The Memorial Service for Didi April 30, 1978
My remarks during the Service for Didi on April 30 - which follow - were composed only in outline, on short notice,
and rather informally delivered; all this must be noted.
A life of over 95 years, a vivid and complex personality, can in no way be adequately recalled in such brief remarks.
In retrospect there are many other things I would have liked to have said, many other things which could and should
have been said, many important observations which would have been appropriate. Walter, Martin and Mother
especially added, however briefly, essential elements to whatever was said by me,
In the context of what has been said above the transcript of this very private and largely spontaneous service may be
Ella Pauline Herxheimer Bruell
Born - November 6, 1882, in London
Died - April 28, 1978, in New Rochelle
It is difficult to know where to begin because one has so very many memories of Didi. My own very first earliest
memories of life go back to the summer of l949. My parents, Walter, Liska went West and Christopher and I spent
the summer with Didi. That summer remains in my memory a very wonderful summer. One of the highlights of my
life at that point, I was five years old, was when Didi would every day read a chapter from Dr. Doolittle, She had a
wonderful way of reading those chapters.
There were of course many other memories of the days off. We have a very wonderful mother but I think every
Thursday morning we were rather pleased to see her go because that would be a special day. The whole day with
Didi. She would plan some special circumstances, cooking or some other thing. That was always a very important day
for us...Thursday, the day off.
We went on these many trips Didi was always there to welcome us home, And when we one by one finally left home,
Didi was always there again when we came home.
And when we were away there were always the wonderful letters from Didi, filled with clippings and gossip and all
kinds of other news from home, Always one of the highlights of the vacation, wherever we were staying, the letters
from home were something we looked forward to.
Didi was always there for us. She was always there to talk to, to reminisce with, to advise, to criticize - and she could
criticize us, believe me - but finally always to praise us. She was always there. She was there for me as a child, she
was there as I grew up, she was there all through the years and she was still there for Jeanne this Fall. Jeanne was
living as you know in New Rochelle, as a student. She would have frustrating days, she would have exciting days. She
would come home and Didi would be there to talk to and tell about it. So Didi, I think, has always been there for us.
Didi's life, of course, as we all know, was a very long life. She was born in 1882 and for the younger members of the
family that is a very distant time. A time without telephones, without radio, without television, without cars, without
planes. It seems very, very distant and yet she was a link to that time. She made that time terribly real for us with her
extremely vivid memories of that time. And that time in history will always be for me, and I'm sure for many of the
others here, will always be associated with her.
She had, as we know from her, a very wonderful Victorian child-hood. She grew up in the London of Sherlock
Holmes. She brought this back to us, made this extremely real for us. She was in another way, I think, also a link to
the past. When she was born in 1882 both her grandfathers, Rabbi Solomon Herxheimer and her other grandfather
Isaac Jaffe, were still living. Both old gentle-men, very old gentlemen. And these men had been born in the first
decade of the 19th century. Very much in the traditional society, very much in the past. A society that is really long
lost to us. And she was a link to that very distant past. The preâ€”industrial period, really. When these men were born,
before Lincoln was born and shortly after Washington died, she recalled as a six year old child, visiting her grandfather
Isaac Jaffe, who was very old and he was bedridden. And she remembered this very dignified old gentleman in bed.
And he died not too long after that. She had a vivid memory of him, somebody who was linked to the early part of the
19th century. Her great-grandchildren Gary & David will certainly remember visiting a very old lady. Visiting her and
have memories of her all their lives. And her great-grandchildren, some of them will certainly live into the second half
of the twentieth century. It will be a very different time. It will be as remote from today as the early 19th century is for
And so Didi, you see, is the link, the link between that very remote past and that distant future that her great-
grandchildren Gary, David, Ellen, Natasha, Jon and the newly awaited great-grandchildren will know. She is a link.
Her life then was a very long life and it was not always an easy life. Her early years were very happy but she lost her
father whom she dearly loved when she was quite young, a teenager. There was an unhappy marriage. There was the
loss of her brother who she was very much attached to, a tragic accident, the Empress of Ireland. There was World
War I, There were these tumultuous years of the Weimar Republic, the terrible years before World War II, the war
itself, and then the long years in New Rochelle. And growing old
But, and that's a very big but, there were many wonderful things in her life. Mom, who was a terribly important part
of her life for seventy years. And although she would often, to her face often perhaps criticize Mom, and they would
have their differences, she had immense pride, a very justifiable pride, in her daughter. She always complained about
people bragging. The last time Walter and I visited her she complained "Walter, your bragging about something"�. But
she always bragged about her daughter. That was the one thing she bragged about and with good justification.
And then of course, the growing family. Five grandchildren who became terribly attached to her. And great-
grandchildren, and grandchildren- in-law, all of whom she became very attached to.
Her piano. She must have played in a wonderful way. I visited an old friend of hers in Scotland who used to sing and
Didi would play the piano. They had wonderful recitals.
Her language lessons. Into her nineties she taught language. Nina's granddaughters were among her last students, Her
first students must be very old people if they have survived. I think they were a source of great gratification to her and
I think she was of course a very effective teacher.
There were wonderful friends. And some of them, one can be very happy, are here. Some of her dearest friends,
Bridie, Nina, Dr. Lipman. All her life she had wonderful relations with certain people.
There were trips. She was past ninety when she made her last trip to Alaska which was certainly quite striking.
So her life then was not in every way an easy life but there were man wonderful things in that life. Many things that
Now she has passed away. And she has passed away in the Spring. Of course the Spring is a time of renewal. The
magnolias, which she, as Mom reminded me, enjoyed so much are seen blooming outside her window. They are in
full bloom today. And we have brought some down today. And so it is Spring. It is a time of renewal and reaffirmation
of life. For our family, of course, that is especially vivid because we have had a great deal of renewal of life. New life
in January, Natasha. Earlier this very month another great-grandson in Vancouver. And in June an event that she was
very much aware of, very conscious of and she spoke of the last time I saw her, The new arrival expected in two
months. This juxtaposition, so to say, of old life gone and new life beginning, I think is very appropriate. The season is
very appropriate. I think she would have enjoyed the beautiful day and that is very appropriate too.
As a person Didi felt things terribly intensely, I think. She experienced it seems to me, much of life in extremes. And
when Didi was sad she was very sad. And when she was mad she was very mad. And when she was unreasonable she
could be very unreasonable. This was all a part of her. But when she was happy she could be immensely happy. She
had a warm, wonderful smile. And when she was kind and generous she could be the kindest, most generous person in
the world. And she could be extremely understanding and she could be very wise.
And so altogether I think she was a very singular personality. I know that every person in this room certainly feels
that. And not only was she a very singular personality, she was very human. The whole range of human emotions was
somehow very pronounced in her. The highs of human existence and the lows. This was all very, very pronounced.
She lived life in that sense, very intensely.
She was not by conventional standards what you would call a religious person, but she was a highly principled person.
Very much so. And she had enduring values. Some of these values would be represented by the German quotations
she loved to remind us of. And she was also capable, as Jeanne reminded me so correctly, so rightly, of growing. She
had the enduring values of a very distant time and a very distant childhood. Some things that were happening in the
modern world were somewhat difficult for her to under-stand. But she did try to understand and she did adjust to
them, And she grew in that sense, She was capable of this kind of growth, growth with a changing world. So life for
her was not always an easy proposition. There were difficult external events which I have already mentioned and there
were difficulties of internal mood. She was an unusually proud person. She was a very private person. And that's one
reason why we have this very intimate gathering, This is of course the way she would have wanted it. Nothing more
than this. She was an extremely independent person and she was also a person with immense dignity. She perhaps had
some of these qualities (I particularly think of pride, with reference to her last years) in greater amount than was good
for her. They made life somewhat difficult for her. But she endured and she persevered and she rose again and again,
to the very last time I saw her, above difficult circumstances. To be able to smile, to enjoy life. Again and again she
came back and she endured.
She lived then to a very old age. She had no ambition to achieve that old age. I recall her quoting DeGaulle to the
effect that old age was a shipwreck and she somehow felt that way. She once said of an aunt of my father' who lived
on finally to her ninety-seventh year, "God has forgotten her"�, Well God, she may have sometimes felt, had
forgotten her too. But He has now very much remembered her. She had no ambition to live to this very old age but
she lived to it with great dignity finally. And she and also we have a great deal to be grateful for. She lived to this age
at home, surrounded by dear friends who came and saw her and she had a merciful end. That I think was terribly
important. The end, when it came, came in a merciful way. And so I think that she helped us and has helped us to
understand life. To understand about life, about courage, about values. To the very end of her life she had so much to
give. And she never gave up. She gave up certain things in life, toward the end, mainly by force of circumstances,
things which were difficult to give up. But to the end she was very much in touch with life. The very last time I saw
her on Sunday, she spoke about Natasha, she spoke about the baby in Vancouver, she spoke about the baby that is
expected in June. She spoke about Liska and Christopher coming this summer for a visit, And she spoke about finding
something for me that she had mis-placed, And I think that is a positive thing. She was very much in touch with life,
And so her last years were undeniably difficult. They were difficult for her and they were sometimes difficult for us to
witness, to see. But there was great value in them, She had much to give. I have to think of Sarka and Jeanne who
only really knew Didi in these very last years. Some of you of course have known Didi, Mom for seventy years,
others forty years, thirty years.,, but even Jeanne and Sarka who only knew Didi in these last few years, for them Didi
was anything but a shell of a person. She remained to the end a very vivid personality, She was someone who could
convey so much to them and with whom it was still possible, in the tenth decade of her life, to form a meaningful and
So in the end we are fortunate, In the end I think one can say she was fortunate too. It was a life that was lived very
intensely and now it has come to a merciful end. And we can rejoice for that. In that sense this is a happy occasion.
She will of course go on living. She will go on living because she has left a large and rapidly growing number of
descendants. Those descendants who remember her, will all their lives have the most vivid memories of her. Her
influence goes on through mother, through her grand children, the others to whom she was exposed, her friends. Many
others will have memories of her. In that sense she will go on living.
One of the last visits Mother had with her, as she told us the other day at dinner...a nurse in her presence said â
€œHow old is your mother? (to Mother) and she said, Ninety-five. And the nurse said something to the effect of - I
suppose she wants to go on living to a hundred and she, Didi, heard this and she said, â€œNot a hundred, three
hundred. And this was very typical of her. This, as Mom recognized, was a terribly typical remark. All the elements of
her personality were really encompassed in that remark. And I think she will go on living three hundred years. The
Memory of her, the recollection of her as it is passed down through the generations for hundreds of years. May she
rest in peace.
I don't quite trust myself to say too much but of course for the five of us Didi was terribly, terribly important.
Unfortunately two of them are not here but I spoke to them last night and their presence is very much here too in our
thoughts. I know they would like to be here and in a way they are here.
I think Martin would like to say a few words and then maybe we can just sit a few moments and just have our
thoughts of Didi. I would say also that I think David spoke very much the way we all felt and the way we think.
I can only say that Didi has been in essence really a second mother. We always felt we had almost tree parents, a
wonderful father, a wonderful mother and a wonderful grandmother who really substituted as... kind of an advantage
over other kids. We had three people who we could kind of look up to and consider and could come to for guidance
and in a way we still can come to Didi for guidance because she has given us so much that we can still kind of follow
the types of things, of principles that she has given to us and given to both our parents. And the nice thing is that we all
appreciated her and that we did both understand that. And she wasn't unappreciated.
I would like to say one thing that is very very important for me. I was able to give my mother more time than most
daughters in a lifetime can give to her. That I could give it to her because I had and have a husband who so fully
understood that it was very, very important for me. They saw each other not too much and that's I think what made it
possible that for forty years she lived with us and was enjoyed in a way that her three grandsons here couldn't have
expressed more beautifully. And I know that Liska and Christopher and Dick and Rhoda would feel exactly the same
way but all this was only possible because Frieder (Dad for the children) had such wonderful, wonderful under-
standing Without his support, also sometimes in very difficult moments I could no have done for Didi, for Mother,
what I did. I think this is what I feel I have to say.
And I have to thank all of you who are here who were very much a part of her. Especially the three boys who talked
just so beautifully.