“You will be deeply, deeply missed.”
This was my husband Bob’s eulogy at the funeral.
“I am not much of an orator but on this occasion it is easy to say what comes from the heart.
“Esther Friedman was truly a special person, whose slight stature was very misleading as her heart and compassion must have weighed 1000 pounds. A kinder, more gentle and caring person there never was. The word “no” was not part of her vocabulary. She gave this world a great daughter, wife and mother who will love her for eternity.
“Ernie K. D. had a hit song in 1960, called “Mother-in-law.” He said in that song that the worst person he ever knew was his Mother-in-law. I can only say that he never had the good fortune to meet Esther Friedman. For me, the best person I have met was my Mother-in-law, Esther Friedman.
“I will miss her charm, her sense of humor, her caring and her love for others.
“When we left her house to come home we had to give her a signal, two rings on the phone, that we got home safely. I’m giving you a signal, Mrs. Friedman, and that signal is that all of us in this room who had the honor to know you truly loved you and you will be deeply, deeply missed.
“I know an Angel is watching over you now as you watched over so many during the course of your life.”
This is from mom’s friend, Lee.
“Ronnie, your mom is praying in heaven for us.
“Every time we received mail re Social Security and Medicare and we couldn’t quite get it, Esther would explain it and she was always correct.
“We were volunteers on the entertainment committee here at Shore Hill. She used to entertain everyone by dancing around and sometimes she would say she belonged in Hollywood. We all enjoyed it and she made us laugh a lot. We all miss her and I know you do too.”
Mom’s dear friends Rose and Andy wrote this:
“For 22 years she was not only our next door neighbor, but a very good friend. I really miss her visits and the pleasant times we had together, likewise my vists with her.
“She always had a smile on her face, no matter how sick she was. We always had pleasant conversations and laughs. At parties she was lots of fun, told good jokes and loved to dance.
Esther, you are always in our thoughts and prayers.”
This is my story about my mom.
Mom was a heavy smoker, three packs a day, for sixty years. It was amazing that she lived to eighty-six. Seven years ago her pulmonary specialist took me out of the examining room and told me he didn’t know how long she had to live. Her COPD was worsening. At that time, being given no choice, she quit smoking cold turkey. In spite of her poor breathing and constant coughing throughout the years she remained independent, fun loving courageous and unstoppable.
At seventy-nine she had to slow down. She loved to play the slots in Atlantic City and I carried the asthma nebulizer for her which she used a few times during the day there. Our trips became less frequent and I couldn’t take her since the latter part of 2002. In December 2003 she went into the hospital and stayed until March 2004. She wanted to pass then. She made herself housebound and didn’t want to go out to dinner with us anymore. She became very depressed and claimed she didn’t know why this was happening to her. Still, she wouldn’t acknowledge smoking as the culprit.
She began to prepare me for her passing. She wrote me a letter with thirteen things to do for “when the time comes.” She kept telling us where to find the important papers because she knew we’d be too nervous in the end to find things on our own.
When we left her apartment March 7th to go the hospital, she knew she would not be seeing it again. She was very thin, eight-five pounds and less than five feet tall. She had shrunk over three inches over her later years due to osteoporosis. Because of that she was getting spontaneous fractures throughout her rib cage. The pain was unbearable and the traditional pain meds were ineffective and worsened her breathing. From the time she entered the hospital until the day she died she was asking everyone, the nurses, doctors, social workers, rabbi, hospital administrator to give her a shot to be put to sleep.
No one believed that her condition was as bad as she knew it was. We call in a psychiatrist who she promptly threw out of the room. She told him to admit it, she’s very ill and she’s going to die soon and it can’t be soon enough. They felt rehab will help and sent her to a unit in the building. That exasperated the situation and after eight days they found a bed in the nursing home in the same hospital.
It was there that she met the doctor who I believe was her guardian angel. The home was totally unprepared for her condition. She was admitted at 5 PM and by 8 AM she met the doctor who was able to admit to himself and everyone else that she needed Hospice.
I was talking to the social worker about Hospice prior to that as well as her own physician, but they believed she had more than six months to live. We never carried through.
After meeting the nursing home doctor who said to me, “Ronnie, what’s the point of thinking about it if you don’t do anything?” I knew immediately Dr. Sherman was my kind of doctor. He told me she was suffering and no one should suffer. He wanted her to be comfortable the last few weeks to a couple of months of her life. He had new pulmonary doctors, started a morphine drip and began the paper work.
I went to see the Greater Metropolitan Hospice on 10th Ave between 49th-50th Sts. in Brooklyn. They treated their patients and families with the dignity and respect that all patients should have.
It took five days to get her a bed. At first she didn’t want to go. She felt she’d die faster in the hospital than being coddled in Hospice. A dear friend of ours, Joe, told me how to approach the discussion with her since he had the same experience with his mom. I told her that they will not try to cure her or give her treatments. They will give her medication to make her feel better and take away the pain. She agreed.
We got to Hospice Tuesday, April 13th at about 5 PM. We were greeted by nurses and social workers who made mom feel very comfortable. She lucked out by having a private room, air conditioned, TV, with a cot for me to stay with her.
I think, it was in her first night there that she gave herself permission to pass. She began reminiscing about her life and told me personal things that I never knew or even heard of before. She began seeing visions of her parents sitting in the chairs in front of her. She would tell me, “My parents are here to take me, they won’t let their Lucky Baby suffer.”
Wednesday night was the last time she ate. Bob and I were with her. Hospice gave the families trays of food also. She said, “It’s the last dinner we’ll be eating together.” At that time she began telling the nurses and me that she sees a coffin to her right, waiting for her.
Her speech was become slurred, and she was calm because of the morphine. I stayed with her as much as I could. I shut down my office practice since she went into the hospital so I didn’t have clients to schedule.
Friday night the Rabbi came and we did the last prayer in Hebrew. She was still able to repeat his words though very weak. He didn’t tell her it was the last prayer but he told that to me. After that she wanted me to go home. I told her, “It’s too late, I’m parked far away and you wouldn’t want me to drive alone so late at night. I’ll go home in the morning.” She kept saying, “I don’t want you to see me like this.”
We talked at midnight and then again at 2 AM when she asked for morphine. At 4:30 AM she slipped into a coma and began last stage breathing. The nurses told me that possibly she was waiting for all of us to be here. Bob arrived at 5, David at 6. We spoke to her.
I told her we’ll be OK, we were all there for her and she could pass when she wants to go. She was holding on. They the nurses suggested that she might not want us to see her, so we went into the lounge. She still hung on.
I learned that the sense of hearing is the last to go. I kept talking to her, but I was not getting a response. At 6:30 PM a nurse and I, through her instruction bathed mom. She was totally unresponsive and yet this nurse treated her with such care, respect and love. It was too much for me to take and I told my mother I was going home to shower and that Hospice will call me when she decided to pass.
I got home at 7:45 PM. spoke to the nurse at 9:30 and got the call at 10:09 that mom passed at 9:45 PM. She was waiting for me to leave and remove all of my belongings from the room. April 17th, 2004 was the last day for the one remaining child out of six of Henry and Sarah to be on this earth plane.
Click to see photos of my mom.