Eulogy for Sonia Pomerantz-Davis
Written by her son, Gary Davis
A few years ago, the band Mike and the Mechanics recorded a popular ballad titled “In the Living Years”. The song, a young man’s retrospective of his relationship with his parent, relentlessly drums home the unsettling refrain that in the living years, parent and child all too often leave much unspoken, all too much unfinished.
Like Harry Chapin’s “The Cat’s in the Cradle”, “In the Living Years” catchy melody haunted me from the first time I heard it played – teasing me to admit to myself that its message was written to and intended for me.
The events of the last few days have caused me to ask myself, did I in fact live the nightmare recited in “In the Living Years”? Then as I began to reflect, I settle back and smiled. For I have come to realize that during my Mother’s living years opportunity was not squandered but that carefully planned lessons were taught to me ever so inconspicuously, ever so incrementally, ever so intentionally. Each time I replay my relationship with my Mother, it becomes clearer to me that it is a mosaic of life’s most important and cherished experiences and ideals.
To some my realization comes as no surprise. In her “living years” my Mother was a teacher. First she taught physical education, that is if you consider field hockey a sport, and then fourth graders which by any definition is a sport.
What were the lessons I was taught by my Mother?
There was the lesson of friendship. My Mother understood the definition of true friendship. In an age of instant this, disposable, replaceable that, my Mother believed that a true friend stayed that way regardless of physical distance or the inevitable ebbs and flows of life. She counted many persons who bore the moniker friend for more than twenty, thrifty, even forty years or longer – Anne Arty, May Lynch, Rhoda Borkin, Eleanor Klinger, Joyce Shapiro, Shirley Dein, Zelda Polofsky, June Frabman and Maxine Schiffrin to name a few. Like Mother like son. Today I call many among you friend – some for mare than half my life, some for nearly that long. Thank you Larry, Glenda, Beth, David, Glenn, Alan, Michael and Craig, who is here with Wally, for joining me and my family today to remember my Mother.
There was the lesson of family. My Mother had an unshakeable belief in family. To her it was a fundamental corner stone. An unalterable aspect of our daily existence. She made sure I was surrounded by it, engulfed by it. Nearly every weekend was spent with one of my grandparents. Who among my family members growing up with me as a child does not join me in shedding a warm smile as we recall the days of Red Dog at Passover or Thanksgiving at the Club. My Mother raised me in an environment that promoted family, its values, its virtues, and its benefits. She seemed to know that in the end, it is your friends and family that truly make the difference. You need no more. You can afford to have no less.
There was the lesson of sibling loyalty. No matter what direction each of their paths took, I always knew my Mother and my Auntie Rhoda (now known as Ro-Ro courtesy of my daughter Jessica) shared a unique and unbelievable bond. It transcended how they treated each other. It went to the core of how they loved, supported and cherished each other’s children and most recently grand children. My Auntie Rhoda was always there for me, listening to my teenage angst of how my Mother did not understand me; more recently it was my Mother there to love Lisa and Alan’s sons, Adam and Cory, as if they were her grandchildren, not her grand-nephews.
There was the lesson of learning. Some may have thought my Mother took it to extremes. While I will freely admit that I loved our summer family road trips in an airconditionless Chevy or Ford to such kid favorite destinations as Fort Ticonderoga and the Luray Caverns my Mom kept on assuring me that Disney World had nothing on these hot spots – and we all know Mothers never tell lies), I am not sure my sister shared my passion – unless you consider spending most of your vacation with hour head buried in a car sickness brown paper bag a good time.
There was the lesson of caring. My Mother instilled in me that self should never consume charity. My Mother worked full time in an era before working Moms were the norm. Yet with the demands of a full time job, she always found time for the less fortunate, and the more needy. Whether she was supporting Israel, through her involvement with Pioneer Women, or other fund raising, my Mother always let us know that charity indeed started at home.
There was the lesson of conquering your own demons. Each time I stand in front of a room of hundreds of people giving a lecture on some aspect of the American health care system, in my mind’s eye I always recall a skinny – OK – so I put on a few pounds – meek, and shy eighth grader dreading the impending beginning of his speech to become student government secretary. Then I remember my Mother’s advice, lead with a good opening line, draw them in and they are yours. Her advice was good; in case you are wondering, I won the election. But her opening line, “I can not promise you a chicken in every pot” is still a mystery to me.
There was the lesson of love. My Mother loved my father, It was important to her that a wife and husband find a common bond and maintain it regardless of the struggles or challenges that must be faced and overcome. Each time my father fell ill, her gentle touches of his hand, the stroking of his brow, let me know how much she truly cared. Day, you need to find strength from what Mom shared with and gave to you and not pain in what was taken away.
My Mother nurtured me from child to man. She believed teaching could be achieved by defining boundaries and not necessarily by telling or doing. Sometimes she set strict and painful boundaries, sometimes they were plentiful and joyful. In either instance, I now know that it was always done with a purpose and plan. But most importantly, with love.
In her last years my Mother found a new mission in nurturing my two children, her grandchildren. I will always fondly recall, and forever miss, the sight of my Mother sitting Indian style on the floor playing cards or reading with Jessica and Lindsay. I was never sure who was the bigger kid. Whenever she did it, she seemed to relish getting down and dirty with my girls. It never seemed she did it enough, now it will be no more. But I know it will prove in the end to have mattered. My children will bear her imprint. They will be the better for it, they will always be her living legacy.
In fact, all of us who were touched by my Mom, comprise her living legacy. As she looks down at this room I can not help but feel that she is proud of her work.
If I am saddened by my Mother’s untimely death, I find comfort in the thought that she is now with her Mother and father. I know Nanny has been raising havoc and having a grand old time since she got to where she was going. Mom, I hope you too will join in the fun.
Mom, I just want you to know that you taught me well. Take pride in what you have left behind.