My sister Jenny passed away on Valentine’s Day, 2016.
She had just turned 43 on February 11 and blushed a bit as we sang her Happy Birthday. Less than a week later we buried her in the driving rain at Ewing Cemetery next to her father.
Below is the text I wrote the morning before the service at Har Sinai Synagogue, although the actual words I spoke were somewhat different due to nerves and my three-year-old son Aiden interrupting me at the podium. I picked him up, at which point he grabbed the mic and said: “This is a microphone. It has the technology when you speak into it to amplify.” I put him down and tried to continue but he insisted on being picked up again. His next announcement was less erudite: “I have to poop.”
Never have I felt such a complex mixture of emotions: proud yet mortified and sad yet tickled. The crowd predictably loved it and surely it would have been Jenny’s favorite part. Thankfully, Aiden returned to his seat and somehow, despite my nerves, I managed to finish.
I am Michael, Jenny’s older brother from Helmut.
For the past two years I’ve been living in Jenny’s room, with her purple rug, her needlepoints on the wall and shelves filled with dolls and stuffed animals. My 14-month-old son, Joshua, has recently started talking to them from his crib at the foot of her bed. He grabs my toe in the morning to wake me: “Da Da”.
Jenny has been a huge part of my life recently and also at important points along the way.
Growing up I had trouble adjusting to her visual disability because I didn’t want to let her use it as a crutch. At times I was not the kindest big brother and teased her or took out other frustrations on her but she was always so quick to forgive me and always so eager to join back in.
As we grew older she really took a special shine to me and showed me nothing but love. It brought out a protective side in me. I became a confidant and trusted friend. As adults she could tell me many things which she would tell no one else. And I would keep her trust and I always have and always will.
In our best moments together we could talk about G-d in a way I simply can’t with anyone else. For reasons I can’t explain we could open up completely. In my efforts to soothe her, most times I would instead be soothed myself. She brought out the best big brother in me and I’m grateful for that.
I’ll miss kissing her after she lights candles on Shabbos.
She was good with my boys. Aiden, my three year old, had a great relationship with Aunt Jenny. They recently began to count his cars together and I had to haul him off to bed. He wailed and was bitterly disappointed and I wish I had let them play a bit longer.
Jenny was at times hilariously funny and her humor was one of her very best attributes. When I told her last week I had a string of job interviews coming up she said, that’s great Mike, I hope you get them all.
She could quote every line of the Wizard of Oz and she requested it so often when she came over that she couldn’t get anyone else to agree to watch it again. Jenny recruited Aiden and he became a staunch Oz supporter so we watched it at least a dozen times together.
She endured so much and although I have selfish reasons for wanting her here there is a sense of relief for her sake. Surgeries and medications had ravaged her brain and body.
She was special to me. I just want you all to know that. I’ll miss her.
I love my sister and I will always keep her close. She is stuck in my heart.