Below is my eulogy for my Bubbie, Connie Schlaff, who died on January 9th, 2019 (1/9/19):
There’s a video of the great physicist Richard Feynman. In the video, his friend Danny Hillis said, “I’m sad because I realize you’re about to die.”
And Feynman said, “Yeah, that bugs me sometimes too. But not as bad as you think. By the time you get to be my age a lot of what is good about you has rubbed off on the people and so … although I will be dead, I won’t be completely gone.”
And that’s the way I like to think about Bubbie and all the little things she left us. Like some of her favorite things. I remember the last things that Blake and Ari did with Bubbie. These might have been Bubbie’s two favorite things. Ari did a crossword puzzle with her and Blake asked Bubbie if she would watch his new favorite show, Jeopardy, with him.
Bubbie had a mind of her own. To paraphrase Bobby Kennedy, “Other people may ask ‘Why?’ but Bubbie would ask, ‘Why Not?’” While Bubbie claimed to be a registered Democrat, she’d was better characterized as a member of the contrarian party. Bubbie had no problem moving to a farm to avoid the coming nuclear winter. Or working with Zaid to create a successful business at Norcon. Or working with Rita to create a less successful business called Manstance (with I guess the less recognizable parts of their names).
Bubbie always wanted everyone in her family to be happy — so happy that it often made her very anxious. Of course, this anxiety went beyond her family to a fear of flying and bridges. But family was what she cared about most.
Bubbie and Zaid would always make each one of their 9 grandkids feel special. They genuinely felt like each of them was “Their Favorite,” in a real and palpable way. It wasn’t an act. They never compared anyone but offered wonderful and unconditional love to all of us (and our spouses).
When I was younger, Bubbie and Zaid would always visit me and take me out to dinner. I remember we were at Yale at a bar called Mory’s. Zaid and I were in the lobby waiting for Bubbie. As we’re standing there we realize there are a lot of people who look very serious, with very carefully pressed suits and lapel pins. And then behind me, I heard this guy say, “Where’s that picture of me playing baseball?” And I see him pointing to the picture of George Bush, the father, playing baseball. And then I realize the guy doing the pointing is George Bush.
At that time Bubbie comes downstairs, super excited. And she says, “I just met Barbara Bush in the bathroom and shook her hand!”
But now Bubbie’s gone. Robi and I were talking about how she’s much happier up in the clouds. I remember that Blake used to think that Zaid turned into a bird after he died, so they’re together appropriate. Bubbie never quite recovered after Zaid died. All her holiday cards were still signed “Love B&Z.” But now they’ll be in heaven together. Bubbie. Zaid. George and Barbara.
Note: Let me explain the Bush references a bit more. Last year both George and Barabara Bush died. When they died, the newspapers wrote about their loving daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia at three years old in 1954. There’s a letter that Bush wrote in 1958, four years after her death. This prompted two lovely editorial cartoons after their death that reminded me of connections after death in such a pure and lovely way.