many people. Whether it was Thanksgiving, Passover, or Yom Kippur (to break the fast), you always invited friends who were widows or widowers, those whose children lived in different states and couldn’t be with family members, new friends you’d made, or people who interested you.
(to be continued)