Eulogy for my grandmother Vivian Rosenberg Goldstein
Oct 18, 1916 - November 24, 2013
She was born in 1916. That same year Paris was bombed by zeppelins for the first time, the light switch was invented, the Saturday Evening Post published its first cover by Norman Rockwell, and Margaret Sanger opened the first Planned Parenthood Birth Control Clinic. Later that year, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected thanks to women, who still had not received the right to vote across the country, but in the states where they did have the vote, they voted decisively for Wilson. All of these things – electricity, women’s suffrage, the war, the continuing struggle for women’s reproductive rights – have had an impact on our world, but no event of 1916 had more impact on the people in this room, then the birth of Vivian.
I have a photo of Mom-Mom from 1976. She is standing in a bathing suit, a large brimmed hat on her head, her arms outstretched to the sky, a huge smile extending ear to ear. She is in some sort of outdoor tiki bar. She is exuberant. When you look at the photo you just want to join her at the party – wherever she is. But you see, the funny thing is, if you look closely, you see the bar is empty.
As my mother Eileen, said, “Vivian was not just the life of the party – she was the party. Everyone wanted be around her and with her because she always made life fun.” Last night when I spoke to Pop-Pop’s cousin Nancy, she said that as children they always looked forward to a visit with Travis and Vivian because “when she was around it was always exciting.”When my son Travis was little, I would take him to the Zoo often. One of this favorite exhibits was the Tigers. We would stand there and marvel at the majestic tigers. And wonder how something so magical, so ferocious, so beautiful, so larger than life could be here with us in captivity?
That was our time on earth with Vivian. Her spirit was always too big for her body, for this world, for us.Anyone who knew her – or even crossed paths with her for even just one moment – knew they were interacting with a force of nature. At 97, on her deathbed, she debated politics, bantered with the nurses, made bawdy jokes, and reminisced about the great loves of her life. She was her own self – independent, vivacious, funny, smart, loyal – till the very end.
She was blessed to have experienced great love in her life and to leave this life surrounded by her family who visited her nearly every day during her last weeks. You could not help but love her. First there were her parents, Herman and Mary, who loved her deeply. Then her two children, Gary and Peter who were steadfastly dedicated to her all of their lives. Her daughters in law, Diane and Anita, who she so admired, respected, and loved. Even her ex-daughter in law, my mom Eileen, was one of her closest friends. And then of course, there were all of us kids – the cousins and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren who worshipped her. She was the sun in our solar system.The number of people who loved her was countless. Bridge partners, allies, and nemesis; best friends, and caregivers. She was irascible, sarcastic, brilliant, funny, and beautiful and you just could not help falling in love with her. And falling in love is exactly what she did when she first met our Pop-Pop, her husband, Travis.
Even in her last days, her favorite story to tell the nurses and visitors was of how she and Travis first met on a blind date, set up by his cousin, and how she was smitten right away with Travis’s dapper spats, and kid gloves, and buckets of charm. Together, they were magic. Our own George and Gracie, Lucy and Ricky, Tracy and Hepburn. They were together for 67 years. And after Pop-Pop passed away, she found love again with Ralph, her companion for ten years. He was kind and dedicated and she was so grateful for his love, his friendship, and the joy they had together.As fun as she was, she was fiercely loyal. You could tell her anything. You could be yourself around her. She knew us – our true selves – the way hardly anyone else did.
Each of us went to her for marriage advice, with relationship questions, with secrets, with joy, with fear, and she always made us feel better about ourselves. She was the first person you called when something wonderful happened because she could celebrate more enthusiastically than anyone else; and she was the one you called in the middle of the night, when you were feeling alone, or down, or confused, or scared. She never judged us at our worst. She celebrated us at our best.She told us all often, in this last month, that she had no regrets. And I think that is her legacy to all of us. She taught us, by example how to live life fully. Whether it was ushering at the theatre in her tuxedo, dancing at the club in sparkly high heels; playing golf, tennis, or bridge; watching a dolphins’ game, drinking martinis, cheering on a political candidate, being a parent, or a best friend, or falling in love. She put her whole self in it – she was with you 100% in every moment – she was the best.
We will all miss her but I know she would have wanted us to remember to love more, laugh more, forgive more, dance more, shine more, wear more sparkles, drink more martinis, and be kind with one another. She was our tigress, and we enjoyed the fleeting moments we shared with her wild spirit here on earth. She will be missed.