so it is and so it goes

Over the last 25+ years, I’ve been introduced as “the Bagliebter’s nanny” and then “Jamie and Michelle’s babysitter” and then “their person” and then “she was a nanny but now she’s a friend” and then “just Erin, it’s hard to explain” – when, frankly, there were times when I should have been “the Bagliebter’s ex-nanny” because of some of my shenanigans. I would have fired myself if I hadn’t fallen in love with that family. Years later, to my utter shock and complete honor, I was Erin, sitting at the siblings table (!!) when the youngest Bagliebter, Jamie, married the wonderful Dan this past July. Yes, I cried.

I also cried, a very ugly cry, yesterday as I sat in temple listening to Jamie and Michelle, along with David’s beloved brothers Will and Gary, pay tribute to their father. I cried in the car on the way to the burial site and I cried as I shoveled dirt onto David’s grave and I’m crying now. At this point it is entirely possible that I’m crying because I just don’t know what else to do.

I am who I am today because of Judy and David. I said that yesterday and a dear friend of theirs said “no, you’re who you are today because of you.” While that is true, Judy and David clearly saw something in me that, back then, I didn’t even see in myself. I moved to Scarsdale to live with them three days shy of my 20th birthday. A teenager! Taking care of two children! Totally nuts to think about that now. Judy is the one who pushed me to go to college and do something with my life. To be a strong independent woman. David inspired in me a sense of adventure and zest for life and living and, most importantly, loving people with my entire soul. I can only hope that I’ve made them both proud.

When you live in someone’s home for six years, you learn a thing or two. I’m lucky to have learned how to be a better person. How to love and be loved. How family dynamics should and can work. How couples should treat each other. How parents should treat their children. How to love life. How to give back to the community. How to tackle challenges and overcome obstacles. And how to do it all with dignity and grace. This family is truly everything to me.

Shortly after David was diagnosed with advanced stage kidney cancer (his second round with cancer) in 2013, I visited him at Sloane Kettering following a surgery. At the time I was having some back problems (which eventually led to spine surgery) that were clearly noticeable. I walked into David’s hospital room – he was sitting in a chair – and before I could even ask how he was he said, “Erin, sit down, are you OK? What’s going on?” That’s just the kind of guy he was. Selfless. Incredible, really, to think back on that memory now. This is just how they are – David, Judy and the girls (aka: my girls even though they’re in their 30s now). Truly amazing humans. Unicorns amongst us normal folks.

At the funeral yesterday, the girls (and David’s brothers) so beautifully captured the essence of David. I know how hard it is to let go of a brother and a father. I can barely give a speech in front of my team without breaking down (OK, I have other people read my speeches now, it’s true). Jamie and Michelle stood in front of a crowded temple and told stories of their dad that made people laugh and cry. They spoke of loyalty and respect and strength and love. They also spoke of their dad’s crazy imagination. David’s passion and creativity truly knew no bounds. His legacy lives on through them. I could not have been more proud than I was at that moment of those two girls. Their grace and presence and such clear illustrations of the love for and admiration of their parents.

The rabbi read from a poem at the service and one of the phrases – so it is, and so it will be – kept replaying in my head throughout the service. It felt so strong and so powerful and so representative of David. One of his brothers mentioned Kurt Vonnegut (or maybe I drew that parallel in my head, it’s all kind of blurry now). One of the most often quoted phrases from his writing – so it goes – immediately came to mind. So much power and meaning in those three words. Shit happens. We deal with it the best we can and we move on. Vonnegut’s obituary in the New York Times read “his novels — 14 in all — were alternate universes, filled with topsy-turvy images and populated by races of his own creation.” It is possible to switch novels with projects and perhaps change the number and you would have David. So smart. So creative. So full of ideas. So full of imagination. Of life. Even when facing death.

Over the last 25 years, every time I saw David there were a couple of things he would always ask me. For the first five years or so, he’d ask me about a nice Jewish guy I dated when I lived in Scarsdale. “How’s Scott?” David asked me about Scott longer than I even dated Scott. Hilarious, really. We finally stopped talking about Scott, though not before many shared eye rolls and giggles with the girls. Next question. “How many tattoos do you have now?” I got my first tattoo when I lived with the family. It was illegal back then. Shocking to nobody that I did it anyway. David’s reaction? “You got a TATTOO?! Erin! Well now you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery!” I mean… I’m not sure I could anyway since I’m not Jewish but that was so David. The last time I saw him he looked at the bracelets stacked on my arm and said, “I have a question. [Long pause.] How long does it take you to get dressed in the morning, Erin?”

Last night I went to my favorite tattoo shop in Brooklyn. It took more time to draw and place the tattoo than it did to actually tattoo the design on my arm. And it’s perfect. The words, stacked like a bunch of bracelets running up my arm, written in a one-of-a-kind creative font: so it is and so it goes. David, you were and are so loved and you are already so very missed. I will do my best moving forward to live life the way you did: with passion and love and good vibes only. And I will always, always, love and look out for your three girls. Rest peacefully.

#fuckcancer

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