"Hamilton", "Who tells your story", Eli David Orgad, Esther Goodman Miller, Esty, Eulogy, Janet Miiller Brown, Rob Goodman, Sam Miller, Who Will Tell My Story?
I was at a funeral recently where the son of the deceased read a lovely eulogy to his dad, Sol. I only knew Sol briefly in his latter years, but Doug’s review of his dad’s life not only told me much I did not know, it also reminded me of the finale song of Act 2 in Lin Manuel’s Hamilton — Who lives, Who dies, Who tells your story? (…But When you’re gone, who remembers your name? Who keeps your flame, who tells your story?…)
This weekend, Saturday, it will be ten years since my mother, Esther Goodman Miller, (“Esty”) died. Then, on May 18th, it will have been 100 years since she was born.
As it gets further from her life and death, I want to keep her name and flame alive, alive for myself and my sister, alive for the rest of the family who is still living, and alive for the great grand children, only one whom she ever met.
And so I repost** the Eulogy I gave at her graveside.
EULOGY – May 15, 2007
Some of us [here] are teachers; some are doctors. Some make news, and some report it. Some build bridges, or bridge tables. Some are lawyers, government workers. Some grow fruit, and some seek to make the country and the world a better place.
Esty was none of these, at least not directly.
She was a caretaker and a builder of families.
When you know a bit about her background, that’s kind of an amazing choice of careers — or maybe not so surprising. Esty’s mother died when Esty was four months old. For the next seven years she lived with various relatives and family friends as her father, Rob, was trying to earn a living and couldn’t take care of an infant and young child. She sometimes saw him on weekends but had no real family life of her own during her early, formative years.
When Esty was seven, Rob, Pappy to many of us, and a prince of a man, remarried and Esty suddenly had a family of her own. Along with her stepmother Ray came Arnold, the older brother Esty had always wanted and whom she instantly worshiped and who was so good to her.
From an early age Esty’s role seemed to involve taking care of others – grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Many of you here can attest to that. She baby sat for cousin Arthur, standing here, and claims she changed his diapers.
Esty finished high school not far from here (much to her relief) and started nursing school. Her patients loved her, but probably because she so identified with their cares, worries, and illnesses, she agreed with her father’s urging not to pursue that career.
She went the U of NH, met Sam at the opening night mixer, and thought he was a bit mad when walking her back to the dorm, he told her he was going to marry her (I think she had another boyfriend at the time).
Esty and Sam married just a few years later and had Janet and myself in rapid succession. After living in eye sight of Fenway Park (Pappy was a Red Sox devotee all his life) and in Brookline, they moved to Orlando for Sam’s citrus work. Sam soon left to protect his country (as a librarian in San Diego), and Esty devoted herself to a long and never ending career of mothering, care taking, and building of family. Not only taking care of her own, Esty found a circle of young friends with young families and became treasured for her kindnesses and ability to help and care about others.
When I went a few days ago to tell one of these good friends, a friend of more than 60 years, Ruth Esther, that Esty was nearing her end, Ruth Esther cried and cried, saying how Esty was like a sister to her and her best friend and how helpful Esty had been to her in raising her own family. I’ve heard similar stories repeatedly in the last week, many for the first time. I know everyone assembled here could tell about how Esty looked out for you, took care of you, was special in some way in your life, maybe healed a wound or gave you comfort. She just seemed to have a way of touching people and making them feel special.
I’m sure I’m not totally objective, but I spend much of my life listening to and observing people, and I have never once heard an unkind word said about Esty. I would hope and urge you over the next few days and weeks to tell us or to write us of your stories of Esty’s importance to you. We want to know and to remember these stories. It is part of her legacy.
Esty never put herself first. If there was a weakness, it might well have been that she may not have known or appreciated her own worth. Everyone, absolutely everyone’s needs – her husband’s, her parents’, her nieces’, her nephews’, her children’s, her grandchildren’s, her friends,’ whomever she came in contact with – came before her own self.
As most of you know, Esty had breast cancer 25 years ago, had a botched gall bladder operation that almost killed her eight years ago, and over the past three years was overcome by a cascading series of medical issues and crises. But none of these physical difficulties changed Esty’s basic nature. What most distressed her was that she could no longer care for herself. She hated being dependent on others for her care. Starting at 86 she was forced to rely on others. And though she hated this dependency, she did it her way. She kept her frustrations largely to herself (save an occasional harsh word with Sam, probably well deserved) and continued to worry and care about others. (Her sense of humor did seem to emerge and deepen in these later years; just 10 days ago, upon hearing Victor sing, she told him not to give up his ‘day job.’)
A few days ago Janet was asking her if she was afraid, and Esty nodded, ‘Yes.’ “About yourself?” Esty shook her head, “No.” “About your family?” Esty nodded, “Yes.” She told one of her wonderful aides that she worried about Sam especially, and also her kids and grand kids. We tried to tell her she needn’t worry (she was a world class worrier all her life, tho near the end she seemed to make some progress with no longer feeling responsible for everyone else). She had taught us how to take care of each other — by her example. Even on the day of her death, Mother’s Day, (a week shy of her 90th birthday, which she thought was entirely too many birthdays), she found a way to help her family – Sam, Janet, Victor, and myself.
And so maybe she was not only a mother, a care taker, a builder of family. She was also her own kind of healer, settler of disputes, teacher, cultivator.
While we have already missed Esty some of the last several years – and fear we will miss her even more in the days and years to come – we are glad she is returning to her Goodman family, to lie next to Arnold, Rob, and Ray. She has missed them so much these past years. She deserves to rest, and she deserves this resting place from where she came. And she has certainly earned over and over her maiden name Goodman.
**Posted on MillersTime — 1/15/09 Upon the Birth of Eli David Orgad, Named in Memory of ‘Esty’
Randy Kessler said:
This was beautiful when I first heard it and still has the same effect. Thanks for sharing it, again.
Be sure to pass it on to Jolie.
David Stephenson said:
So moving: 2017 is also 10th anniversary of my mother’s death & would have been her 100th (let’s not forget that many of their cohort died when only a year old due to the great flu pandemic!). Your memories of your mother brought back so many of mine. We do need, collectively, to pass on as much of past as we can.
Suzanne Stier said:
Beautiful eulogy…about an extrodinary women whom I know only through her daughter, Janet… I can’t believe she is gone 10 years. She lives on in my since Janet was kind enough to send me two necklaces that were hers…I treasure them.
Land Wayland said:
Esty left a good story to tell and retell and retell and she left a good story-teller to tell it and retell it and retell it. I knew very little about her before reading this tribute but I well-recognized the person you were (and are) eulogizing because I was fortunate to be raised by a mother and a grandmother who were very similar. Thank you for retelling/sharing.
Dora Salas said:
My Esty was a loving lady and she is in my good memories. I have the opportunity to be around her and in the last year of her life, she was able always to give a good advice or a good message that I will keep for the rest of my life…
Cory Kessler said:
I can’t even write it down without tears falling. I loved her so much and want to cry every time i look at Julie, Evan and Owen. I told her in my last talk with her as she was in Mayflower and mom put phone to her ear that “she would be with me when I got married, had my first kid and my second.” Mom said she was smiling and that is the last chat we ever had and I carry it with me every day. I recall you saying Esty was stronger than all of us, combined and many times i see my own wife the same way. balanced and not easily rattled, like Esty. I could go on and on and on. I miss her all the time and wish she could have met Julie, Evan and Owen…we will carry on” as someone once said, with Esty in heart and mind.
So nice to hear this again. Your Mom and Dad seemed like such good people. That is why you and Janet are so great . I can see you are carrying on their lives in how you raised Annie and Beth and now your grandchildren
Liz Frost said:
Wonderful, thank you for posting a wonderful reminder of Mother’s Day.
janet miller brown said:
I’m certain you already know I have tears
It was wonderful to hear again
( although everyone in my world knows I wish I’d never heard it in the first place!)
Richard decided we should all go to Florida a bit early for her 90th birthday & we did & had a quiet family dinner, May 5th 2007.
The next day, I told mom it would be Mothers Day next Sunday & asked what would she enjoy.
She said immediately “peace and quiet”
She died on that next Sunday, Mothers Day
May 13th 2007
Five days later she would have been 90!
Thank you Richard for reposting your eulogy!
Today my children & grandchildren were around me as Victor lit her yahrzeit candle to burn for 24 hours
once again ( an annual Jewish tradition) and explained to my children and 3 grandchildren that this is to remind us that although our loved one has physically left us, her spirit & soul lives on thru her children & their children & those children’s children
He cited examples & all listened to his 4 minute shpeil & it was lovely
Michael Weinroth said:
Richard, thanks for sharing your mom’s eulogy.
Though caring for my mom, Henrietta was difficult long distance with our living in Atlanta and she in Jacksonville, my mother-in-law, Julie Halpern was daily by her side to visit and to cheer her up. As smart as Henrietta was, in the last couple years of her life, she was overcome by dementia. Our children made trips to see her as did we. She passed away at 88 and we took her home to Daytona Beach to be next to my dad, Teddy, the love of her life.
I could relate to how you described Esty. She was a care giver and nurturer for sure. I remember her with great fondness as I do with Uncle Sam.