Eulogy at the funeral of Rita Marcus, THE V.O.G. of Very Old Grandmother.com, on Mar 31, 2014, spoken by her son Dr. Stephen Michael Marcus:
It says in Psalm 90:
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; or by reason of strength fourscore years”
Our beloved mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and friend Rita Marcus lived out her allotted three score years, and then added not just another ten years, but lived very fully and actively into her twentieth year after that.
A large part of those extra years were spent first of all caring for her husband David Marcus, and then, after his death, for over fourteen years living alone without her life partner.
Those who knew Rita will probably have been struck first of all by her apparent frailty, both physically and often also emotionally.
Yet as I’ve watched her grow into her latter years, I’ve realized that behind it all was an incredible strength and iron will that allowed her to live her life exactly as she wanted.
She was proud to still be driving until last year, and even that was only stopped by a leg ulcer and the agonizingly painful compression bandages which were, in her case and that of so many others, still the only thing that modern medicine has to treat such a condition.
Despite that, she continued to live alone and take care of herself.
Only last Wednesday, two days before her passing, she was unpacking a delivery from her online shopping at Tesco’s, which she had completed herself despite the torturous complexity of “Verified by Visa“. She then prepared herself a chicken casserole for dinner.
A few days before she had spoken with me about the latest round of complications with her leg, for which she had been prescribed a new course of extra strong antibiotics. She said something curious, which I took as referring to her leg ulcer, which she had already lived with for over six months.
Very calmly she said: “oh well, it will either kill me or it won’t!”
This matter-of-fact statement turned out rather prophetically to be about the antibiotic capsules themselves. While waiting for her casserole to be ready, she accidently breathed in instead of swallowing one of those capsules and got antibiotic powder into her lungs. While being rushed to hospital thanks to prompt intervention by her carer Eduardo, her greatest concern was what was going to happen to her chicken casserole.
I spoke with her over the phone the next day in hospital as she lay there with my sister Georgie by her side. She said “don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright”.
Again I misunderstood her meaning. Until the next morning when, very peacefully, she slipped away to the rest she so richly deserves.
As always getting her own way, she probably very skillfully avoided any extended period with the hospital machines and procedures which she had always been really clear she did not want.
I was standing in mum’s home on Saturday. To my surprise it was not difficult to be there, for, as many of you will know, it is simple and elegant and beautifully maintained, which is how she was until the very end.
And then I was overcome with overwhelming grief and racked with sobs and screaming.
It was grief for all the things that had not yet been said and could now never be said.
And then, in a moment of stillness and clarity, I realized that they were things that could never have been said, no matter if her life had continued for a few more days, months, years or even decades. For Rita was a very private person and did not easily share her inner thoughts and feelings even with her closest family or friends.
I realized that the grief that had overcome me was not for what had not been said or done. It was for the fact that it could simply not have been otherwise, for she was the child of her parents and the product of a much earlier generation. What I had been wanting for so long had simply not been possible with her in the living years, through no fault of hers or mine.
And then I saw that what she had done with her allotted years and more had been wonderful. Two children, three grandchildren, a long marriage, and an even longer and very full life.
THE POWER OF LOVE
As I looked back I realized that she had made amazing changes in her extra twenty years. She went from being a traditional dependent wife to living independently. Managing her own finances quite honestly much better than her husband ever had – in fact I can tell you that her grandsons Jordan and Zac have just reviewed her personal accounting ledger of daily expenses and were quite amazed at the detail and precision. If she were still here they would probably have a CFO position opening for her right now!
She also learned to use a computer and the Internet like a fish in water. This blog, www.VeryOldGrandmother.com, even got her interviewed on BBC radio, and through it she deepened an accidental connection with the New York photographer Ari Seth Cohen, who featured her on page 28 of his book of elegant elders, called “Advanced Style“.
As her blog following grew and she received enthusiastic messages from women of all ages from around the world, she readily took on the responsibility of putting out the most positive message through her public persona – a quality with which she also tried her best to infuse her daily life.
While I was at her home, Florence called. Florence has been one of the many marvelous people who have been supporting Rita during the last months when her leg ulcer had really prevented her from getting around herself. I had never thought that our mother would have been able to look positively on a physical condition which had given her so much pain and most of all deprived her of her prized independence.
To my surprise Florence said that Rita had told her that the leg ulcer had been a blessing in disguise, because with all the people supporting her she had made so many new friends, and also been able to be there for them when they talked with her about their problems.
The many new friends and connections she made over the last years, including Florence, Eduardo, Cami, Bernie and Sabah, her regular nurses at Fairbrook Medical Centre, and so many others are also reflected on her beloved Internet by over 100 messages from friends on Facebook offering their condolences over the last few days. She loved, was loved and was not alone.
Still in her apartment, my eye fell on a refrigerator magnet my wife Barbara and I had bought her some time ago in France:
“Une maman est semblable a une rose qui ne se fane jamais”
“A mother is like a rose which never fades”
I felt a great weight lift and realized that my connection with my mother is not something which ends with death.
In some mysterious way as she sheds this mortal coil which she had born so courageously, bravely and often painfully these last few years, a whole new phase in this relationship which never fades is only just beginning.
Just to make the point and to have the last word, an email arrived the day after she died, letting us know that a CD she had ordered online was now on its way in the mail. The CD is “The Power of Love” by Sam Bailey.
As we let go, as we now must, of the song’s early line “I hold on to your body” and go deeper into its text and meaning, let us take these as her final words to all of us, for now:
Even though there may be times
It seems I’m far away
Never wonder where I am
‘Cause I am always by your side
We’re heading for something
Somewhere I’ve never been
Sometimes I am frightened
But I’m ready to learn
Of the power of love
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