Ron's Closing Remarks

Thank you all for the gentle memories of Joan. I wish she were here to hear them.

I wish she were here.

Occasionally over the years, Joan and I would tell each other what lucky people we were. Our parents didn't beat us, we never missed a meal, we went to fine schools, had rewarding careers and our children, whom you have met here today, spared us their generation's entire confrontation with sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. And then one day, just like that, our luck ran out.

As you may be able to tell from these proceedings, Joan and I were not religious people. We were simply too suspicious of some of God's handiwork for that. But as she was dying, I remembered something a priest in New York said after 9/11. "If you want to make God laugh," he said, "tell him what your plans are for tomorrow." I also consulted a higher authority, Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote, "Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future." That about covers it, I suppose.

The day before Joan died, I took her to the doctor who told her what we already knew, that the chemo wasn't working, and who said he was arranging for hospice care. Joan being Joan looked him in the eye and said, "I'm sorry to be one of your failures." I drove her home and she asked me to bring the computer up to the bedroom so she could dictate a letter to her friends and family. Here is what she said.

I was thinking about how we should end this memorial celebration and then I remembered a conversation I had with Betty Garrett about the memorial they had for her husband, the Oscar-nominated actor Larry Parks, which got her to thinking about the memorial she wanted for herself. I should hasten to add that I'm speaking strictly in the abstract here as Betty turned 90 last spring and as you can see from her appearance here today she's going to outlive us all.

But when her time did come, Betty said, she wanted her memorial to end with the song she had used to end her one-woman show, "Betty Garrett and Other Songs." It was a sentimental old World War I song that her mother and her friends used to sing when she was a little girl, and when they played it at her memorial, Betty said, she didn't want there to be a dry eye in the house. I'm giving you your instructions now so I hope youire paying attention.

When Joan was first diagnosed, we were thrown into such a whirlwind of activity--getting her to the doctor, running around to drugstores to find the medicine she needed, negotiating the health-care bureaucracy, trying to find something she could eat--that we didn't immediately have time to sit and ponder the enormity of the hand she had been dealt. But one day, a week or two later, we were sitting at the kitchen table and I was the one who cracked first.

"You know," I said, "You really can't do this to me."

Joan laughed and she cried and she recited the first words of a song.

I laughed and I cried and I recited the next few words.

Here are Shira and Laurie to perform it for you now.