My Mom, Hazel Spatz, passed away around one year ago just about two and a half months after my Dad . She was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, non-verbal, and he had been her full-time care-giver (with some wonderful helpers). I hope the words I said at her funeral will have some value for you.
Welcome. For those of you that were here when my dad passed, I gave a little talk about “how do you love?” I invited all of you to think about it in your own lives, how do you parents love you? The one thing we all share besides that we’re living and we’re going to die is that we all love and we all will be loved and are in love, but it seems to me that each of us loves in a different way. We all have our individual way of sharing our feelings. Speaking of feelings, I hope I can hold mine in. My mom and dad were different in the way they loved, and that was one of the great lessons for their children and grandchildren because we got the best of both worlds in the way that they loved us and the way they loved everyone.
As I had said the last time, Dad’s way was acceptance and helping. He accepted people for who they were and he understood people well and accepted them however they were, however his sons behaved or his grandchildren behaved. He was quietly accepting of us, and he also tried to help in any way he could. Mostly he helped with advice and with financial support and with his wisdom, and this was a great lesson to us. My mom was different. I think those of you who know her already know that. My mom was a hugger. She was a kisser. She was affectionate. She was excitable. She was vivacious.
I once made the mistake of walking into her home and I didn’t kiss her hello and you would’ve thought I was just a terrible son because how could I ignore my mom and not give her a little hug and a peck on the cheek? I learned my lesson. Never did that again. When I was young I was kind of rebellious and had my own views on things, so I kind of resented it a little, but I went along with it, and eventually I grew to appreciate it. She wanted every chance she could to show her love and receive love, and that included every time you saw her.
With my mom it wasn’t just accepting. She didn’t just accept us. Hers was a higher standard. Not only did she love us, but she was darn sure we were special. I could say that like psychologically I think my mom thought we were special. No, no, no. She made sure we knew that we were special. I have letters. The last couple of days I’ve been going through all the letters I have to her and from her and she says, “I love you and you are special”, and I think we all felt that, that she really believed we were special. So this was a standard beyond just accepting us.
When I was young I used to think well maybe she thinks we’re special because she doesn’t really know us. She doesn’t really know what jerks we are and how obnoxious we can be and what a pain in the butt we can be, but then I thought, no, she does. She’s seen it all. She’s seen us be all those things and she still thought we were special, and later I realized that she actually was incredibly insightful. She had a wisdom about people that I had never seen before. She just understood people.
Now my dad – he could’ve been a psychiatrist. He studied all the great psychiatrists and he understood people kind of from an intellectual point of view, but he even acknowledged that my mom just got people. She just felt them and felt for them. So I realized that to have this woman think you’re special is special because she really knew us. She knew we weren’t perfect and yet she thought we were wonderful anyways, and I’m talking about pretty much everybody that she brought into her life. Once she loved you, you were special and it didn’t matter what you did or how you behaved. You were always gonna be special to her.
I’m gonna limit this to just a couple of ways she loved us. One was she made us feel loved and special, and the other was helping. Now again I said that my dad liked to help us and he did. He was a wonderful helper. We all relied on him. He was the head of the family, but my mom was the heart of the family and she helped us in her own way. One of the ways she helped us is to let us know what she thought. There were no secrets with my mom. If she didn’t approve or thought we were going astray, she would let us know. I ran across some beautiful letters, but there was usually a paragraph in there letting us know, whoever it was a letter to, that maybe we could do things differently or better. She wouldn’t hold back.
My dad was a little bit more reserved than that, not wanting to put out his opinions; not my mom. She let us know what she thought and what she thought we could do or should do, and then she sat back and whatever we chose was fine with her. She just wanted to express herself and share her views, and then she would step back and just love us and watch us do whatever we needed to do, but you knew where she stood and then you got to make the choice.
Now myself, again I like to kind of do things my own way and I was self-reliant and I wasn’t so sure about all this helping business that my mom wanted to offer and all this advice and all this wisdom that she wanted to share. So I was sometimes rebellious when she would make suggestions or have ideas for what I should do. One day I was leaving their house in Northbrook, which I now live in, which is such a blessing, and I was walking out of the house and it was one of those Chicago days where it wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t too cold, and I walked out of the house without a coat. My mom was standing by the door and she said, “Bob, don’t you think you should wear a coat?”
Now this was not unusual for her to help us dress properly and so on, and I looked at her right in the eyes and I smiled and I said, “It’s okay, Mom. I’ll be all right.” Now I’ll note that I didn’t put a coat on, but I also didn’t get annoyed with her. I wasn’t upset and I realized at that point that this is always gonna be the way she loves us, that she’s always gonna worry about us and be concerned about our welfare even to wearing a coat. It changed me in that moment because I really got how much she showed her love and how she’ll never stop.
I was 40 so a bit of a slow learner, but I’m grateful that I got the message in time. Other than that, any one of you who knew my mom knew she was just so sweet and kind and warm and so loving and so full of feelings and so on. As I have suggested, we knew how she felt and it could be sad and it could be glad and it could be angry and it didn’t matter because it would come and it would go and the love would just always be there. So I wanna just end by saying that I’m happy for my mom. I’m happy she’s with my dad. I’m sorry we have to be without her, but we’ve had a lot of time to adjust to that and so this is certainly a bittersweet day, but I just smile when I think that they’re together again after over 70 years. So thank you for listening.
I'm writing this now because in Judaism the one year anniversary of a death is a very special occasion in the mourning process marked in part by special Yahrzeit prayers. Here is part of one such prayer:
We have been taught that human souls are Thy candles.
Through them Thou bringest light into the world. For the light
of compassion and tenderness which my loved one
brought into my life I am everlastingly grateful.
Help me, O G-d, to use the sacred memory of my loved
one as a spur to consecrated living. May I perpetuate and
transmit everything that was beautiful and lovely in their character.
Keep firm my faith that we cannot go where You are not,
and where You are all is well