This is a really hard day for me. My mom passed just 4 months ago. I vibrant women as you would ever find. Just 73 years young, the ravages of brain cancer took who her very quick and too soon.
I have said in past posts that there are holidays that are just unnecessary. When I discussed the holiday of Mother’s day, all I thought then was that everyday should be Mother’s Day. Why do we single out one day? If you love your mother, why do you need one day to make her feel special?
But now, I found the darker side to Mother’s Day that you do not realize until you have no mother, or never was a mother.
I am no different than millions of other Americans who are suffering today. There are no vibrant scents of the bouquet of roses and no delicious chocolates to eat. The only thing I am thankful for is that I did not have to shell out five bucks for a Hallmark card, just because it is expected on this day. Instead, I sit here alone and reflect how much I miss my mom. There are no tears of joy…just tears of sorrow. No brunch overlooking a pond, just a bagel and cream cheese on the kitchen counter.
No holiday should cause so much pain. This is unlike Memorial Day, for example. On that day, which I believe should always remain a holiday, the sadness is due to an action they chose. Those heroes deserve to be remembered by not only their inner family, but by a thankful country at large.
The issue with Mother’s Day is the schism it presents. While many people still have their moms or are moms, too many are not. While I know that many women today are being liberated and proud of their single-hood, too many are not and their heart aches for a loved one to share their lives. To those women, I feel the air of melancholy and want them to know that you are still loved by your friends and family, and thankfully Mothers Day will go by in 24 hours.
For all the moms out there , I wish you a Happy Mothers Day. I just wish this holiday, which causes so much pain for so many people, would be abolished. I bet, we in turn, would have a better relationship and more respect for our moms everyday, rather than just today.
Finally, on this reflective day for me, I am going to post my eulogy I gave a few months ago for my mom. I think it will not only be cathartic, but it will highlight a more important lesson that eulogies do not have to be delivered on only the day of passing. Keep your mom’s spirit alive by remembering how much she meant to you,…every single day in your life.
A Loving Tribute to the most remarkable person:
Although this is a very sad day, I want to focus on the celebration of a remarkable person. You will not hear a eulogy that has a tone of sadness and loss. My mom would not want it that way. It goes without saying that the loss is insurmountable. Anyone who loses a loved one can attest to this. So, I will talk about her in the way I think my mom would want to be remembered. No sorrow, no regrets, no do overs. No. My mom would not subscribe to that tone. She would want to be remembered today with joy and happiness because that is who she was. A woman who God brought into this world so she could touch and change the lives of all who had the privilege of knowing her.
Just think, she was 73 years young. She lived life more in 73 years than most people could ever dream. How can we be sad for a woman who took life by its ordinary conventions and turn them upside down akin to riding on an adventurous rollercoaster? She never played it safe, she never went by the conventional rules, she never chose her friends who were not meaningful, and she NEVER said anything that she would not follow through. The joy she had to entertain her family and friends came from a special part of her soul. A soul now that is all around us this very moment, finally reunited with her first and only true love – Her loving and remarkable husband Bruce Morrell.
My mom had a remarkable life. All who got to know her loved simply who she was – a loving, vivacious, interesting, charismatic, adventurous, creative best friend. So how did this remarkable story start?
It was a beautiful day in Brooklyn, NY. How do I know it was beautiful, because a soul entered this world that would have such a positive impact on those she touched. It was not the warmth of the day, the sun in the skies or the gentle breeze that ushered her in. It was a call from God who wanted to make the world just a little bit sweeter.
She lived her life with wonderful parents who escaped Nazi Germany through remarkable means. Her mother, Anna Gutstein, was protected by a Dutch Christian family by wearing a cross when the Nazi’s banged on the door. If not for the heroism of that family and the good sense of my grandma, my family would not be here today. Was that an accident? No. Was it good luck? No. It was simply beshert (in Hebrew it translates to “meant to be”)..
Her father, Aaron Gutstein, was a simple and gentle man. A good nashoma (soul) as we call it. Hard working, he struggled as a window washer to provide his children, my mom and his son Len, with a loving home and a chance to take on the American dream.
She developed life long friends that are here today. There was Rona and Cindy and so many others that it would be too long to list. The stories I was told about my mom may not be appropriate for a setting like this. She was cool, fun and full of enthusiasm. Never a day went by where my mom did not cherish life. What a wonderful thing to experience.
My mom and dad got married at a very young age and produced two children. One who was logical, detailed, competitive and altruistic and then the other………ah, you thought that was the ending of a joke. The other was a devoted daughter who would do anything for her mom.
Do you know what I remember most about my childhood? My parents embraced everything about the 60′ and 70’s. They were high on life and were assisted in other ways. I remember every Saturday night it was a combination of Woodstock and disco. The 8 track tapes playing through then breakthrough technology called “Quadraphonic speakers” made the Morrell Den in Oceanside seem like an episode of “Soul Train.” And the noshes, forget about it. As a natural born caterer, my mom had every conceivable nosh imaginable. After a typical food shopping spree where she went to unique places no matter how many stops to get the most delicious delicacies, pushing down the trunk door was akin to putting the maximum amount of corned beef allowed on rye bread and making an attempt to bite it.
At these house parties, there were apricots, macadamia nuts, and human nuts. Crudité with every vegetable in the grocer’s section – never just carrots, celery, and peppers. There were some vegetables that were not even known yet. Leave it to Roselee to sparkle the evening. After they were stuffed to the hilt with the hors’ d’oeuvres, bobka, angel food cake, mandel bread (my father loved it so it was basically for him), it was time to boogie over to the orange shag carpet and dance the night away with the songs from Barry White. One song that represented my moms love for Bruce was “My first, my last, my everything.” How cool, how fun. Most people did not live like this in the early 70’s, but then again, my mom was not like most people.
If those of you go back a long time with my mom, she had a bedroom like no other. So ahead of the times even them. First, they had a buzzer built into the night table to let me or my sister in. What a shmuck I was to believe that this was for security! Think about it, in the middle of the bedroom there was a gynormous round Jacuzzi bathtub lit by red heat lamps over it. They built a sauna before there were spas even opened to the public. And then there was the closet….WOW. My mom was very fashionable and not unlike most women she loved her shoes. Poor Bruce, all he had room for was a tenth of the closet and a draw with some interesting magazines. Those were the days.
On a side note, If not for Rabbi Blech’s sermons, I would not have gone to temple. The man sitting here is truly the embodiment of Judaism. My love for being a Jew and my learning of an ethical and moral compass is a direct result of Rabbi Blech’s mesmerizing sermons. Rabbi, I will always be indebted to you for teaching me at a young age that being a Jew is being good to fellow man first, and then praying to god thereafter. I know you must be saying, “Hey, I want you to do both!” Sometimes a half a loaf of challah is better than none! My mom adored you Rabbi!
After high School, they sent me off to the University of Maryland to find my passion. Little did we know that the catering business was just meant for me? My mom was most responsible for supporting me in being the person who could take their existing catering business and build it to a cutting edge dazzling catering conglomerate on Long Island. My mom joined my father prior to me getting involved and she put her own stamp on a new style of catering. She told my father, and she said it before she passed, that I took the best of her skills and my dad’s skills and made it my own. Although I agree that the business had expanded its venues, I humbly say that my mom was my mentor to think out of the box to express my own style of creativity. I thank my mom for her steadfast support that made me the person I am today.
While I was running the catering business as early as 1988, my mom and dad were partying at the Pines in Fire Island. My dad had a 42’ yacht that sole function was for entertainment purposes. However, it was a Jewish Boat. When I asked my mom where the wine was, she said go to the engine room. Why the engine room? Because the boat never moved! It was a docking station for the fun times at the Pines. My mom was one of the original supporters of the gay community, embracing them for their expressiveness without ever any judgment. She danced the twi-light away at what was called “Tea Dance.” Little did I know that this concept was brought to our catering business to end a great party to another level when others were doing an “expanded Viennese table” as their showcase. To say she was a revolutionary in the catering business makes revolutions look like child’s play.
One of my mom’s loves was exotic travel. My parents went with the Epsteins to Papua New Guinea amongst other rarely visited places on earth and lived in thatched tents in the middle of no where. Each trip was wilder than the next. Those who know my mom knows she has created these collages hung on the walls in her house showing all the life she enjoyed and the places she went. Even the way she had people view her life was unique in itself. Is anyone here surprised?
In the last 5 years, my mom met a whole new group of friends in Florida that never knew her life story. Regardless, when she engaged with them, I was told that it was like a queen was entering the room. She exuded an energy that was contagious and made people happy to socialize with her. My mom had such a rich life that she had so much to offer those who would take her in. And boy did they embrace her. They made her feel so welcomed, and in turn, she returned the favor by just being herself. Nothing more, nothing less. Just the Roselee we wanted.
My mom had a nickname. We called her Brooklyn Ro. Because although she was quite glamorous and full of class, she still remembered her roots and had that wholesome and tough Brooklyn in her. If anyone went after the family, just watch out for my mom. She protected us until the very day she passed. She was so proud of her family and grandchildren. Her life was devoted to all of them. She just had so much love and vibrancy to dole out.
So, this is not a sad moment because it is a celebration that we all became a little more happy just being connected to Roselee. My mom told me that she wanted to be remembered for the lives she touched and those who loved her in return. She did not want this to be a moment of sadness. Rather, a moment of thankfulness to all of you who are here that made my mom so happy.
So here’s to you my sweet mother. You made the most incredible impact on so many lives. Now is the time for you to reunite with all your loved ones and dance to the music that was named after you, Donna Summer’s hit song, “Heaven must have sent you.”
As I say goodbye, I know I will see you again. My father told my mom before he passed that no one gets out of here alive. Such a profound outlook on life. Roselee lived the longest and richest dash that connects her date of birth to her date of death. Since time is relative, it is what you have done in that time. Roselee Morrell did everything….and what a gift for all of us.