Wendy’s Eulogy-March 25, 2011
written & offered by her sister,Dr. Diane Polasky at her funeral service.
....just wanted to share my memories and share the love.....
First, I would like to thank everyone in the community for the love & support for helping to make Wendy’s life and her death so meaningful. On a personal note, I’d like to say a special
Thank you to Shelly Markus and Sue Hunting, my special angels, who kept me fed and supported during the 9 days I spent living at Hospice with my sister.
Everyone here that has known Wendy holds their own special memories of her. And I am no exception—the only difference is that I’ve known Wendy for 58 years…She was my big sister-only by 14 months, but she always let me know she was older…and she kept me in hand and in line during our years together.
So I thought I would just take a moment to share with you a few special moments and random pieces of my sister’s life-some of which you may not be aware.
Like a multi-faceted jewel, Wendy had a myriad of aspects. She was born September 27, 1951 in Saginaw Michigan, first-born of my parents Frank & Betty Polasky. When we were small, our Dad nicknamed us Buck & Sam-she was Buck…& then in Jr. HS & HS the name Wendy became Winnie & was further transformed by her friends who affectionately called her Pooh & Pooh Bear after Winnie the Pooh. This stuck with her for years.
We were pretty close growing up, although she’d occasionally push me around as her little sister--& often had me rubbing her back & singing her to sleep not to mention how she would often conveniently disappear when it was time to do our nightly chore of dinner dishes. Even as adults, she would have me rub her neck & back whenever we got together…which was a treat for both of us.
Wendy & I shared a love of animals-especially horses. While some girls played with dolls, we grew up collecting and playing with a menagerie of plastic horses. We then graduated to live ones—especially during the 7 summers we spent at Chippewa Trails Camp for Girls in northern Michigan. Wendy went a step further & eventually had one of her own-a beautiful headstrong Arabian filly which she had for several years. ….& watching them together, I could never quite figure out which was more stubborn.
Wendy grew up learning piano, guitar, ballet, tap dancing & even some knitting & embroidery, although this was mostly limited to one summer when she initialed almost every blouse she owned. She loved to read and even though she never was a great outdoorsy sports person, she used to enjoy going fishing with our Dad at the Bay City pier and swimming at the YMCA. Through the years, she also tried her hand at sledding, skiing, tennis & golf, although what she discovered she did best was a sport of a different kind--she was an organizer-and she pursued that with the skill of an Olympiad.
Wendy grew up in an observant Jewish household, surrounded by, & celebrating holidays with, relatives of all ages. We would often listen to our great grandfather Barney telling us stories of Russia and singing to us in Yiddish as he sat in the backyard of our grandparents home preparing horseradish for our large Pesach and Rosh Hashana family gatherings. It was a time we didn’t forget because our eyes would water for hours.
She attended Sunday school at Temple B’nai Israel in Saginaw, arriving every Sunday in her pinafore dress, black patent shoes & white gloves- establishing at a young age her sense of style & class (a trait that never left her). Wendy was also Bat Mitzvahed, confirmed, and married her husband of 7 years, Malcolm, there.
Wendy spent her junior year of High School in Israel, gaining an even deeper appreciation of her heritage and cementing her relationship with Judaism and the Jewish people.
After graduation from HS, Wendy went on to the University of Michigan where she received her BA and moved into the world of pensions, banking and finance with a variety of positions.
Wendy was a staunch Michigan football fan and later, as part of the U of M alumni, partied heartedly with her other Wolverine buddies during football season. She made sure that the first song my daughter, her niece, Leryn learned was the Michigan fight song, and delighted in hearing my two year old belting it out to her either in person or on the phone.
During her HS & college years, her political activism surfaced-our parents always taught us to think for ourselves—and the only time I ever remember her seriously getting in trouble with our folks was when she told an “incomplete truth” and rather than being where she said she was, ended up as part of a huge antiwar rally in Washington DC where she tasted teargas for the first and the last time. From that point on, she limited her politics to written or verbal exchanges and as a “moderate radical” held-as many of you know-strong opinions on a variety of topics!
Through the years, my sister lived in various places-from a house in Saginaw to a townhouse in Detroit to a high rise in downtown Chicago to a tennis condo on Long Boat Key and finally settling down in a beautiful condo just off the golf course in University Park.
In whichever community she found herself, Wendy embraced the cultural offerings-tremendously enjoying live theatre, concerts, art exhibits and fairs and musical events—and how she loved her music—all sorts but especially great blues & jazz—and not to mention Motown…it became a tradition for several years after our mother’s death of getting together & preparing Thanksgiving dinner by dancing through the kitchen to the Big Chill soundtrack and the Best of Aretha Franklin.
Wendy was a connoisseur-of fine art, clothing, cuisine, wines & good single malt scotch. She was a terrific cook and a lover of simplicity and beauty—especially within her home. Walking through her door was always, for me, like taking a deep breath and stepping into a House Beautiful magazine. She created a place where the peace and sanctuary was palpable.
I recently found out that she was also a closet sentimentalist… I think she kept every letter, every love note, every thank you she’d ever received and, although she may never had mentioned it, held those who touched her life very close to her heart.
In my career, among other things, I’ve been certified as a Death Educator and a hospice volunteer. When teaching about death and dying, an adage I repeatedly tell my students is
“as a person lives, so they die.”
Wendy taught so many of us around her so much—not only by her words, but by how she lived.In her life and as reflected in her dying process, she offered us the opportunity to learn about love, kindness, strength, tenacity, honesty and integrity. Wendy was a woman who walked her talk. …and with regard to her tenacity, just want to share that, by the day of her death, she had gone 12 days without food or water…the doctor could not believe it and just said to me “whatever gene she has, replicate it!”
….but over these last months, visiting her at her home and sitting with her at hospice, I kept coming back to 3 adjectives that, to me, capture the essence of my sister Wendy.
THE FIRST ADJECTIVE IS DETERMINED.
Ever try to move your car with the ignition off, the emergency brake on & one hand tied behind your back? Well if you ever came up against my sister, you’d know that getting her to budge when her mind was set makes moving that car look easy. And you could tell it was about to occur with Wendy when she’d lower her voice, set her jaw, & place her stance. She was an elegant, gracious pitbull.
Not that she was uncompromising or inflexible-she would listen to another’s opinion and would veer off her chosen path if the option was logical and would aid in the completion of her set task more efficiently than her way. And even though it was often “her way or the highway”, the most important thing was that it was done without malice and for the highest benefit of those concerned.
Some might have called her determined; others might have called her stubborn or hard-headed.
But in my family, we just smiled and said- “Well, after all, she is a Polasky.”
THE SECOND ADJECTIVE IS DECISIVE.
Wendy lived by a set of strong moral and ethical convictions that formed the existential foundation upon which her decisions were based. She was a quick thinker and a perceptive
analytical decision maker…except of course where the children were concerned…then her heart would show its true nature.
She had a clear sense of propriety, of right and wrong, and of what was fair…and her decisions were usually made with the best interests of others as her primary focus.
Some people used to summarize our differences by saying that I was “grey” and Wendy was “black & white” in our perspectives. But for those of us that really got to experience Wendy, we were repeatedly reminded of the vast array of colors it takes to make that black and white end product.
THE 3RD ADJECTIVE TO DESCRIBE WENDY IS DEDICATED.
With whichever person, place, or thing Wendy aligned herself, her loyalty and dedication was steadfast. Whether it was in her professional life or with her friends, family, alma mater or chosen political or social causes, she manifested her dedication not merely with words but through her actions and deeds.
Wendy lived with a level of integrity, morality and tzedakah and personified what it truly means, on a daily basis, to be a Jew. And every Pesach and Rosh Hashana, up until she became too ill to stand, you would find her following the tradition of her ancestors whipping up chicken soup, gefilte fish and matzo balls that even my Nana would have been proud of.And perhaps the strength of her dedication and depth of her devotion was best exemplified in her relationship with her beloved husband Roy to whom, for 28 years, Wendy gave her love totally and unconditionally.
When our mother lay dying in her bed, my daughter then 4 said to her “don’t worry grammy, you’ll be a butterfly soon.” Since then the butterfly took on a special significance for our family and we smile whenever we see one, knowing what it means.
And so it was no surprise that yesterday morning, outside the door of her hospice room soon after she died, we saw a beautiful monarch circling….
Wendy Rae Polasky Good passed from this world into the arms of my mother & Hashem at 7:43 on Wednesday March 24, 2011.
She was one helluva good woman, a strong woman, a determined, decisive and dedicated woman. She was as extraordinary in her death as she was in her life and I celebrate her for all that she was & all that she has shared. The world’s a better place for having had her in it and perhaps, in our family tradition, each time you see a butterfly, you can remember her as I do.
And to my big sister, I just say-
Hail to the victor’s valiant
Hail to the conquering heroes…..
……GO BLUE Wen…GO BLUE!