At approximately 3:35am on Wednesday, December 8, 1999, my Grandmother, Margot Ruth Freudenheim, died peacefully in her home in Buffalo, New York at age 93.

She died one day short of the 13th anniversary of her husband Ernst Freudenheim's death, on December 9, 1986.

This photo of my grandparents was taken in 1931, shortly before they were married. I put it here because this is how I think she would like to be remembered - next to the man she would spend most of her life with.


Both of my grandparents were cremated, and thirteen years apart we scattered their ashes from Grand Island into the Niagara River. Both of them requested cremation, as well as asking that no public events take place around their deaths. People have asked about this, and it is in many ways quite difficult to explain. I think the text from my Grandmother's will does it best:

"During my living years, I have been a Jew of changing stages; from religious observance at an early age, I have now reached tradition only. For my family and the community of Jews wherever, I have tried to do my best; now in the waning days of my being, I want to join the Jews of my generation. I hereby request that my bodily remains be cremated and the ashes be scattered in the nearest waters. No memorial service, no eulogies, just a death notice in the paper. I do not want them to feel guilty for not observing Yahrzeit. For my husband I leave fond and proud memories of a lifetime."

It is difficult to imagine that this could be satisfying, and yet for all the horror of it - it felt right. Aside from the importance of honoring her wishes, it felt right to "return" her to her family, the family that she lost in the Holocaust. Rarely did my Grandmother allow herself to forget how lucky she was to have escaped those horrors and to have provided a life for her family. It also felt - feels - more spitirual. What I am left with is the ability to honor and remember her as the large presence she was in my life, and not as an unliving body lying beneath the surface to which I must pay homage.
Those who know me well know how much my Grandmother meant to me, how close we were. I'd be foolish to attempt to put those feelings into words - and even more so to do so here. And in a way, one could object to this page as the kind of memorial she specifically didn't want. But I don't think so. This page is only so many electronic bits and bytes, as fluid and changing and as she is now.

I look up at that picture and it's Grandma - at a stage of life I can only image her living, long before the word "Grandma" had ever entered her vocabulary. But what I can also see, and feel, and remember, is the look on her face, the look of passion and love for my Grandfather - the same passion and love that extended down through my own life and now, as I write this, makes me both cry and smile at the same time.

Shalom, Grandma. I miss you.