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You Only Live Once Gratitude

My husband’s cousin died on Friday, and her memorial was today. She was much older, somewhere around 85. But she was amazing… a genuine force of nature. I didn’t see her often, but I always got a kick out of her. She was exactly who she was, and she was good with it. At 44, I feel like that attitude is still one I am trying to achieve. I think I know who I am, most of the time at least, but the “good with it” part tends to vary.

She was outspoken and outrageous. She had short hair but a longer tail in back that she kept dyed hot pink. I’m not sure why it was hot pink; cobalt blue was her favorite color. She had a long, exciting life. I remember one summer at a party at her home, she brought out her wedding pictures. She was married around 1950, in Beverly Hills. They had money, and there were 3D photographs taken of her wedding. Not just a few, hundreds of them. You viewed them through a stereoscope. To date looking at those photos remains one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. The 3D effect was astounding… to look at the photos was to be sent back in time. I felt like I got to experience that wedding, in all of its period splendor. Stunning, gorgeous and surreal.

Her daughter-in-law told us a story today about an experience they had last summer. She paid to drive a Ferrari for 10 laps around a track. Of all the drivers there that day, most of whom were men, she was the only one who peeled out as she took off. She had chutzpah!

The rabbi who spoke said that at the age of 75, Chris’ cousin had decided she wanted to be bat mitzvahed, and she went for it. Learned Hebrew and went through the whole process. That impresses me, and makes me a little jealous. I am also a Jew (a half-Jew) who was never bat mitzvahed. Part of me wishes I had been. I can’t imagine picking up and learning Hebrew now, nonetheless at 75. Mind-boggling. It also means that at the age of 75 she was still a spiritual seeker. Maybe in a way, she was a little bit like me. Listening to the rabbi and saying the Mourner’s Kaddish really took me back, and struck a deep chord, too. It’s possible I should be exploring this side of my spiritual background as well. Unfortunately I think I’d need a few more hours in the day to pull that off.

There was a ton of food, as is typical for Jewish mourning. I was totally having flashbacks to shivahs I had been to as a kid. Somewhere in the Torah there must be an invisible list dictating what food must be present for mourning, because it’s usually the same. Lox and bagels, massive deli platters, fruit trays, cold salads and tons of delicious pastries. I was struggling to keep control… cinnamon rugelach are a weakness of mine. I know some people don’t eat when they’re sad, but clearly those people aren’t Jews. We drown our sorrow in lox and cream cheese, thank you very much. There is comfort in the familiar. Had I never been in her home before and someone dropped me in blindfolded, upon seeing the table I would know without question that someone had died. Jews know how to grieve, and high calorie counts are mandatory.

She was inspiring, entertaining and great fun. I will miss her. My heart breaks for her children and grandchildren. Losing my grandmother remains one of the worst things I have ever gone through. I wish all of those who loved her peace. I have no doubt she’s in Heaven, kicking ass and taking names. I’m so glad I knew her.

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