Friday, April 4, 2014

Speak from the Heart and Words Will Never Fail

by Saralee Rosenberg

Not every writer enjoys public speaking but I live for opportunities to be in front of an audience. Maybe it’s because as a wife and mother I look forward to talking to anyone who will listen.

It is oh so different, however, when the woman behind the podium is neither a wife and mother, but a daughter. A daughter who must eulogize a parent. In my case, two parents within the past fifteen months.

With all of my writing and public speaking experience, nothing prepared me for the time I would have to condense a lifetime of love into a short memorial and then present it with grace. The operative word was compose. I had to compose my thoughts. Compose my words. Compose myself.

My father, Harold Hymen, passed in November, 2012 at the age of 86. Miraculously the right words came easy as my dad was like a compelling, memorable character in a novel. He was full of wit and wisdom and so certain of his principles. He had many passions, but none more than his beloved family.

At the end, when the dementia was an unwelcome and unwavering guest, he struggled to get out a new edition of the Hymen Herald, the newsletter he created to communicate with his eight grandchildren. Mind you the email was never about him or my mother. It only featured news about “the kinder” (the grandchildren) so that they would know what was happening in each others lives and remember to stay in touch. 

His was an easy story to tell.

Then a few weeks ago I got the call I had been dreading. My 91-year-old mother, Doris Hymen, had died. She was ill and frail with a checklist of ailments that had morphed from short stories into whole chapters. And yet her mind remained sharp. Sharp enough to demand better coffee at her assisted living center and to bark at an aide who failed to keep her TV tuned to a tennis match... We often joked that the only reason that she lived so long was because God was afraid of her.

But her death wasn’t just the end of a life, it was the end of an era.

For nearly sixty years I was blessed to have had two healthy, independent parents who could never be reached because they were never home. Parents who were avid tennis players and fitness enthusiasts, leaders in their community, active in Synagogue life and always the first in line for the early-bird special at Outback.With a coupon.

How would I be able to write this eulogy? Condense my mother’s essence into a few short pages? Make this most public address and not fall apart?

The morning of the funeral I was still at a loss for words, but reminded myself I knew a thing or two about overcoming writer’s block. First strategy was to send those twin demons, doubt and fear, packing. The only thing that mattered was speaking from the heart. I also reminded myself that as with any challenge, there was always more than one option. When nothing was going right, go left.

I did write a loving tribute to my mother and delivered it with the poise she would have expected. She was never one to bow to fear and she taught me well. But there was another lesson. A poignant lesson. One that my father taught me and which I'll never forget.

Do for your parents so that one day your children will know to do for you.

Rest in peace, Mom and Dad. The legacy you left, three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren means that your loving hearts will live on in all of us. 

Teach your children well, indeed.

Saralee Rosenberg is the author of A LITTLE HELP FROM ABOVE, CLAIRE VOYANT, FATE AND MS. FORTUNE and DEAR NEIGHBOR, DROP DEAD. Her work-in-progress, THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MEDIUM is her first novel for younger readers. Visit her website.


  1. I'm laughing and weeping. This is beautiful and wonderful and 100% Saralee. You did your parents proud. xo

  2. This is a beautiful tribute to your parents. I lost my father in January and my best friend In February. I am still trying to find the words.
    I am sorry about your parents.

  3. This is a beautiful piece. We lost our 83-year-old dad last summer, and reading these words was a comforting reminder to celebrate the good memories, honor the past, and cherish the next generation. Thank you.

  4. As your writing has for the last 50 years, this poignant tribute to our
    parents, has enriched my life immeasurably. Beautifully said! Bravo!

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  6. Aw, Saralee, well done. I still remember speaking at my dad's funeral two years ago this April. The whole family got up to the podium at the end and sang "There are no fighter pilots down in hell." This was a drinking song from Dad's air force days. We were every bit as out of tune as he was!
    Condolences to you and your beautiful family.

  7. What a moving piece, sweetie. My heart goes out to you. XO

  8. This is very moving. Having lost both my parents I empathize with you and you are also a beautiful writer. I posted about death today too. Are you a part of the A to Z Blogger Challenge?

  9. If your eulogies were as beautiful as this essay, you did well, Saralee.

  10. Saralee, This was a beautiful tribute to your parents. You were all so very lucky to have had each other. I feel fortunate to be part of your wonderful loving family.

  11. Saralee, You probably already know what I am going to say since you've been finishing my sentences since we were in grammar school. What you probably didn't think to tell us was to have a box of Kleenex close by as we read the above. Thank you for sharing your courage, your pain, your memories and your love for family with us. With love, Judi

  12. What beautiful, eloquent sentiments, Saralee. I'd imagine your parents are beyond proud. XXOO

  13. Wow, this was amazing. You are amazing, And how blessed you are to have had such wonderful grandparents. I'm sure they felt the same about you. I love the saying, When nothing goes right, go left. I will share that.

  14. Saralee, I'm writing a second time for the first seems to be lost. what a lovely little tribute to your parents whom I wish I could have known. It is little only in length for it looms large with each reading, much as the spread of ripples on a pond from the toss of a single pebble. They left you the most wonderful thing, a legacy of love, which you share, in your turn, in abundance with those whom you meet. I am fortunate indeed to have come within your orbit. Love to all of you. MarthaJax

  15. Saralee,
    This is a beautiful post.
    Much love.

  16. Having lost my parents when my mom was 58, my dad 66--I envy how much time you spent with yours, and yet I celebrate what they gave you and your family and what you gifted them in return.

  17. First, condolences. Amazing post about speaking when it's most difficult.

  18. A beautiful post read while visiting my aging mother in England. Thank you for reminding me that each day with her is precious…

  19. What a wonderful story that pays tribute to the lives of Harold and Doris Hymen. Saralee, you have such a talent for telling a story. Harold and Doris, my aunt and uncle left such a lasting impression on all who were lucky enough to have known them. May their legacy continue for generations to come.

  20. Words can never fail you, you were as eloquent here as always. Wishing you sweet memories to comfort you. And if that fails, lean on your friends, we are all here for you.