Thursday 18 March 2010

Guest Post: Charles Fajgenbaum Eulogizes Bluma Akerman, z"l: "The power of simple acts of kindness"

Bluma Akerman came from a large, close family, and I know that Issie, her brother living in Israel would have been here if he could be, but circumstances have made that impossible. He did however send an email with perhaps the most important thing anybody can say today: May her memory be a blessing for all of us.

In no particular order then, here are a few of the memories I have of Bluma. If each of us made our own list of 5 memories, we would undoubtedly have quite the interesting book.

The first job I ever had was given to me by Bluma. Vacuum the carpets, get paid 10 cents. That was a job for Sunday afternoons, rain or shine. Living only one block away made it hard to escape. I am not sure how well the carpets were done, so I also learned that it is a good thing to have a lenient boss.

Bluma was also the person who introduced me to pizza, and countless slice vendors in every city I have ever been in thank her for that. Pouring rain and a soaking walk to Pendelli's on Van Horne, I did not know what I was in for. I don’t recall particularly liking it, but I enjoyed being taken out, and jumped at the opportunity a couple of weeks later to visit Pronto Pizza, also on Van Horne, for round two. The rest, as they say, is history. After that, Lester's Deli was no longer the favourite place to be taken.

I also learned from her to keep the first car you ever buy. Now, at the time, I heard people question why she would buy a car, especially a red Mustang sports car. "Why is she driving any car at all, let alone the most popular sports car of the day?" For someone who never really went out of her way to attract attention, and above all else was very practical in her day to day life, that car sure seemed, at the very least, like an unusual choice. Driving it, though, stressed her out so much that she gave the car to her brother Harry. Let’s be honest, though: who among us would now not want to have a 40 year old Mustang convertible in their garage?

Keep every possible scrap of paper, especially the ones that are important. While assisting Max in helping empty Bluma's apartment and move her to the King David, we came across letters written 20 years ago, bank books from long closed accounts, clothes that hadn't been worn in 30 years, and other items I am not sure even a museum could love. But we also came across a drawer where the important stuff was kept--Harry and Beth's wedding announcement, birth announcements of various nieces and nephews, an article Aviva had written about the joy of motherhood, family photos, and other keepsakes that told a great story of those people and events that really are worth remembering.

Simple acts of kindness are very powerful, far more than thinking of big acts done rarely. For many years , Bluma would make the walk to the Cote St Luc shopping center, visit the Halmark store, and buy a bunch of cards--Valentine’s Day cards, Hanukah and birthday cards, and others. Magically, ever so often, one would appear in our mail box addressed to Alexandra, with a short note to say hi, and a crisp $5.00 bill, along with instructions to go buy some candy. It always brought great joy to our house, and taught me an important lesson of economics and inflation--in my day, all I got was a dime, and I had to work for it.

Perhaps I can add one more to the list: Bluma's tremendous sense of independence and determination. When Bluma first got cancer many years ago, the survival rate was far lower than today. She beat that back, then had a relapse, which was beaten back as well, allowing her to continue with her life. A few years ago, again a relapse, and again she rallied. Then again almost two years ago, a major relapse, with very severe pain as tumours showed up in her spine. Several months in the hospital, then rehab, and the most unbelievable smile on her face, when once again living independently in her apartment, she showed me how she could dance without her walker.

However many friends you have, there will always be one who is more special than others. So thank you, Charlotte Lawy, for your infinite acts of kindness and friendship. And an even greater thank you to her brother, Max for being her assistant, companion, shopper, chauffeur, care giver and best possible brother. We all owe him a great deal for his endless commitment to Bluma.

(Please send us your own memories of Bluma!)

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