Eulogy delivered at Jenny’s service by her brother, Jason
I just cannot believe I am giving a eulogy for my sister. I think we kinda figured she’d just be around forever. She’s obviously been a fixture for me since go. We shared a room for years. We collectively watched about 1,000,000 hours of TV together.
Dream: I really get the sense that that was more Jen’s speed – games. Always like playing games. Rummy Kub, Junior Trivia, Harry Potter trivia; card games. Backgammon. She played games a lot with my kids. She really enjoyed their company, and they liked it when she visited.
She loved games because she was good at them, but mostly because she just loved the human contact.
By the way, there’s one person in every family who, if you needed to role doubles, you’d look to that person. She was so unlucky in life in so many ways, but she was so damned lucky with games and rolling dice. I seem to remember dad used to have her roll for him.
Jen was the repository of obscure memory. She’d remember what happened when we were at the restaurant literally 30 years ago. It wasn’t just the encyclopedic nature of those memories, but I think she really cherished knowing stuff about people. She was actually really paying attention. I sure as hell don’t remember what any of you ordered for breakfast 35 years ago.
Jen was really very kind. Trying to help – when she got a job she could do she was always really happy and proud. She had the very, very important job of assembling the s’mores for Avigayil’s BM. Even though it was long and tedious, she was really happy to help. I know that gave her a sense of dignity.
She was often thinking about giving, and really wanting to give. Sometimes people didn’t want to receive what she had to give, but I am not certain that she noticed.
Massages – she would always offer. And if you said “my back hurts” or “my feet hurt” she was on that in a second. Foot rubs.
If she saw a book that had to do with something she thought you’d be interested in, she’d get it for you. So I have a whole shelf of Jewish books that Jen got me. In her own way, she was paying attention to what you were into. She may have understood that in a simplistic way, but it was there, always thinking about other people and what they might like.
I think people were maybe aware that those gifts weren’t exactly tuned in to the most updated version of what a person was into, it was pretty clear that she was thinking all the time about the people she loved.
At her best self, she really genuinely wanted to help and give.
She was always forthcoming with a complement.
She would always compliment Ketriellah on her cooking, and would ask for recipes.
She’d always say, “I like your shirt!” Or “this is a cool painting.” Sometimes you kinda wondered if she really thought it was cool or not. But maybe she just thought a lot of things were cool, or a lot of dishes taste good, or that the quality of the food or aesthetic value of the shirt took second fiddle that she wanted to make you happy in whatever way she thought would work.
Maybe she really wanted to have something in common with you, so if she sensed that you like something she’d like it too. For some reason you wanted her to like something she lied just because she liked it, and not because you liked it, but I think the sentiment of wanting to have something in common with people is worth cherishing, too.
Jen was always interested in:
Arts and crafts. She loved to get down and make crafts with the kids, and also would make crafts at home and bring them. She made me a macrame wall hanging that we hang in our sukkah. It was yarn with the se big wooden beads, and I remember she told me that the beads represent the hard times in life that you encounter along the way.
She actually had some skills – painting, clay sculpture, beads. Jewelry.
Jen had dreams. She really dreamt – a house in the country, like Little House. She dreamt of good, wholesome things.
I’m really trying to maximally appreciate that sense of optimism that Jen had. Call it hope. She really felt like a job, or a relationship, or some kind of break, was just around the corner. She just told me on Thursday, on her birthday, that she had a lead on an office job. And I think we could guess that she might not have been the most qualified person for the job, but just the excitement she had of something possible was really admirable. I think that’s something people could have more of.
Hope or optimism. She didn’t give up on life, and it seems that a lot of people would have after a while. There’s something to say for always having a dream, even if it feels like other people to a fantasy. At least that is something that I want to take from Jen. I think that’s what you have to do when someone dies – you need to keep some part of what they do alive.
I think one of her dreams was that someone was going to come and save her. She loved those TV shows where there was a strong male figure who would save the day – LH, BATB. I know she really had a dream that someone was going to come along and save her.
When my father passed, she really lost a very important ally. I know we were all affected by that very deeply, but for her it may have been more dire, because she lost one of the pillars of her support network. I’m not sure she really recovered from that.
She really had a hard life from go. There were so many tragedies for her – two brain tumor surgeries; she fell off a horse once and the horse fell on her – and I sense it was a kind of betrayal for her – she thought horses were solid allies, and I think that damaged her. I saw her experience bullying first-hand. It was really hard for her – not only did she have to suffer, she was left out for it, too. People are so mean sometimes.
I think we all kinda didn’t know how to react to Jen. She was in her 40’s, but in her heart she was 13 or 14. And her understanding of relationships, and beauty, and her dreams and goals – they were very simple, and not sophisticated at all, and so no one really knew what to say when she would say, “One day I want to have a nice big house in the country.” And people would get all realistic on her. And maybe we needed to think a bit more whether it was so important to burst her bubble, or maybe we should have just seen those dreams as a part of her life force. I feel sadness about this. We were all pushing Jen to grow up, and I understand that, because she had a hard time taking care of some things, but pushing her to grow up in certain ways came at a cost to those relationships.
Another piece I’ve mentioned is a deep love of human contact. Like, so many of us, if we were reading a book and someone asked us to play cards, we’d ask for an hour. Jen would be on that in a second. She much preferred contact with people than being alone. She was actually an extrovert of sorts. It was just hard for all of to figure out how to meet that in a way that made sense to us. So we ended up not responding the way we now wish we would have, right?
I found with Jen that she had moments of intense clarity. If I made enough time to call her and listen, and kind of respond to what she was saying, and stay interested, she would sometimes lock in to something interesting, something she was very passionate about. And it was like a different Jen, but it wouldn’t come out in the first few minutes of a conversation, and you had to kind of stick in there.
– Rabbi Gavriel Goldfeder (“Jake”)