A Giving Tree

On Sunday, September 17th, my mother-in-law, my wife’s mother, and my daughters’ grandmother, Deanne Lipsius passed away. She is the first of my daughters’ grandparents to pass away. With permission from my wife, the following is the speech I gave at the funeral.

I am equal parts sad and honored to be speaking today. When Danyael asked me to speak on behalf of her, Beth, David, and Barry, I was a bit nervous that I’d be able to properly represent them and also properly honor Deanne. Here goes.

Danyael and I met in 1992 but didn’t really connect until 2005. Most people meet their future in-laws after they’ve been dating for a while but not me. I met Barry, my now father-in-law, before Danyael and I reconnected and I met Deanne on Friday, July 1st, 2005, at the crossroads at Camp Tevya. Danyael was with her and this would also become the beginning of my courtship with Danyael.  I didn’t spend much time with Deanne at that time because it was about 30 seconds later that she ran off to join a group of campers doing a yoga class. 

There were two things I learned fairly quickly that were good signs for Danyael and me: First, she and her mother share a birthday, just like I do with my mother. The other: Danyael and her mother shared a love for musical theater. Danyael’s favorite musical is A Chorus Line. 

Kiss today goodbye

The sweetness and the sorrow

Wish me luck, the same to you

But I can’t regret

What I did for love, what I did for love

Deanne was a fiercely loyal and supportive partner to Barry. They have been married for 60 incredible years. The devotion and dedication to her “Ben” is something that gives me inspiration in my relative to them, “new” marriage, coming up on 17 years. Beth, David, and Danyael: 3 incredibly loving, and very different children who she adored. Avigael, Julianna, and Chloe: 3 incredibly loving, and very different grandchildren who she also adored. Michael, Larissa, Rafel, myself, Burt, Jayne, Alicia, Willa, Judy, Rosanne, Mia, Shea, and countless other family, friends, and neighbors. I don’t even know some of those people but I guarantee she adored you too. I think I can speak for all of us and say that the feeling was mutual.

I never got to meet her father Joe, Grandpa Joey as I’ve heard him spoken about, or her brother Harold, and when I met her mother, Minnie, she had already suffered a severe stroke and was only able to say the words, “I can’t talk.” Amazingly though, Deanne and Minnie continued to have a wonderful relationship because of Deanne’s desire and ability to nurture and Minnie’s strength and perseverance, something she certainly passed down to her daughter. It makes me smile to imagine that right now, Deanne, Harold, Joe, and Minnie are all probably sitting around a table, like they used to in the one-bedroom Bronx home she grew up in, happily reconnecting and catching up with each other. I imagine Minnie saying to Deanne, “I can talk.”

Look, my eyes are dry

The gift was ours to borrow

It’s as if we always knew

And I won’t forget what she did for love

I’ve only known her for 18 years so I can’t speak to the many experiences before our time together. I have heard stories, however, about visits to Ziggy’s house, her time working at the Sports Connection as a fitness instructor, working at the Great Neck Arts Center where she created a film series, Plain Jayne’s, and how she used to sell sweaters out of the back of her car with her friend Sheilla, accepting cash only (there was no Venmo then). 

I’m not going to get into it here but there was also the bus ride to Cortland where she met Barry but didn’t fall in love with him until she saw him in the “infamous” red bathing suit. 


Love is never gone

As we travel on

Love’s what we’ll remember

As a wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, she was always interested in what was going on in your life. She would always try to find ways to connect “on your terms.” When we first started getting to know each other, she would ask me about the New England “Patri-otts” even though I’m fairly certain she didn’t care or know anything at all about football. Each time I write on my blog, I could guarantee a message from her about a week or two later telling me how much she enjoyed it. She was always so interested in what was going on in my daughters’ lives. She had such a diverse set of skills and interests, never settling for just 1 or 2 hobbies, and always fashionable. Deanne was up for anything.

Kiss today goodbye

And point me toward tomorrow

We did what we had to do

Won’t forget, can’t regret

What she did for Love

The way I knew her the most was as a grandmother for my daughters. I will always fondly remember the times I would see her sitting on the floor at our home or hers, playing with little Smurf toys or doing a craft with Julianna and Chloe…usually with a giant pair of garden sheers next to her…because, she had often just come from gardening, one of her many passions. She and Barry would usually arrive around midday when they would come to visit us in Massachusetts. Usually, I’d be at work at this time. On countless occasions, I would arrive home and see her zipping around the yard, with dirt on her knees, sheers in one hand, and some sort of dangling plant in the other hand. The first few times I witnessed this, I doubted her gardening and pruning skills, particularly when she would cut a 6’ tall arborvitae tree down by 75%. I’d ask Danyael, “doesn’t that seem a little drastic?” It turns out she knew what she was doing because every time, that tree would come back stronger than it was before. She nurtured those around her like she nurtured plants. 

Deanne was deeply connected to Israel and to Judaism. One of my favorite traditions that Jewish people like to do is to plant a tree. That planting represents the circle of life: a tree grows, it loses its fruit and leaves, and comes back again the next season. It nurtures and nourishes constantly, just like Deanne. I would encourage everyone, when you’re next at home, to plant something in your yard in Deanne’s honor. You know if she was at your home, she’d be doing it for you.

Nat King Cole’s song “Nature Boy” has a lyric that I think best represents Deanne’s life: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” While she may not be with us physically anymore and we will certainly miss her, she’ll always be with us in our hearts. Our stories and memories aren’t things we will or could ever forget. 

Love is never gone

As we travel on

Love’s what we’ll remember