A few moments ago, I read from the words of Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor, in the Book of Proverbs. In the Jewish tradition, an Eshet Chayil is a woman of profound love and giving, of profound commitment and caring and goodness and decency. If there ever was an Eshet Chayil, a woman of valor, to walk this earth, it was Marilyn Brodoff.
Marilyn was, first and foremost, a woman of extraordinary love and compassion. Her dedication and selflessness with her family and friends was truly profound all throughout her life. She was born in 1939, a Brooklyn girl if there ever was one. She grew up on a block with the love of all her family and extended family around her, but she was also very much a woman of the world.
She always had a hunger to learn and grow, to read and to enrich herself. She was a woman of not only intellect, but of great talent as well. She was gifted musically; she loved to sing songs, she loved art and culture and beauty all the beauty that this world has to offer. And, boy, did she love the movies: from when she was a little girl going to the picture shows, she always avidly followed the goings on of the stars in Hollywood. She was even a great fan of baseball, heading up the Duke Snider fan club every interest she had she went after with gusto and passion.
Perhaps she had such boundless energy and passion for life because she had the wisdom to figure out what really matters in life early on: and that is the people with whom we can build meaningful relationships this is what matters the most.
Marilyn was a consummate people person. She loved people, she was fascinated by people. She could pick out faces in a crowd she hadnít seen or heard from for years.
When you became a part of Marilynís life, she gave you all her heart and everything she had like when she was a young girl working for Chevette Clothing, the day the handsome 27-year-old Joe walked off the elevator, and when she laid eyes on him, she couldnít stop blushing. Joe was naturally taken with this sweet young lady, and when they went on their first date, she had to take stomach medication and eat simple foods to quell her nerves. She just couldnít hide who she was or how she felt; and everyone loved her for it.
Joe ended up becoming the love of her life. They married and started their beautiful family together, having Ilene, Bruce and Steven all just a couple of years apart. And when her wonderful children became a part of her life, she held nothing back. Marilyn was one of the worldís greatest mothers. She just kept giving and giving. She was never lazy; always there for whatever it was that was the best for her children. As her kids grew, she worked part-time in jobs at a pharmacy, at a dentists office, helping new immigrants, and eventually planning the most top-notch and classy events you could imagine for the New York City Mayorís Office at places like Gracie Mansion and City Hall.
Thereís a wonderful theme that ran all throughout Marilynís life: Whatever she did, it was all about people. Loving people, caring for people, entertaining people. She loved her Jewish people. She loved Yiddish and singing and music that family and friends could all share together. And through all her relationships, she also taught people as well.
She taught everyone whose life she touched that life is a beautiful experience to be embraced with passion and everything youíve got. From her personal style she loved costume jewelry, big earrings, and never went out without her red lipstick on to her love of all her many friends with whom she always loved to talk she would leave answering machine messages until it ran out, and then call back and keep on leaving a message!
And then, of course, there were her beloved granddaughters, Barbara and Michelle, with whom she made a point of sharing special times with each of them. She always demonstrated that life is a joy even during the last 10 years as she struggled with illness, she was indomitable. She never lost her fighting spirit...she never lost her zest for love and for love.
It was almost impossible to wipe her wonderful smile off her face, and it was equally impossible to get her to stop always thinking and caring for others. No matter what her condition, she was always giving and doing for others in their times of need. No matter what the need, if she could be there for you, she was there. Even in the throes of illness, her first thought was to inquire how you were doing, to want the best for the other person before herself.
Marilynís family shared with me a magnificent memory of Marilynís last night before she went into the hospital.
Apparently, she was resting on the couch, not feeling very well at all, but somehow, she found the strength within herself to get up and dance. She just got up and did a dance, with everyone watching her, incredulously. If there was ever a moment that symbolized Marilyn Brodoff, it was that moment: Here she was, almost at the end of her life. Somewhere deep in her soul, she knew the end was near, so what else was there to do, but to get up and dance?
And to all her family: To Joe, to Ilene and Lou, to Bruce and Steven and Barbara and Michelle...and to all the extended family and many friends here today to pay their respects this memory, and all the other memories indeed are her legacy.
A great Chasidic master once taught that we should not let a day go by in our lives when we do not dance, when we do not find the opportunity to experience joy. Marilyn Brodoff knew and lived the wisdom of that teaching every day of her life: to whatever happens to us all in this world, we must never forget to love, to live with passion, and to share the joy of our love and passion with everyone we meet.
In the Jewish tradition, when our loved ones pass on, we say Zikhronam Livrachah, may their memory be for a blessing. I have no doubt in this world that Marilyn Brodoffís memory will be a blessing for her family for generations to come.
Tehay Nishmata Tzrurah Bitzur HeChayim.
May her soul be bound up in the bond of eternal life.
And let us say, Amen.