InMemoriamHeaderEnglishThis page is dedicated to the memory of Temple Sinai Members
that have been taken from us in the year 5777.
 

Nana Phyllis

Phyllis Palmet Rose

October 10, 1936 ~ November 30, 2016

Wife of Alexander Rose ~ Mother of Bennett Rose and David Rose
 

Ben Rose speaking about his mother, Phyllis Palmet Rose, at her funeral on December 2, 2016:

Thank you for coming and for remembering and caring about Phyllis Rose, of blessed memory. We want this to be first and foremost a celebration of a life well lived.

Phyllis -- “Mom” or “Nana,” -- had a long life, longer than she expected. A full life. She experienced life's greatest joys. And not to overemphasize this, but she died as she lived. Bravely, with humor, grace, candor, and ferocious interest about what was happening. Nana was intellectually and emotionally present every day of her life. And that brightened the lives of everyone she touched.

We could speak for many hours about my mother, and we will do so at the house -- Nana and Zayde’s house -- Zayde’s house -- in the coming week. For this service, I'm the first of only three.  I’ll l leave some things for my brother and father to say, but we know that there is some overlap -- let us say some things about her three times.

A few days ago, our daughter Anya noted that she has always brought her friends to meet Nana and Zayde. Because a part of getting to know Anya was meeting her family, and especially her Nana, the matriarch at the center of our family. And it has always been that way for my friends. In the last few difficult days when mom was losing her ability to speak, I was emotionally blocked, just pushing ahead like a zombie and waiting for the trigger that would break the dam and allow my tears to finally flow. What was the trigger?  I was sitting at mom’s bedside and I starting listing to her the names of my friends who loved her, and as I said the names of my friends it finally hit me, the magnitude of this loss, because of the role that Nana played in their lives, the lives of all the people I love. She was the north star of love.

And it's easy to drill down into how she did that. First, let it be said -- she was so funny. She was so quick. Engaged - she really listened.. And she was so irreverent. Important things did not go unspoken with my mom. They were asked about -- she asked good questions -- they were discussed, examined and rapidly transformed into topics of rueful humor that cut to the heart of the matter. People understood their own emotions better because of conversations with her. She was interested in people. We have many stories of her meeting a stranger or making a friend in a public place or reminding us that when you stay a night in a motel you leave a nice tip because the lady that cleans the room needs it more than you. My mom was tuned in to people. And as so many of you know, she was there for people when they needed someone the most.

In thinking about what to say about mom I struggled with a particular word that I wanted to use but was hoping to avoid here in shul. But Mom would want me to just say it, so here goes:  she did not tolerate bullshit. She had a keen sense for when something was genuine and for when it was not. And she called it out. It's because of that that she had a complicated relationship with religion.It just didn't sit well with her that there was a god looking down on her and every little thing that humans do. And she certainly didn't want to be mumbling prayers in a language she didn’t understand, to a male-pronounced deity. But she understood that when it comes to life passages, rituals that span the generations are vitally important. 

Part of why she faced her own mortality so bravely and head on was because she was very clear and confident In her own assessment that Phyllis Rose as she knew herself would be gone. She didn't expect anything beyond her span of years. She told us often that heaven is right here on earth, that for those of us who are fortunate enough to be living in heaven, we have a responsibility to enjoy it. She was good at seizing happiness in the present, and teaching others to do so.

She was selfish in the best sense of the word. She taught us that you have to look out for yourself if you want to be able to look out for others. She treated herself, and at times she forgave herself. She extended that same liberality to others. She forgave people for not being perfect. She taught us how to be happy in our own company, to like ourselves, and that's a great gift. I think that all the people she helped to raise -- me, Dave, the four grandkids -- all got from her that balance, of connecting with other people and needing and cherishing alone time. 

A few days ago, Micah and Anya were downstairs and they found Nana and Zayde’s high school yearbooks. In one it said that Phyllis Palmet was planning to become a lawyer. She never became a lawyer. My parents married young and had children young. She poured a lot of her intellectual capital and ambition into her sons. We know she took joy in our successes. One of my memories of mom at the height of her powers was from when I was in high school, and she would ask to read over my AP English essays. She was a brutal editor! She pushed me to say what I meant.  She taught me to write. And I remember thinking, as I applied for colleges, that  I was an imposter because really it was my mom that should be provided with the academic opportunities I received.

When we moved to Vermont I was just turning 15, a tender time to put down new roots. Not only did she embrace the adventure; she helped me to see it as a golden opportunity. 

Champlain Valley Union High School, in 1974, by the way, had not seen a whole lot of Long Island Jewish mother intellectual horsepower of the caliber that Nana brought to bear on my academic career as her Sonny Boy.

There is so much more to tell, but the day is short and there are too few hours before the sun sets. So let me conclude by reminding us of some of the things my mother loved.

She loved snowfalls, Fall foliage, Oceans, sunsets. . .She loved Vermont.  Our lives were happier and healthier because of that critical, brave move.  She loved being cozy and cocooned with family and friends.  She made a warm, comfortable, cozy home. She did not love to cook, but there was always good food, and sandwiches always tasted better when Nana made them.  She loved a good book, especially historical fiction.  She loved opera.  She loved conversations about ideas.  She loved marzipan.  Sweet things.  She loved jigsaw puzzles.  She loved the people in her family as passionately and unreservedly as anybody I’ve ever known.  She loved my wife Lori, as a daughter, as she deserved to be loved.  She loved it when her loved ones showed moxie and backbone. She had chutzpah, and she cherished it in others.  She loved her husband, our father Alex, completely. In her honest way, she saw him clearly and was not shy about reminding him of his imperfections, but she always conveyed to us that she knew she had married a very good man.  My mom loved a good cry.  And she loved a good joke, really, even a bad joke. Anything for a joke. She loved laughter.  She loved laughing into the face of even the darkest, most terrible things. She was a master teacher of black humor, right to the end.  She loved group hugs--She gave the best hugs.

 We’ve been blessed.

 I’ve always been proud of my baby brother. He is generous, poetic, and he was a better athlete than me.  We have competed joyfully for 55 years. Mom sometimes told us:  “fight quietly!”  Or, if we were particularly wild, she's say "Go play in the traffic!" Anyhow, one of the last complete sentences that Mom was able to say before she lost her words was when she saw my brother David and she said, “David always wins.” Little brother, your turn.

David Rose speaking about his mother, Phyllis Palmet Rose, at her funeral on December 2, 2016:

Thank you all for being here. For honoring mom, and for supporting dad.  Ben – great job, as always.  It is not a surprise that you are a tough act to follow.  You always were.

This is about my mom AND dad. They were married for 59 years, and knew each other 65 years.  What a team. I really can’t talk about one without the other. Certainly not for the 45 minutes I have planned. Not really.  I am going to talk a little about mom, but mostly about what she has meant to me and my family. If you think that is wrong there is a Russian word for that…(actually it is a word my dad made up) but it is, I think what mom would have wanted. 

One good thing about the strength with which she fought her cancer was that we had time. We had time. She had time.  We got together (immediate family-grandkids) and said what we wanted to say.  She knows.

She was very direct. Do you know what the application SLACK is? We use it at work and everyone can immediately see something you post in one of several channels. One of my employees posted a beautiful little tribute to me on his 3 year work anniversary and in it he said "you always know where you stand with Daver". It made me cry because that was mom. I get that from my mom.

She is largely responsible for who I am. Not completely. We ALL decide who we are. Today, tomorrow. Every day of our lives. The beauty is that we can choose to be better every day. But not today.  Today my family and I will take. We will take all the love that you have to give us.

I learned who I wanted to be from mom.  I have a strong personality. That was my mom.  If you knew my mom and were not clear that she really liked you, you might ask yourself, why? Because she was a great judge of character.  The only thing I really did not understand about her was that she did not like chocolate. The rest, I got.

She had a complete and happy life  a full 80 years. And she lived for 16 years after being diagnosed with cancer. Talk about strong. Strong character, strong willed, and even physically strong. She once told me that she and dad used to wrestle until one night when she threw him out of bed and he banged his head. I am not positive this is true, but I believe it.

Did you know she was an excellent figure skater?  She took me figure skating every week. She was gorgeous.

Did you know she was a good tennis player?  

Did you know she was a great dancer?  No you didn't. She was a terrible dancer. But she knew it and she danced anyway! How neat is that? I blame her for the silly faces I make when I dance. She would always just bounce along to the music, but she had this silly little look of contentment on her face..like this.....

Towards the end of her life when it became hard for her to speak, I would just stand up and start dancing and her face would light up..."that was a good one". She would say.

She loved music. She played the piano beautifully. She would always ask us to make music and sing when we had family get togethers. Of course, my dad plays the guitar as well as the piano. Cindy must have sung Harper Valley PTA 50 times for her.  Like me, mom could not sing so she would whistle and bounce and smile.

Gordon Lightfoot, Joan Baez, Harry Chapin.  Rod Stewart.  She loved Rod Stewart. Night on the town, album.  I loved to see her dancing with dad... the girl new how to party.  She even taught me to party. Not many mom’s do that.

 Mom taught me to question things.  When we moved to Trinidad the school system was the British form system and things were done differently.  After about three months of school the dean of the form called a meeting with me and mom.  He explained to mom that I was doing very well, but that I asked too many questions, and lots of questions that he could not answer – but not to worry, he was going to change that.

Mom calmly replied that she had raised me to ask questions and she wasn’t about to have a lazy teacher attempt to undo her work.  She stood up, took my hand, and out we went.  I was out of that school the following day. 

Religion was one of several areas about which mom was convoluted.  But she respected tradition and recognized the beauty and benefits it brought our family. She always had Sedar and loved putting them on.  More than that, she honored the tradition and we always invited friends and family that had never experience one to join us. 

She was not perfect. She was hard on dad. Really hard at times. You WERE a good husband, dad, a good life partner, and you still are a great dad.

She was stubborn. She was smart.  She was very creative.  She wrote beautifully and loved poetry.

Mostly she was loving. And fun.

She loved my wife, Cindy, and oh, how she loved our kids.

I know deeply that mom was proud of me, and like her I am very proud of my family.

It is not so much the academic, or athletic successes that i am talking about. I am proud of those, but mostly I am proud of the PEOPLE that they are.   Who they are is definitely part her doing their doing – meaning my mom and my dad.  My parents could have gone anywhere.  They chose to stay in Vermont despite the ice, the cold, and other challenges that come with living in Vermont to be close to us and their grandchildren.  My family and I are so lucky and grateful for this.  I can remember coming home from a day of work and finding Sam ad Izzy running back and forth and playing in the living room with mom and dad slowly slinking  off the coach too tired to move. She gave them so much. Time. Joy. Stories. Books. Adventures. They grew up with her. And the cousins got to grow up with each other because my parents did this for all of us.

She taught me that Laughter is the best medicine. I have been told I have a strange sense of humor but it is more important that I have a sense of humor and that I use it rather than whether or not it is "appropriate". Laugh. Just laugh. Right up to the day before she died mom made us laugh.

Just a few days ago at the respite house I was talking with Micah, Anya and Ben about bowling and darts. Somehow we were “discussing” who might win at darts when mom suddenly says David always wins. We all laughed and I said “Ben is really hoping that isn't the last thing she says.”  It wasn’t. 

We do what we need to do to get by. And we forgive. We move on. Take joy where joy can be taken. Celebrate small victories. Rejoice in small successes. Let the anger come and leave.  Every person has their own story. Most of us are too quick to judge others and make assumptions.

They say you become your parents, it is true. I am honored to be like my mom and my dad.  I love you mom. You live on in me and my children. I love you dad, and I will always be here for you.

Alexander Rose speaking about his wife, Phyllis Palmet Rose, at her funeral on December 2, 2016:

I   want to talk about m y precious wife,   Phyllis  Palmet Rose.  She  was  sequentially  my friend, my best friend, my  crush,  my  girlfriend,  my  wife,  my lover,  my  advisor,  my  business  partner, my  advocate  (and when  I  call her my  advocate,  she was always on my side and  always  wanted what was best for me.  Sometimes  she knew better than  I  did what was best for me,  and  sadly, I  didn’t  always take her  advice,  to my  ultimate  regret).   When  I  say she was my  advisor,  it took me a little  too  long  to  properly  value  the  wisdom  of  her  sound  counsel,  and  I  should have taken more advantage  of it . She was also my  co-conspirator;   a  conspirator  has  a  sinister  connotation  which  I do  not  intend.  We  sometimes  conspired  to  do  good  things,  like  planning  pleasant  surprises  for friends  and  family.

I  first met  Phyllis  when she had just turned 15,  in  October  1951.  She was a  HS  sophomore, and  I  was a  senior.   As a 15 year  old  girl  she was  feisty,  witty,  sometimes  sharp-tongued,  and always  a barrel of fun,  traits  she  kept  her  whole  life.  She was also  courageous.   When I  was  offered a  job  opportunity  in  Vermont,  she  resigned  from an  excellent  position  as  a special  ed  teacher  for BOCES  (Board  of  Cooperative  Educational  Services)  at the  Rosemary  Kennedy  School  in  Wantagh Long  Island,   where she had  attained  tenure  and taught  a  class  of  sixteen  intellectually  challenged boys  aged  18  to  21.   Without  hesitation,  she  prioritized  my  career  above  her  own.  She  also courageously  faced  a  poor prognosis  of  breast  cancer  in  April  of 2000.  She  received  that  diagnosis the day before the first  Seder  in  2000,  and we  agreed  to  proceed  with  the  Seder  for  our  family  at our house the next night.  She then  underwent  a  lumpectomy,  a  course  of  strong  chemotherapy,  and then  radiation,  which  overall  took  roughly  two years.   She  then  had  a  twelve  year  remission  until April  of  2014,  when she was  re-diagnosed  with  breast  cancer  which  had  metastasized  to  her  bones. She  had  a  wonderful  positive  attitude,  and  was  thankful  for  those  twelve  years,  during  which  she  ran a day care for her  grandchildren,  because  she  believed  that our  sons’  wives should  be  able  to  continue their  careers  even  though  they  had  small  children.  Phyllis  lived  her  beliefs.    She  was  courageous  in  that  she was always matter-of-fact about her  bleak  health  prospects,  and  faced  her  impending  death  with  equanimity  and  grace.

She was  a  wonderful  mother.  If,  as  they  say,  “the  proof  of  the  pudding  is  in  the  eating”,  the proof of her  wondrous  motherhood   is  in her  two  fine  sons,  Ben  and  David.    Two  fine  men  – warm  and  loving  as  she  was.   They  both  found  fine  women  as  wives,  and,   not  surprisingly, their  children  are  also  exceptional  people.  Phyllis  lives  on  in  her  children  and  grandchildren.

Phyllis  was  always  forthright  and  honest.  She pulled no punches and spoke her  mind  bluntly, You always knew where you stood with her. This  emotional  honesty  was  refreshing  in  its simplicity and  openness.  She did not try to paper over  differences  or  disagreements;  she  believed  in  con-fronting  them  head-on  and  resolving  them.

A  week  ago  yesterday  was  Thanksgiving  Day,  and  also  our  59th  wedding  anniversary.  We celebrated  it  at  Thanksgiving  Dinner  at  the  VNA Respite  House,  to which  Phyllis had moved two days before.   A  marriage of  59  years  length  is  a  remarkable  achievement;  I  look  back  now and regret the ways in which  I  could have been a  better  husband  to  her. 

One of our  sweetest  memories  was  of  our  time  in  Trinidad,  West  Indies,  where we lived for almost a year and a half.  It was a  wonderful  time for our  marriage.   Phyllis  played  tennis every  day  and  at night  we’d  get  drunk  and  get  stoned  and  get  –  a  word that  starts with  “L” -must  be   “Loving” -   and  dance  for  an  hour  to  Rod  Stewart’s  record   “A  Night  on  the  Town”. I  was  a  workaholic  then,   and  playing  tennis  three  times  a  week.  We  were  both  fit  and  lean and  loving.   Our time there drew us  together.   I  remember one day on which the  frustrations of  the  poor  infrastructure  overwhelmed  Phyllis  and  she  was  lying  on  our  bed  on  her  back  with her  hands  and  feet  up  and  waving  in  the  air  like  an  upended  turtle , and  saying   “I  want  to  go  home!” I  replied  coldly  “You  are  home”,  and  indeed  we  were. We  made  a  home  for  ourselves  away  from the  hustle  and  bustle  and  distractions  of  suburban  American  life. 

Phyllis  was  also  a  wonderful  writer  when she felt she had  something  to  write  about.   I’m  going  to read   an excerpt  of  “A  Dog’s  Life”,   our  dog  Deirdre’s  Memoirs  which  Phyllis  found after  Deirdre’s  death. She also wrote a series of letters from  Trinidad  to  friends  and  relatives  back  in  the  States.   I’d  be  happy to send copies of them to  anyone  who wants them.   There’s  a  sign-up  sheet  in  the  lobby;  just  leave  your name and  mailing  address,  and  I’ll  mail  them  to  you.  And  now,  here  is the  excerpt  from Deirdre’s Memoirs.  Remember,  Phyllis  was  writing  in  Deirdre’s voice……… Dierdre went to Trinidad with us, and then came back to Vermont with us in 1978…

“Back in Vermont at last,  we  settled  into a smaller house out in the  country.  My needs are well met by the four acres that   surround the  house;  no more fences and gates for this girl.   I  have a  private  entrance,  a small door with  magnetic  catches,  that allows me to run out if  I  see  something  interesting  from my  window, and to come in when  I  feel like it.  We are well off the road, so there are no  car  worries  here.  Dave  has  a dirt  bike,  and we really enjoy a run on the  mountain  behind  the  house.  Phyllis  likes to sit on a big rock out front, just looking at the  mountains  and  being  happy.  I  sit with her.  Life  is  good  and  we  know  it.  And so another two years have  passed.  Frankly,  I  am  no  longer  young,  and  tranquility  is  welcome.   I have  a  neighbor,  a  mixed-breed  youngster  of  little  common  sense,  who keeps  tangling  with the  porcupines on the  mountain.  That  nonsense  is not for me.  There are  several  more  dignified  neighbors  who  come  to  call, and a trot through the tall grass  satisfies  us. I  had a run with  Dave  yesterday,  but  I  don’t feel well today.  I’ve had an  upper  respiratory  infection  for a few weeks  now,  and the vet can’t seem to fine the right  medicine.  Perhaps  there is none;  I  do  feel  rather old  and  weary.  I  went to climb up on the  couch  a  while  ago,  but it seemed like  too  much  effort,  so  I  just stood  there and rested my head on the  pillow  I  could  reach.  Dave  saw this,  and got very upset.   I  sense that tonight  will be  another  night  of  panic for the  family.  This  time  I  believe  I  am really off to the  Great  Adventure. I  regret only that I must leave  these  humans  who rely on me so much for their  love  and  attention.   I  would like to be  cremated,  and for the  family  to scatter  my ashes on the side of the  mountain  that has  brought  so much happiness  to us all.  I  will become part of the  growing  beauty  that  is  Vermont,  and  when  Phyllis  sits  on  her rock and gazes at the  mountains,  the  lake,  and  the  green  of  the  hillside,  I  will  be  there”.

Phyllis  leaves  a  large  hole  in  my life  (and  the  lives  of  our  sons  and  their  families)  that  will  always ache, but  thinking  of her also brings  sweet  thoughts  and  memories.  A  grand  lady,  a  strong  personality,  and a  person  who  excelled  at  everything  she  did.  I   was  a  lucky  man to have had her for  a wife  and  I’m  going to  miss  her  terribly.

 I’m going to read a  Yizkor  (“memorial”)  meditation   I particularly  like from the  prayer book  for  Yom Kippur:  “May  these  moments  of  meditation  link me more  strongly  with my  closest  companion  in  life  –  my   soulmate, my  friend,  my  helping  hand,  my  listening  heart,  my  compass,  my  shining  light.   In  spite  of  death,  our  deep bonds  of  love  are  strong.  May  I  always  be  worthy  of  that  love.  May  the  memory  of  our  companionship  lead me  out  of  loneliness;   may  it  awaken  in  me  gratitude  for  that  which  stil l endures.  And  may  you  rest  forever in  dignity  and  peace”.