NB: This unintentionally came out more as a "Speaker for the dead" type analysis than a eulogy. But then the truth has always been more important to me than glossing over faults in an attempt to make the story more palatable.
Helen Klein - what can be said of her?
She lived until the ripe old age of 97. Until the last year or two of that time she was still amazingly healthy and going to play cards at Hakoah (the local Jewish club).
But then, her survival for so long isn't really a surprise when you consider that she went through no few than six concetration camps in the Holocaust. Twice she was sent to the gas chambers and twice she snuck out of the line. She had the dubious honour of being shot at by Dr Josef Mengel, the Angel of Death himself.
But that isn't what I knew of her. I didn't even know most of this until I had to research it in Year 10 for school, because she never talked about it at all and I never got the feeling she wanted to talk about it. And her age I never knew until after the fact, because she was too sensitive about it to let anyone know. Everyone always assumed she was a decade or two younger than she really was.
No, what I knew of her was the superstitious, proud, bigoted, anxious, loving grandmother. As aggravating as she could be, I never doubted her love. Last year, after she'd been in hospital for a few weeks and was back at home but before her health really started to go, she offered to be my confidante about boys if I was too uncomfortable to tell Mum about them. I regret that what she wanted most was grandchildren and for us to follow the herd, and none of us grandchildren did either.
She could be amazingly bigoted and superstitious. Her tirades about how the Muslims should just leave us Jews alone because its not our fault we were born the way we were didn't respond to the simple logic that the Muslims couldn't help the way they were born either, and that not all Muslims are necessarily out to get us. The same went for her stories about how its ok to be friends with non-Jews (even she had a non-Jewish friend, imagine that!) but for marriage its better to stick with your own kind. Given that she went through the Holocaust, I suppose she could be excused for believing that everyone was out to get the Jews.. after all, she lived through a time when it seemed like it was true.
All in all, I think it will be the little things I'll miss. That we'll likely never go eat at Bambusia ever again since she was the only one who liked the food there, and the vegetarian options for my sister were terrible. That we'll never go into her flat and see all the pictures and doodads around the place, or go into her flat at all for that matter. That she'll never come over again for Shabbat dinner and tell us how much she likes the lamb roast, or conversely complain about how whatever food my mother served isn't 'proper' Shabbat food (which incidentally, no one else but my father is very fond of). That my mother will no longer have to ring her every single night to reassure her that they're both still alive and relatively well.
Rest in peace Nana, you've earned it