Apologies that things in Yenta world have not slowed down enough this week for any written navelgazing as work, laundry, Chanukah preparations and dealing with a hideous flea infestation on the pug’s tushy have really been cramping my style.
There have also been some life passages worth noting, at least to me:
We mourned the passing of El Yenta Man’s 98 year-old grandmother, Florence Lebos, who passed in Raleigh, NC last Tuesday evening with her two children and five of her six grandchildren present as she exhaled her last breath. The funeral was held last Friday in Tampa, FL, where she spent most of her life. Oleha HaShalom—May she rest in peace.
I adored Florence. Though I only met when she was in her 80s, to me she seemed an example of true Southern gentility. She never raised her voice but let her strong opinions known with a distinctive drawl and a smile. She gave me an exquisite strand of pearls at my wedding. When she moved to Springmoor, the assisted living community, after her husband, Fred, passed (I never met him), she jumped right into the activities and edited the community’s newsletter when lots of seniors would have holed up in the rooms with CNN.
She engaged her nine great-children with hilarious hand games of “meeleh-mazeleh” and checks at every single birthday. She read everything I ever wrote at skirt! magazine and loved to talk about her earliest memory: Watching the ticker tape parade after the end of WWI—that was 1919, y’all! Florence was a woman who saw so much change in her life—she one told me her secret to longevity was to “roll with the punches.” She also loved her whiskey sours.
Here in Savannah, we sat mini-shivah (just one day instead of the full seven; Florence wasn’t religious in the least and would’ve been mad if everyone had missed that much work over her.) I am so grateful to the many members of the Jewish community who came by to comfort my father-in-law—it meant so much to him that people took the time out for Rabbi Crystal’s inspiring memorial service and those who stayed just to sit and eat.
And oy, did people bring food! Stuffed cabbage and cold cuts, fruit trays and cheese plates, Bundt cakes and brownies and a certain amazing pistachio pound cake baked by Lucille Smith that made me forget why we were all there in the first place. And also another big thank you to Lucille for providing the old-school super ginormous coffee percolator, because trying to serve everyone a cuppa from the French press would have been a disaster.
It’s a testament to my own blessed life that I have never dealt with a family shivah (my own bubbe was less religious than Florence), so I was extremely farmisht in my role as ersatz matriarch of this branch of the family now. I deeply appreciate Catherine Fagin and the rest of the elder women who guided me through the process, helping with coats and gently reminding me to make a list of which guests brought what so I could write thank you notes later.
Florence’s death is sad, especially for my father-in-law who relied so much on her advice and acuity as my mother-in-law drew into her dementia fog. But bless him, even he can see that to live so long and lucky, then pass quickly and without pain, is the best anyone of us could hope for ourselves and each other. It was EYM’s and my first shivah together, but it won’t be our last, though I don’t know if one ever gets the hang of escorting our loved ones out the door into God’s hands.
The past few weeks also bring good news this side of the curtain: My father has sprung back extremely well from his brain aneurysm in August—he’s already back teaching at the medical college this week! He insists he’s going back to Tanzania this summer, but he promises he’s taking one step at a time.
We shlepped to Scottsdale for the scarfing of the turkey a couple of weeks ago, and observed with our own eyes that he really is back to his old self after the trauma and month-long coma. Oops, I didn’t mean to say “old”; how about “back to his cantankerous yet easy-to-smile self?” All I know is he’s back kicking tush on the Scrabble board. Here he is with Mom in his photo studio—pretty good lookin’ people, nu?
And lastly, the Savannah mayoral election run-off was last Tuesday, and I am sorry to report this city does not have a new Jewish mayor. What can I say, this ain’t Chicago. However, Facebook rumors already abound that Jeff Felser might take a shot at the County Commissioner seat next year. Keep moving forward, Jeff—we’re still behind you!
A peaceful and lovely Shabbos and weekend to all ~
This is a beautiful tribute to Florence and insight into recent weeks. Shivah is a sacred space and, I believe, a very healthy way to mourn. I am glad to hear that you had this night in Savannah for your family to gather with friends and remember the family matriarch.
I am thrilled to read that your Pop has made such a great recovery- may he continue to get stronger as he gets back into his routine.
My love and admiration to you, the new generation of family matriarch. I cannot think of anyone that could take this on with more grace and humbled wisdom. May God comfort you amongst the mourners of Zion. I wish you long life.
What a beautiful tribute! Wonderful you had the opp to know Florence in this life. Surprised to see us on your blog! Best t-giving ever!