Five black dresses hung in my dressing room; two were too small, one made me look like a hussie, one had a curious stain on it and the other one was perfect for emulating the body of a pregnant woman. I went with the dress that made me look like a hussie. Exactly one day and a handful of hours later, I was tugging at that dress in front of 30 people I didn’t know, three people I knew, and a casket.
I have preformed on many stages, in front of many crowds and discussed many subjects. I have written speeches, jokes, cards, scripts, letters, poems and condom copy. Never, in my twenty four years, have I ever had to do anything as difficult as writing a eulogy for my best friend’s father. I’d like to write a touching and witty post about it, but I have no words for the difficulty of this weekend.
I am posting the speech below (with a shitty self-made video), please listen and maybe apply Jay’s Rules to one or two things you do this year. Also, please keep my best friend and her family in your thoughts. Thanks, guys.
June 17 or Father’s Day:
I also posted the speech below because I end up blubbering like baby halfway through and it may be hard to understand. Please excuse the typos, I wrote it at 4 AM before the funeral and wasn’t expecting to post it here.
Whenever I think of Jay, two words come to mind: Short and Sweet. Unfortunately, this Eulogy is not short, but I promise you it is sweet. Let’s buckle up, shall we?
For those of you who do not know me: Hi, I am Marina, a friend of Jay’s daughter. For those of you who do know me: Hi, I am Marina a friend of Jay’s daughter. More importantly, I am a stand up comedian, but why is this last part important?
Because, what better way for Jay to play a final trick on you, to skip tradition, to say one last “F-you” to the system, than to have a comic read his Eulogy?
When asking for advice on how to tackle this impossible task, a novelist told me, “I’d argue that the best memorial services and funerals really take place after official ceremonies, when everyone goes out drinking, telling stories about the person who died.” Even though he is only a children’s book novelist I decided to take his advice.
So, let’s pretend we aren’t here right now. Let’s pretend we aren’t wearing too much black. Let’s pretend we’re clutching drinks instead of tissues and share some stories:
Jay had a few rules to life. I’d like to think if he had the chance to speak today, he’d choose his rules as a way to impart. Instead, I will share the ones I have gathered from friends and family.
Jay’s Rule # 1: Never throw anything away, ever. You may need it sometimes.
For those of you who have ever seen the inside of Jay’s apartment or pockets, this rule will make sense to you. For those of you who haven’t seen Jay’s apartment; watch an episode of Hoarders and it will make more sense.
To the rest of the world, Jay was surrounded by nonsensical objects and items – to Jay, he owned physical memories, keepsakes, pieces of past lives and people.
Although we may not have the space or patience to collect objects the way he did, we can apply this to memories and people. Next time you want to throw away person or to forget a memory, think about how it may help you in the future to be stronger, smarter and better than you are today. Store it in your head, next to the Foghorn Leghorn photos and above the Rolling Stones CDs, and take it out only when you need.
Jay’s Rule # 2: Never admit you don’t know. If you have to, make it up.
One of my favorite stories was shared by Rebecca and her Mom. It was about a family vacation where Jay decided to take the lead during a mini-excursion. They went to check out the U.S. Capital. Jay, Rebecca and Cheryl drove by and admired its beauty. Then, they looped around again. There was something Jay had to show Rebecca. Then,
they looped around again. Then again and again, and again and again. You get it. Rebecca and Cheryl were laughing so hard, recalling Jay’s determination to show what he wanted to show. Finally, curiosity got the better of me and I asked, “What was it?!”
Rebecca turned to her Mom and there was a short pause before giving me the answer, “You know, I don’t know…” she said.
The mere fact that Jay was able to get his wife and young child to literally drive around in circles was incredible, the fact that neither of them remembered what “it” was, is symbolic.
Sometimes you don’t know the answer, but the answer is not necessarily the important part. I want to say it was the journey that’s most important, but I know Jay would tease me for using a cop-out cliché in his eulogy so let’s move on to Jay’s Rule # 3.
Jay’s Rule # 3: NEVER put mayo on a corned beef sandwich and NEVER put ketchup on a hotdog.
Jay’s Rule # 4: Just Adjust
In 1998 my family moved to the North Suburbs of Chicago. As Russian immigrants they found it difficult to understand the neighborhoods affinity for overpriced coffee and understated snobbery. After three years of sticking with other Russian families, the first American family opened their doors and hearts to my parents. Jay was not only the first person to get to know my parents but also the first to invite them to dinner.
Although Jay’s humor was difficult for my parents keep up with, he figured out a way to communicate with them in our native tongue. When Olga and Vladimir arrived at the house, an ice cold bottle of vodka was waiting for them. It was love at first Nazdarovye.
Jay’s Rule # 5: If it’s inappropriate or obscene, it’s funny.
This rule is an important explanation for the next rule.
Jay’s Rule # 6: If you fart in public, ask: “Who stepped on a duck?”
Not only is this brilliant advice, but it sums up my last few days. I have 14 pages of notes stuffed into the bottom of my purse, all about Jay. After following around his family, friends and Rebecca I have heard so many wonderful and unbelievable stories. I have had the chance to listen, but more importantly the chance to watch.
Let me tell you, when people get into the meat of it, and I mean the really good memories. Their eyes flicker. I watched as his family excitedly interrupted each other, stumbled over punchlines trying to remember the exact wording to get the essence of Jay right. You can physically see the love and happiness Jay brought to any room and story he entered. You can’t really tell a story about Jay with out laughing at his antics and crazy view on the world, but I dont think he’d want it any other way.
The final rule I will share with you is:
Jay’s Rule # 7: Time Wounds All Heals.
The ending is the hardest part. When Jay decided that he had bigger and better things to do than hang around in this world, it was shocking and devastating. The Grodner family has had a particular rough month and no one was ready for this, you never are.
There are a million things I wish Jay were still here for; number one on that list is Rebecca. I cannot do justice to the incredible person Rebecca is and is becoming, but take my word for it: she’s is kicking ass in New York City.
After hearing these stories and realizing how much of Jay’s humor, quirks and genes have shaped Rebecca into the incredibly smart, driven and compassionate person she is today, it shows more than ever how important Jay’s life was and how his legacy still lives on in the people he has shaped and left behind. Jay is not with us any more, but his family and the people he loved still are.
Rebecca, friends and family, in the upcoming weeks, months and years, you may not know how to move forward. Don’t admit you don’t know. If you have to, make it up. You may struggle with the fact you can’t call Jay to see how he’s doing. Just Adjust. When you do regain your appetite, NEVER put mayo on a corned beef sandwich and NEVER put ketchup on a hotdog. If you do make one of these mistakes and end up farting in public, it’s okay, just ask: Who stepped on a duck? One day things will get better and you’ll start to cry less, but don’t feel guilty because if it’s inappropriate or obscene it’s funny and sometimes these very things distract us from the sadness. You may want to forget erase today, but even though days like this are difficult you should never throw anything away, ever. You may need it sometimes. It’s still raw, and it still hurts eventually things will get better still, time wounds all heals so be alert and ready with the strength you’ve gained.
Jay was a rebel and an attorney. Crazy, but a genius. He was an intellectual and comedian. Father and friend. Jay wore many hats, and lead an incredibly complicated life but all of these shared stories, memories and people here today make one thing is very clear: Jay is loved. How could you not love a man whose main objective was to make you happy?
If he had to tell a stupid joke to make you laugh, then so be it. Who cares about the timing? As long as you were distracted from what was on your mind in the first place, he was successful.
What more is life really, than a series of distractions until the next big thing? This is a very big thing, but isn’t a great distraction from the pain a little bit of laughter? I know Jay would think so.