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Sunrise... Sunset
By Lori Ada Jaroslow

At 10.30 p.m., Sam and I went into the bedroom to give Dad his morphine. "Oh, my God, Mom," Sam called loudly, "It's happening, come on Mom, it's happening right now, Grandpa's going. Come quick. Grandpa's going now, Mommy, right now." Everyone ran into the bedroom and surrounded my father. Risa wailed, "Daddy, Daddy."

"Jerry, Jerry," Alma cried out. He took two very deep breaths, stuck out his jaw and clenched it twice. An excruciating, deafening silence ensued. Suddenly, a stream of red liquid shot out of Dad's mouth. Alma said knowingly, "That's the bile." When I wiped the red liquid off my father's mouth, I realized it was the cherry applesauce she insisted on giving him the day before. Finally Alma said, "Close his mouth, Lor," and I did. Then I read a prayer aloud beginning with…

"Dear God, Please take the soul and spirit of Jerry Jaroslow into the sweetest corner of your mind, the most tender place in your heart… "

We rubbed Dad's skin, talked and held each other. We fell apart like a tag team; one person on the floor sobbing hysterically at a time, the others comforting that person. An hour and a half later, it seemed like it was time to call the people who would escort Dad to the funeral home. My niece Mara took over, as the rest of us were too undone. Risa gave her the number and she dialed.

"Hi, I'm calling to ask if you could come get my Grandpa. 135 West 96th between Amsterdam and Columbus. North side. Half an hour? Great, thanks." She hung up.

Risa bawled, "No wait, I don't want him to go. Mara, call them back and see if we can have more time with him."

"Okay, Mom." She dialed again. "Hello? Yes, I'd like to cancel an order, please. 135 W. 96th St. Somebody else died after grandpa? I see, so it's either fifteen minutes or they have to go to Brooklyn first and it could be an hour and a half. Uh… go to Brooklyn, we'll wait. Thank you."

Sam was exhausted. "I'm going take a nap," he said. Mom, please, when they come to get Grandpa, wake me, okay? I'll never forgive you, please; I want to be with you guys when they take him, okay?" We covered Sam with a blanket and he was asleep on the living room floor instantly.

The people arrived. Mara buzzed them up and opened the door. Two thugs in suits, straight out of Goodfellas, stood in the hall. "Good evening, ma'am. RESIDENCE REMOVAL!" said one, kind of upbeat and casual, like he was delivering Szechwan from Hunan Balcony. "Is dat da body over there?" he went on, as he walked toward my sleeping nephew. "No, this way," Mara redirected them. Risa felt it would not be good for Sam to see his Grandpa being taken away, so she didn't wake him. The rest of us crumpled and hid in the living room while Mara guided them. They took him out on something that looked like a cross between a stretcher and a dentist's chair. We went down in the other elevator just in time to see them pulling away in a dirty, old, banged up yellow station wagon. It was among the saddest moments of my life. I expected a shiny black hearse like in the movies. My Sis promised me there would be one for the funeral. As I turned to go back into the apartment, there was one of Dad's Depends on the curb on 96th Street. It was two a.m.

The following night, Alma's boyfriend, Anthony, stopped by after working a twelve-hour janitor shift, to shine the shoes Dad would be buried in. I was sitting on my father's bed deciding what to sing at the service. I was going over "Sunrise Sunset," when Alma ran into the bedroom galvanized, "Lor, that's the song. You got to sing that. You got to sing that," she repeated. She was jumping like she had seen the Lord in the living room. "You sing it so beautiful in your voice, and it's like sunrise…you born, and sunset… you dead."

"I hadn't quite thought of it that way, Alma, but you're right. Do you know that Daddy sang this song in a musical he starred in on Broadway called Fiddler on the Roof? Daddy's sister Ruth was also in the show, and so was I.

"You are shitting me," she screamed, and the decision was made.

On May 20th, 2001, hundreds of people came from all over to honor my father. He would have been thrilled; he had a full house. Friends and family greeted us in a green room. Mom was already there when I arrived. "Mommy, are you doing okay?" I hugged her.

"You're gonna put your hair up, aren't you?" she asked. After thirty years of therapy, I left it down. "And don't forget to pull the mike away from your mouth when you sing… otherwise you're too loud."

Before the service, Abby, Risa and I went into the chapel to see Pop. He looked peaceful and dapper. Risa was relieved. She begged them not to touch his Einsteinian eyebrows, and they hadn't. The service was beautiful, moving, funny, and sad. Here's how it went.

Funeral Setlist

1) Klezmer music (a gorgeous haunting lament) Steve Elson on clarinet, Art Baron on trombone
2) Me, singing… "Every Time We Say Goodbye" by Cole Porter, Jimmy Roberts on piano
3) Rabbi Koster… Eulogy
4) David Tobis (Risa's David) eulogy
5) Risa, Abby and me… eulogies
6) David Robinson (Abby's David) The Intention, poem and eulogy
7) Jimmy Roberts (hilarious eulogy, including imitations of Dad)
8) Me, singing … "Sunrise Sunset"
9) Jerry and Hazel Tobis (Risa's in-laws) letter
10) Rabbi Koster's closing speech.

We walked in a procession ushering my father's body to the shiny black hearse. We were cloaked in warm, crying kisses, when a woman with blonde, cotton candy hair came over to me and shrieked, "UGH when you sang 'seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers'… I LOST IT, you have GOT to sing that at my funeral, I'm putting it in my will."

In the days that followed, I stared and slept in Dad's stark apartment. I fielded calls, everything from the mailman wanting to know his forwarding address, to Omaha Steaks wanting to know why he cancelled his steak subscription. One warm night I wandered downtown to the half price theatre ticket booth. There were hundreds of people in line. It was five to eight. I got on the end of the line, though I was certain it was too late and crowded to get a ticket. Out of absolutely nowhere, a TKTS guy walked right up to me, and asked me what show I wanted to see.

"Bells are Ringing," I said. "Why?"

He took me straight to the ticket window, past hundreds of anxious tourists and theatregoers, and got me an orchestra seat.

"Why are you doing this?" I asked.

"No reason, ma'am," he answered plainly. "I just do it sometimes."

And I knew Dad was floating above me in midtown.

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