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.
From you and daddy, I learned about love and marriage. Even when I was a child, I couldn’t imagine how I could ever find anyone I loved as much as you loved daddy and he loved you. It was only fitting that I found another "Bernie" as my soul mate. Still, the depth of your love for each other was inspirational. I will never forget the poems you wrote when daddy died. This one made me cry.
Berny Schwartz: 1921-1989
I don’t want him to be gone.
I want him here to mow the lawn,
to rub my back,
to kiss my ear.
I want him here
to take out the trash,
to hold my hand,
to wiggle our toes in the silver sand.
I want to hear him whistle again.
You were my darling,
the dearest of men.
I loved you Berny,
and oh how I grieve.
Why oh why did you have to leave?
And this one made me laugh!
Is it too late
to ask questions quite complex?
I need to know
because I loved you so.
Is there life after love,
and after death…is there sex?
Mother, I’m sure there’s sex after death for you and daddy. After all, he’s been waiting for you in heaven for more than 18 years. My fantasy is that when you first arrived, you’d have a passionate reunion, and then play tennis together again. I’m sure that by now he’s given you a racy new convertible sports car with a stick shift, another new wedding ring, some great costume jewelry, a new hat or two, and that you’ve bought at least a few pairs of shoes.
Mama, everyone always says that people who die will be sorely missed but not forgotten. But, in your case, it’s true. A few nights ago I had a dream that I was standing at the Pearly Gates and there was God, who looked just like Golda Meir.
I said, “Hi, I’m Susan Bernard.”
“You’re one of the Schwartz children,” she said.
“Your parents are truly wonderful. The March birthday parties are extraordinary. Everyone has so much fun. Those ecumenical Passovers have brought all kinds of people together. Your father is a highly sought after doubles partner, and your mother’s new column, Speaking from Heaven, is a great success.” I started laughing and I awakened. Then I started crying—when I realized that you were gone. Still, my memories sustain me. Mama, you were a wonderful mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother. I felt lucky that my small nuclear family lived five blocks away and I could drop in and visit so often. Bernie, Alex, and I were glad we could continue the Schwartz family tradition of spending every Sunday with you—for sixteen years—with Bernie cooking your favorite foods and Alex being the lightpost for your love—and you for his.
I will treasure the last few years when you talked less, but I could share my love by playing my Autoharp and singing to you, telling you stories of your youth and mine, and just being with you—so that you could feel my love with a touch, a smile, a hug.
Whenever I’m feeling sad about my loss, I turn to your poetry. This one made me smile and brought tears to my eyes.
On a Sad Day
Don't cry for me.
I have loved and been loved
with more sweetness than most.
I promise to be a gentle ghost,
with only a reminder here and there...
an off-key song...a steak that's rare...
an ice cream cone...a silly poem.
So, smile awhile and think of the stories I'd tell,
then remember me...and laugh like hell!
Mother, you taught me how to laugh, and love, and cry. You also taught me to end every story with a good punch line, so I wrote my own small poem for you.
Oh mama, I love you so!
I'm so sorry to see you go.
I know it's time to say goodbye
but I'll love you dearly until I die.
Your one in the middle.