Fagel was one of Eric’s mother’s three sisters. Because I know you’re probably wondering, Fagel is Yiddish for Frances, the name that was on her birth certificate. But everyone who knew her called her Fagel.
Among the sheets of paper I found last Thursday were two pieces of small note paper, still held together tenuously at the top by a thin line of what must have been the pad’s red glue.
Eric’s notes: Fagel — Brief History
- Always thought of others before herself
- Always made you feel better about yourself
- Felt loved, valued, better — now there is one less person to love me, to love each of us. But there are many who have loved and will continue to love Fagel.
- I have learned a lot from Fagel and later in my life my appreciation for her continued to grow.
- Her wisdom, love, devotion to family and Judaism, all that Grace and I and our children have learned from her will endure.
Fagel died on October 7, 2004. I spoke at the unveiling, about a year later, of her tombstone, reading the poem below.
No one lives here anymore. Her scent
has settled into the stillness, pilled sweaters
piled on boxes, floral dresses hanging
in the closet with a broken door,
metal hangers snarled in the back. In a bureau
drawer, among socks and ped stockings
I find three small, square mirrors, $20 bills
tucked beside them in protective rubber sleeves.
So many plastic rain bonnets. The books
have cracked spines; on the desk, a stack
of Rosh Hashana cards and pages from an old
address book. The improbable fitness center
tee-shirt with muscular arms flexed
on the front, I keep for myself,
the cotton worn soft and thin; it smells
of her, her empty rooms, even after washing.