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