Remembering Rita Fussman (at Rita's funeral)

Died August 4, 2009 at age 76

In Psalm 90 (verse 12) it is said: Teach us to number our days, that we may get ourselves a heart of wisdom.

Number our days, make each day count - that describes Rita.  Some people like to say "Thank God it's Friday," they want the days to fly away, but Rita was never like that.

Rita was one of those special people who truly lived each day.  This was especially demonstrated by how Rita related to other people.  If you asked Rita who are the most important people in your life, she could have replied: Herb, her husband; or her sons Calvin & Chet; or her daughters-in-law Gloria and Janet who were as loved and loving as daughters, like Ruth and Naomi; or her five grandchildren or other close family - all of whom she liked to talk about with joy and love and praise - but if you asked Rita this question, she could have honestly answered: "It's you, because you're the person I'm with right now." 

That's how it felt to be with Rita.  Rita was always present to the present moment, and especially to the person she was with.  When life and other people came knocking, she answered: "Hineini," Here I am, glad to be with you.  Her presence made other people better for her having been with them.

Wendy and I also appreciated Rita's wisdom.  She shared with us how important it was to be present in the lives of grandchildren.   Although we had felt that way, having Rita confirm that simple yet profound value by both word and deed affected us deeply.  She was in many ways a role model in the sense of being at the place where we hope someday to be.

Rita also had a major role in helping our congregation become a caring community.  Her acts of kindness and words of gratitude inspired similar acts and words in others.  She was not only universally liked and admired; she created connections and good feelings with other people and among them.  She made all of us better than we would have been without her.

Rita's fellow students in our Monday morning study group especially appreciated Rita's grace and resilience regarding her difficult disease.  Rita was afflicted for 23 years.  She was determined that her disease would not prevent her from doing what she valued most.  She never complained, and even when tired she was able to share her sense of humor and warm feelings with us.

And so although Rita's disease cut short her years, her days remained very full.  She made them all count, and they counted not only for Rita but for each of us who had the good fortune to know her, to be a friend to her, to be a part of her life.

Rita was born and lived in the Jewish tradition which teaches that each individual life is very precious, and that each individual is to go through life bearing two messages.  One message is: "I am but dust and ashes."  [Genesis 18:27]  The other message is: "For my sake was the world created."  [Sanhedrin 37a]  For Rita's sake, and for each of us, was the world created.  May each of us live a life as full as Rita's.


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