Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tribute to Taylor

Today is my dear friend Taylor's birthday. She would have been 59 today. I dedicate this blogspot to her.
To Taylor, on your birthday, with love and gratitude.

The following are the eulogies I delivered, one at her funeral, and one at her memorial service. Taylor battled chemotherapy, and told me towards the end of her battle that she had "2 days in the past year and a half when she felt OK, not great, not even good, but just 'OK'". The rest of the time she "felt like shit".


"Known and Little-known Facts about Janet Boylan Taylor Rizzolo by her Former Roommate"
In the fall of 1975, Janet Taylor came up to me at the Wine Cellar and said, “I hear you’re looking for a roommate, do you want to move in together.” I had not met Taylor until that very moment, but nevertheless said OK. When I told my brother Jack that I was moving in with Taylor, he said, “Uh, I don’t think that’s a very good idea.” Although Jack was friends with Taylor, I was his little sister, and Taylor was, well, way too cool for his little sister. Despite Jack’s advice, I moved in with Taylor, and my life changed. He did check up frequently, and found that everything was cool. Taylor loved to have a lot of people around, all the time, all hours of the day & night, but not too early in the morning. The hours between 4am & noon were hers, and it was never a good idea to disturb her then. She made a mean Cobb Salad. I had never heard of Cobb Salad before, but it was mean, and it was good on a hot summer evening. She loved to make her chili, and she loved to make everyone eat it. And I did, although I picked out the beans & she said that was the best part. She loved Bonnie Raitt before anyone else even heard of Bonnie Raitt. She loved all her friends and talked about them constantly. Janet loved her family. She was a wonderful mother to Jason and Matt, a great aunt, and a great “2nd Mom” to Matt’s friends. She loved to drive and really was a great driver. She borrowed my Chrysler Newport once and had an accident while stopping to pick up a hitchhiker. Ironically, I had to hitch to work later that night. She was a great Scrabble player & called me on flipping over a letter to turn it into a blank. She was also a great chess player and beat me many times, the first time to my great surprise. Taylor also loved to garden, and planted a little plot of land, growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, in exchange for keeping the books for the property owner. When Taylor met Stan while working at the Scranton Mental Health Center, his life changed. And so did hers. She loved her life with Stan. We skied. I taught her how, and she excelled. We played tennis, she kicked my butt. We golfed, she kicked my butt. She loved to turn people onto golf, loved running the annual tournament at her club, and she loved winning trophies. I attributed her excellence in sports to an uncanny eye-hand coordination resulting from the childhood fishing accident she recounted which ended with a fish hook in her eye, months of recuperation and near loss of eyesight, and the childhood nickname of “hook-eye”. Hook-eye was just one of many nicknames, “Little General”, “Dorothy Lollier”, “Tricon” (her alias when ordering a late night Texas Weiner), and always, of course, Taylor. Taylor loved Tony Hardings Texas Weiners & Green Ridge pizza. By her own admission, Taylor was a great dancer & a great painter. She did a great impersonation of Howard Cosell. She loved nothing more than to run the show, to be in charge, and she was great at it. She also loved to turn everybody onto something, commanding “Taste this—this is the best sauce in the whole world”. She loved concerts. We once saw The Who in the City & she & Gene left before the encore because Gene said The Who never plays encores. So they froze outside while we rocked on inside & Taylor never let Gene forget that. The most important thing to Taylor was kindness to others, and I learned this early on in our friendship. She was the only person I know who, when in the City, not only would not curse & spit at the squeegee guys, but who actually tipped them, saying “they have to make a living too”. She once told me a story about a woman who sat next to her on a plane, and the woman had such a sad story that Taylor gave her some money. I said, Taylor, that’s the oldest scam in the book, and she said “No, I really don’t think so”. Taylor was never the same after her mother & Jason, there was always a deep sadness. The only thing in life that kept her holding on was the fact that Matthew was going to be born. She endured the terrible constant itching & the life inside her sustained her until she finally announced “he’s out”. Matthew was true to the meaning of his name, “gift from God”. She loved this child. She was very proud of Matt, especially when he became an umpire. When she became ill, she only wanted to see him go to his prom. She fretted about him being kind to other people, much the same way she did with me. She came to visit and insisted that I drive her new car. My first question, of course living in NY, was “where’s the horn”. She said “You don’t need to know that, why would you want to beep the horn at anyone.” So I think as I reflect back on over 30 years, that the most important thing that Taylor wanted to teach us, her family, her husband, her son, her friends, is to be kind. That is all that ever mattered to her. We all have stories of Janet’s kindness to others, to strangers. Within that act of pure kindness is a lesson to us. She was teaching us, showing us how to be kind. And she expects that her lessons won’t be lost on us.
Taylor was a great communicator. She loved to talk, preferably in person and preferably in the pre-dawn hours, and as her family and friends got older & found it more difficult to stay awake with her, she referred to the last person standing as her “victim”. And if you’ve ever been her victim, you know that you had a long, very long, meaningful, sometimes not, conversation which you paid for dearly the next day. She also loved to talk on the phone, and thus the word ‘telephonitis’. A phone call would last at least an hour. She loved to laugh, had a great wit, and loved life. During her illness she was more concerned about Bridgie than about herself. And she was very appreciative of Patty’s caring for her, lovingly referring to her as the “warden”. And that was Taylor. To borrow her phrase, “I know this is really corny, but I mean it”…Our world is a better place because she was here; our lives are richer because she chose us. She was tough, brave, cool & had a great heart and a great capacity to love and forgive. One last thing—Taylor’s trademark expression was “that’s cool” & that was way before today’s expression of “cool”. Taylor was the trendsetter, she was the “little general”, she was a wonderful friend to us all. She was cool, but most of all, she was kind. She is happy now with her mother and Jason and many relatives, having a big family reunion, and with friends Jack and Kevin.
In the words of Springsteen,
“May your strength give us strength,
may your faith give us faith,
may your hope give us hope,
may your love give us love.”
Rock on Taylor. We love you. Peace.

Eulogy
2/20/2006
Scranton, PA

Life with Janet Teighlor Rizzolo
The one common thread that unites everyone here in this room is the love that Janet Teighlor Rizzolo had for all of us, and the love we all have for her. She saw something in each one of us, and she made each one of us feel very special and very loved. Teighlor thrived on always having a lot of people around, all the time, all hours of the day & night, but not too early in the morning. She loved all her friends. She loved her family deeply. She was a wonderful mother to Jason and Matt, a great aunt, and a great “2nd Mom” to Matt’s friends. She loved her life with Stan. She was tremendously proud of Matt. She loved to ski. She loved to golf, but she really loved to turn people onto golf, loved running the annual Ladies’ Invitational tournament here at her club, and she loved winning trophies. The most important thing to Teighlor was kindness to others, and we all learned this early on in our relationships with Teighlor. As I reflect back on life with Teighlor, I realize that the most important thing that she wanted to teach us, her family, her husband, her son, her friends, is to be kind. That is all that ever mattered to her. We all have stories of Janet’s kindness to others, to strangers. Within that act of pure kindness is a lesson to us. She was teaching us, showing us how to be kind. And she expects that her lessons won’t be lost on us.
Teighlor was a great communicator. She loved to talk, preferably in person, but she also loved to talk on the phone--a phone call would last at least an hour. She also loved to send chain letter emails, which I would normally delete, but I always saved hers. Here is one of them:
I wish you enough…
> >
> >Recently, I overheard a father & daughter saying their good byes at
> >the airport. They had announced her plane's departure and standing
> >near the security gate, they hugged and he said, "I love you. I wish you
> >enough."
> >
> >She said, "Daddy, I wish you enough, too." They kissed and she left
> >to board her plane. He walked over toward the window where I was
> >seated.
> >
> >"When you were saying good bye I heard you say 'I wish you enough'."
> >"May I ask what that means???" He began to smile. "That's a wish
> >that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to
> >say it to everyone."
> >
> >He paused for a moment, and looking up as if trying to remember it
> >in detail, he smiled even more. "When we said 'I wish you enough',
> >we wanted the other person to have a life filled with enough good
> >things to sustain them," he continued and then turning toward me, he
> >shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory:
> >
> >"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you
> >enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness
> >to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the
> >smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to
> >satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
> >I wish you enough "Hello's" to get you through the final "Good bye".
> >He then walked away.
> >
> >My friends and loved ones, I wish you enough!
> >
> >"I wish for you..."
> >
> >Comfort on difficult days, Smiles when sadness intrudes, Rainbows to
> >follow the clouds, Laughter to kiss your lips, Sunsets to warm your
> >heart, Gentle hugs when spirits sag, Friendships to brighten your
> >being, Beauty for your eyes to see, Confidence for when you doubt,
> >Faith so that you can believe, Courage to know yourself, Patience to
> >accept the truth, And love to complete your life.
> >
> >I WISH YOU ENOUGH!!!
> >
> >
Teighlor had so much love in her life, that her life was complete. We who are left behind feel that her life was completed way too soon. We are hurting because we all love her and miss her so much. She loved to laugh, had a great wit, and loved life. Her life was devoted to making people smile and laugh. She would not want us to be sad. We are here to celebrate her life, and in that celebration, her spirit lives on through our memories of her. One of the songs at Teighlor’s funeral was Bridge over Troubled Water, which is really the perfect song for her.
"When you're weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I will dry them all
I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooh)
I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind".

When we think of Teighlor, think of her life, not her death, and don’t feel sad, feel happy that we had such a special spirit here with us to love and who loved us. Think of Teighlor and do what she would do: talk to a stranger, call a friend, make someone smile or laugh, recognize opportunities to be kind to someone and then, dammit, be kind to someone. In this way, Teighlor will live on.
To use her phrase, “I know this is really corny, but I mean it”…Our world is a better place because she was here; our lives are richer because she chose us. She was tough, brave, fun & had a great heart and a great capacity to love and forgive. She was a wonderful friend to us all.
But most of all, she was kind.

March, 2006
Memorial Service
Bridgewater, NJ

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