A tribute delivered during a memorial service.
I’d like to start by saying that it is an honor and a privilege for me to be able to stand here today and speak openly about a woman for whom I have so much love and respect.
My story starts before I can even remember. Roberta was always there. By the time I was born, she had already been in the family for many years, having been married to my father’s eldest brother Freddie. By the time I was old enough to start having memories, Freddie had passed and she was married to her second husband Julian.
I’ve heard many stories of the times we shared together during my childhood, and I’m told we connected very early on. I remember visiting aunt Roberta and uncle Julian frequently, and their very big garden with all the pretty flowers and many vegetables, especially the rhubarb that I used to eat right out of the garden.
Then later as I grew up, we developed a lasting bond that was just effortless and natural. I somehow knew innately that this woman was someone who would always be in my life.
They say you can’t choose your family. I believe that Roberta XXXX proved this to be untrue. She is proof that we can decide whom we choose to include in our lives and what title or ranking we give them. It warms my heart to see that this theory of mine is evidenced by the number of people in this room today, many of whom absolutely consider her family.
She is known as Aunt Roberta to most of us here, regardless of bloodlines or marital alliances. This alone says a lot about her character, about her sincerity and her devotion to the people she held dear, and about her ability to love and accept people freely and effortlessly into her life.
This remarkable woman had a truly profound understanding of the meaning of the word family, and I’m grateful to her for imparting that understanding upon all of us, as I believe it will serve us all at one time or another.
I’m grateful to her for many other things, too. She knew my father when he was young, and over the years, Roberta reached out and shared stories with me, gave me glimpses of him that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. She helped me get to know him as a young man. Talking with her about my father’s childhood and upbringing gave me a sort of window into my own history. She gave me a vivid picture of my grandmother who died when I was 7 and the grandfather I never knew. I don’t think she even realized what an extremely precious gift that was to me.
There are many things I owe her thanks for. For instance, I’d like to thank her for bringing all of us together like this. As I see it, we’re two families whose paths otherwise would never have crossed, but we now have links and ties and friendships, the relatives of two men who were each fortunate enough to have called her his wife.
She used to say that she was lucky to have had two wonderful marriages, but I suspect luck had nothing to do with it. Roberta was simply someone who attracted love and respect without demanding or seeking it.
She enriched the lives of everyone she touched. During those seven years that we had the privilege of providing a home for her, my husband and I gained a new perspective on life and what’s really important. She caused us to slow down and take a breath once in awhile. She imparted her values without imposing them. The things that were important to her became important to us... and will now continue to be. Simple things like sitting down to dinner as a family. She gently nudged us in a direction we wouldn’t have found on our own. She showed us things in a different light. My sons witnessed a whole new level of family bonding. I believe it remains to be seen just how much they will have gained by having her in their lives. I’m confident that her presence in their lives will inspire them as the years go on... like an ongoing influence that can’t be measured.
She had strength. She had pride. She had class and dignity. She took life’s hardships in stride, never complaining – never seeking sympathy. I admire her spirit of determination, her work ethic, and her ability to keep going on despite adversity. Roberta was in tremendous pain with arthritis severely crippling her hands, knees and shoulders, yet she went about her daily activities unscathed. She was beautiful inside and out. Honest, refreshing, and real.
Aunt Roberta, I am so happy for you that you had such a long life, and that you got to do the things that mattered so much to you. You kept driving until you were 91 years old. You clung to your independence and your dignity. You made your bed every day, and you presented yourself to the world as the beautiful and classy lady that you are. You voted for your president. I’m glad I was able to share this priceless, significant moment with you, but mostly, I’m grateful for the million little everyday moments that sometimes go unnoticed.
I’ve never before stopped and asked myself what life would be like without you, and I have to tell you that it isn’t easy. I miss you like crazy... not because you insisted on keeping my home immaculately clean. Not because you always made sure we had enough dessert to sweeten the entire neighborhood, not because you insisted on doing things for yourself... but because of how you approached everything in your life. How you stayed so true to who you were, and how much care you took in making sure everything was exactly right in your eyes.
I know you don’t even realize how much you taught me, just by being who you were. You taught me life lessons I didn’t even realize I was learning at the time, and many more that I’m sure will reveal themselves as I further my own life.
I want to say thank you. Thank you for deeming my family and I worthy of caring for you. Thank you for finding a place in all our lives. It’s really a compliment to me that you would call my home your own. It was not a sacrifice to have you there, it was a privilege. Please know that your warmth and spirit will continue to grace our home and the lives of everyone here.
Rest assured that you have touched someone. You have made a difference to someone. You have left your mark.
We love you. May you rest in eternal peace.