Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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A Eulogy for My Sister

I had such a hard time writing this Eulogy for you Michele. Nothing I wrote seemed to express how important you are and how for the rest of my life, I will make sure that people know that your life had meaning. I realized that part of the reason that I was having such a hard time was because I always read everything that I wrote to you to get your honest opinion. This time, I can’t read it out loud to you for me to catch mistakes and for you to say whether it’s good or bad.

Michele was my oldest sister, and engaged in her fair of torturing me. She told me constantly when I was a child that I was adopted, peed in my Bunny cup and told me it was apple juice and made me play house by cleaning out her drawers – I was the dummy that fell for everything (except the bunny cup). BUT Michele was also my protector, my guardian angel and my best friend.

Michele was always protective. Once, when I was a child, two older boys from her grade were picking on me. Michele picked one up by his collar and said he would be in trouble if he ever came near me again. They were both taller, and brawnier than my sister, but she had them cowering in fear. As we aged, she protected me in different ways but it mostly helped to know that I had someone, who loved me unconditionally and was always, always in my corner.

It’s so hard to summarize what makes a person special in 1200 words or less, especially a person like Michele. But I’ll try.

She was a candy-loving girl scout. You could always count on Michele to have a treat in her bag but also anything else you may need. I would ask her for the most obscure thing possible, and there it was, in my hot little hands. Treat queen, shopping queen or dairy queen – Michele was one of a kind. She was diabetic for a time and would have a cartful of danishes and chocolate, but would eye dried papaya, look at it longingly and then say, “I can’t have it, it’s too high in sugar.”

She was a quiet observer who had simple dreams. She was content with less. She proved that by always loving a deal. Every year, we would go Boxing Day shopping without fail. In 2017, she ended up in the Emergency Room because of a chemotherapy allergy. The next morning, at 6:30, she got up and when I asked her what she was doing, she said – do you think I’d miss out on a sale?

She had such a wonderful relationship with our beloved mother. The three of us spent so much time together over the years. My mother and I would pick on Michele mercilessly. We would jay-walk across the street, but Michele would always walk to the traffic light. We called her the straight arrow – but it was done with love. We would sing, horribly to her, usually something random, like “God Save the Queen” when Mummy would drive us somewhere. Michele would sit in the back seat, shake her head and roll her eyes, but she never complained. I was more like my mother in terms of my Type A tendencies, but Michele was so much like her when it came to strength and determination in the face of unspeakable odds.

Just like our mother, in 2017, Michele was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. The night I found out; I had taken Michele to the ER because she had a swollen arm. I spent so much time caring for my mother’s health that I mentally ran through the possibilities. It couldn’t be congestive heart failure – there was no reason for it. It couldn’t be lymphedema from breast cancer, because Michele didn’t have breast cancer, but it turned out that she did. I have always been given credit for being strong, but that night I fell apart, not able to face that both my sister and my mother shared this burden. Michele stayed strong and promised that she would fight and she did.

She fought through more rounds of chemo than the average person could tolerate. She fought through a hospital stay that nearly killed her. She fought through fear and discomfort with a determination that I’ve only seen in our mother. She never, ever complained. Not when she lost her hair, not when she was overcome with fatigue, never. She was, in the most important ways, my mother’s daughter. My mother was the strongest person I have ever seen but Michele was a close second. During the 6 months crossover when they were both ill, I didn’t know which way to turn, and when I asked each who I should be with, Michele would automatically say our mother and my mother would always say Michele – each selfless, each so strong.

Michele bravely watched as the very disease that she suffered from took our mother’s life. She didn’t roll over and play dead. She lived. She traveled. She went out for dinners and to plays and other surprises that I planned for her to keep her happy and motivated.

I was with Michele through every appointment and nearly every treatment up to the day she died. I held her hand all day that day, and at one point said, “Michele, I love you. Remember I’ve got you here and Mummy has you on the other side – we are both with you. You’ll be ok.” She looked at me for the first time that day clearly, mouthed something, and then, lay down her head and closed her eyes, and peacefully died.

My sister, unbeknownst to me, started asking my cousins and some of our friends to please look after me when she died. Michele knew that when she died, and I lost my immediate family, that although I have a place to live, my heart has lost its home. That without her, I would feel alone and knowing me, would be unable, and maybe unwilling to ask for help. Caring about someone, when you should be worried about yourself is heroic. That was my sister.

I found a journal that Michele had started for me so that I would have something special from her after she died. Procrastinator that she is, she never finished it, but that’s what makes it perfect.  On one of the pages, she wrote “Let me say that I am truly proud of how you have handled everything from Mom & then me. I know I don’t say it because I don’t want you to get a swelled head.  I really want you to know how much I appreciate everything that you have done for me.” Michele, I am so proud of you, you were so much more than you ever realized. You told me that I was your hero. Michele, I love you, and you are my hero. Your memory, along with our mother’s, is my greatest blessing.


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A Eulogy for Michele

I asked my cousin Howie to give a Eulogy for Michele at her funeral. We were all very close, and I know that she would have wanted him to speak. His eulogy was beautiful and heartfelt and perfect for my sister.

I saw two pictures recently that captured the essence of Michele. The first one – a young Michele holding infant, Jill, on her lap. What leaped off the photo was pure joy and love. The joy that Jill brought to Michele’s life and the love that Michele had for her baby sister.  I also think somehow that Michele was smiling so broadly because she knew there would be few times in life like this where Jill wouldn’t talk back to her.

The second picture was a few years later – Michele dressed up in a pant suit, purse in her left hand and the other hand holding hands with Jill. Literally and figuratively, they have always been holding each other’s hands. Their bond was so special and strong that nothing could ever break it.

These two pictures sum up Michele, a devoted daughter to Judy, adoring granddaughter to Nathan and Sara, a loving sister to Jill and a loyal cousin and friend to the people who were a part of her life.

Michele was vivacious, and had a sharp wit about her. Whenever I was about to travel, she must have  marked it  in her calendar to start calling me the week before and each conversation her first words were, “Packed yet?”. She knew I wasn’t but it was her little dig at me. After all, anytime she was set to go somewhere, the bag was probably packed and ready to go from the moment the trip was booked. It didn’t matter where, it didn’t matter when, she was ready to go.

Michele was genuine, straightforward and courageous. I valued her opinion because she never told me what I wanted to hear, she told me what I needed to hear. I drove her to Sunnybrook one day for an appointment with her diabetic doctor. I parked the car and before we got out Michele told me she had cancer. Everything stopped inside of me, she looked at me and said, “Howie…..my mother is a fighter and so am I. I promised her I would fight this and I’m going to keep my word.” Then she got out of the car, and marched into the hospital head held high. Her head was always held high.  Each time Michele would have to change treatments, she would get on the phone with me and say, “I’ve had my pity party, now we move on”.  And move on, she did. Always with Jill at her side and Judy looking over the two of them.

Once her treatments began, the first time I saw her wearing a wig, she pranced around the room showing it off like a crown. That brief action was a testament to how courageous she was and that she was going to fight on her own terms.

During the last nine months, when we had to be especially careful with contact, the majority of our communication was by phone. She always wanted to know where I was going, I would tell her and her response would be “again?” We only saw each other only on a handful of occasions. There are 2 that will always stay with me.  While the weather was still nice, Sandy and I were able to sit on a patio in Yorkville and have dinner with the girls. It gave us a chance to walk together enjoy the weather and just be as though life had not changed.  Sandy and I also were able to spend Rosh Hashanah dinner with Michele and Jill.  It was a special evening and Michele was quite upbeat, teasing Jill about the accomplished cook that she was becoming.

 In the last month, Michele couldn’t speak to me however on Monday I was able to speak with her twice. Even though she didn’t respond I know she heard me. I told her she was brave, courageous I told her I love her.  I know that Michele, Judy, Zaidie and Bobbie will be looking down on Jill to keep her safe and  Michele, I will keep my promise to you to make sure I look after her down here.