I read my first adult novel while one day during the summer before my freshman year. I was staying at my grandma's pent-house in Westwood when I happened upon a manuscript written by my great aunt Deli. It had sex, travel, politics and general lewdness. (which, I suspect is why it was never published.) Inspired, after reading her book, I declared that I too would someday become a novelist. Thus, Auntie Deli was my first creative, feminist, free-thinking hero.
I never told her how much I admired her art. She died before her 90th birthday. Her beloved Violin was placed on a chair at altar of a new-age religious science church where we gathered for her memorial. It was a subtle "Fuck You" to the family to not hold it at the Jewish Mount Sinai cemetery, where most of our ancestors are buried, and where the family usually gathers during times of grief. But this event was no pity party--it was a celebration of life for a woman who danced to her own drumbeat.
My Aunt Sandy kicked off her eulogy by saying, "I'm conflicted about giving a eulogy because I can't seem to talk about my Deli without cussing, and I know I'm not supposed to cuss in church...but then I heard Delis voice say, 'Go ahead Sandy dear, say whatever you want and if they don't like it, Fuck them!'" The jokes and memories rolled on for over an hour. "If Deli were here, she'd probably be tapping her foot saying, when's the party going to start?'"
The female reverend wrapped it up by informing us of the church protocol: at any time, anybody could stand up for any reason and call for a joke or ask for a standing ovation. Apparently aunt Deli was was the first to call in the jokes and we concluded the ceremony with a heart felt standing ovation so loud that she would surly hear it...wherever she is.
One of the beautiful qualities of the Jewish people is to make the best out of every situation. Except for Deli, my family doesn't like to talk about the negative. "Cancer" is always whispered and we are often reminded to "stand up straight and smile" in the face of sadness. As such, the reception in the church basement was filled with a lot of reassuring comments such as, "It was her time.." and "She was ready to go..." Without spending 3 days mourning by the side of the body, (since she was cremated) there were a lot of unfelt feelings in the room. As an emotional and empathic woman, I found myself bawling and blubbering with nostalgic memories...
At some point in my pre-puberty years my aunt stayed at my home for advanced studies in violin at a nearby college. She witnessed the complex and painful relationship between me and my angry-depressive mother and decided that I didn't get enough love growing up. She took it on herself to love me unconditionally. Every time I saw her, at Hanukkah and Birthdays, she would make it a point to ask me how my life was going--and then she actually listened.
When I became a tantra teacher she would tell me how important my work is. When I'd send out my monthly newsletter she'd be one of the first to reply: "Wish I lived closer so that I could come to all of your events." And the last conversation I had with her was her asking me for advice on her regular practice of self-pleasuring. I'm happy to know that even into her final years she was a very orgasmic woman.
Her body-mind complex started to decline after she had a silent heart attack, and after 7 weeks in assisted living she was despondent about losing her independence. On Thursday, July 16th she fell and hit her head and was not re-vived. Her care taker and new best friend later told me that she stayed with the body for about an hour after death, speaking affirmations into her ear and kissing her face. That evening, Michael and I prayed for Deli before entering tantra tent and thought of her often while hosting an event entitled: "Dildos, dental dams and deep throating."