I was asked at lunch this week to tell a story about my Aunt Ruth. It’s an interesting thing to ask because how can you sum up 92 years in a story? I am sure some Rabbis could and do every day, taking bits from a family to make a life. I tend to think that you cannot. That a life that is that long is a fabric of events, of threads that make up a blanket so to speak, with each thread representing just a piece of the story, but when you pull one away, the whole blanket falls apart. So I did not really know what to answer. But here is what I have.
Ruth had a large family, of course smaller as the years passed and at 92, there were not many left, that’s just how life is. I remember talking to her last February as she was putting memories to paper for my mom’s 75th birthday present, and sitting in her living room having her tell me about the cottage, the boat, and showing me pictures of memories and events that were so critical to her and her life. Not even all good. She reminded me of all the arguments with Herman and Uncle Al about stupid things like what to serve at dinner that so many years later are not relevant for the words but for the fact they were all together, that the years they had were special because of the people, the threads, that held them together. I remember as people passed including Uncle Al, my Poppa, my Nana, that she was there for all of us to comfort and help and so now we could do for her She was for many of us the constant, even more so than a grand parent or a parent, she was just aunt ruth. She was always there with a smile, something nice to say a wine cake or brisket that even if I did not love them and sorry I really didn’t, will miss them. But a constant is what she was.
She was as I told my friend, the last of a generation and that is one of the harder things, the connection to the past that we lose when someone who has lived such a long and full life passes away I am not sure we think of these things until they die, we just assume they will always be there, to share their memories, their stories, and their food(we are of course after all jewish). Aunt Ruth was the last and for that I will always remember her as special. But what I also will remember is that in a small family, we need to treasure and appreciate who is there when they are there, and appreciate what they bring to the table so to speak, the threads of the blanket to use my own silly metaphor. I have tried to explain to my own kids, now young adults, what this means. I think I fail mostly as do most parents, but I want them to see that we are all parts of a larger picture, that to have someone like Aunt Ruth as a part of their lives, for their whole lives is something to treasure, yes they have grandparents and parents who love them, but grandparents are different, they just are. The Great Great Aunt, as I was reminded what she really was, tied things together. She always loved my kids, always treated them as special, and I could tell when I told my kids Sunday that they knew this was a big deal, and I could see in their faces that while maybe they did not understand totally the loss, they knew it was deep and effecting, and they could see in my own face that this was a huge loss for our family.
I tend to ramble I am told, but I think it is important to not just share memories but share why people are important to us, what they bring to our lives, anecdotes are all cute, and we will all chuckle at them, it is what breaks the tensions, that makes a time like this just a little more bearable. But it is also important to note and remember how people like Ruth tied us together just by being themselves, not a series of cute stories, but just by being, and to take the time to remember them as a whole, and what they brought to us. Aunt Ruth I will always remember was just a kind, funny, pretty women who was always there, and now that she will not be, I think we all feel and are just a little less complete, which is not even a bad thing as we can then bring our own threads to the blanket and fill them in where others have been lost. And that is what we should all remember to do every day and remember we are part of a larger picture and all part of the fabric of each other’s lives