Today, the 27th day of the month of Tishri marks the 15th Yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of my grandmother, Evelyn Rutta ז"ל. I was fortunate to have eight years of my life with her and therefore have more than just videotapes to remember her by; I have a pretty lucid memory. I don’t know so much about her past, and do not recall whether she was born in Poland or here, but she was always an enigma. She was a tough lady, but she was was the coolest grandmother. I can remember early in my life when she rode a motorcycle (followed later by an ugly turquoise Chevy, If memory serves me). She also was a great cook. She not only baked, as my Zayde did, but she was an excellent cook. I got to spend a lot of time with her, according to my memory anyway, as my parents dropped me off at her apartment quite often. I knew all her neighbors and a captioned picture frame which contains my photograph in it says it all in two words “Grammy’s Nachas”.
Her vice was that she was a smoker (like my Zayde z”l and my Aunt Susan z”l). Even at that young age I was critical of her smoking. After what I assume was her first stroke in either 1989 or 1990, I told her that she needed to stop smoking, which she finally did. (I even drew a No Smoking sign which she displayed prominently on her wall.) However, smoking caused her death at an early age, just like it did to my Zayde and my Aunt. My lessons learned from this are that although you can have thrilling fun in your life (ie: the motorcycle), I decided then and there that I would never smoke. I never have and, God help me, I never will.
How appropriate that when she died at 2 AM on October 5, 1991, a Shabbat Morning, the Torah portion was Bereishit, the first of the Torah? Her name was Chaye Bat Chayim (spelled חיי בת חיים according to the plaque at my synagogue.), “Life, daughter of Life”. My brother, Josh, whose Hebrew name happens to be חיים (Chayim, “Life”), named after my Grammy’s father, had this as his Bar Mitzvah portion 7 years later. One of the prominent characters of this very first Torah portion is Chava (חוה) (Eve), which also is a feminine form of “Life” as she was “the mother of all life”. Though her mortality was struck in this parasha, she is recorded in the annals of time and history. My Grammy, whether through her numerous recipes still used by people on all sides of my family, or through her quitting smoking cold-turkey after having been addicted to cigarettes her entire life (and therefore, by extension, giving the lesson that if you put your mind to something, you can accomplish anything), or through her Yiddishkeit and the love of Judaism she passed on to me and to all around her, her legacy will endure forever.
אנא תהי נפשה צרורה בצרור החיים, את זקנתי מורתי חיי בת חיים, שהלכה לעולמה, בגן עדן תהי מנוחתה, ונאמר אמן