Bernice Diamond (1937 - 2000)
October 2, 1937 – April 11, 2000
My Friend Bernice
On a rainy Wednesday morning when the angels in heaven awoke and heard the news, they cried for us, sadly and with great passion. Today as the morning deluge continues, the angels began to cry with great joy. Bernice now and forever be with them.
The angels in Heaven know that Bernice will now enthusiastically begin to instruct them in two of her favorite spiritual endeavors: cost effective purchasing and creative home decorating. Never one to waste time or be unproductive, you can be sure that Bernice even as we speak is assembling fabric swatches and paint chips to redo her new home.
My name is Jan Polatschek. Bernice Diamond was my friend. Just like the weather this past Wednesday and today, we met in a deluge of rain four years ago.
Here’s what happened:
After freezing my rear end off in Boston for seventeen years, I fulfilled a promise I made to myself and I “came on down” to South Florida. One day, after unpacking some cartons, I went down to the pool to defrost. I met a tall, elegant woman who was wearing an unforgettable hat. Between puffs of her ubiquitous cigarettes drawn from a distinctive red packet, she introduced herself. Zelda Monk was her name.
It’s an unwritten by-law of condominium documents that dating someone from the same building is not a good idea. So Zelda and I became friends. I spent time in her home. She visited me on several occasions.
Zelda took careful and detailed mental notes of my piano, furniture, art, carpeting and assorted chachkas. I’m sure in her mind she was reassembling the décor in my apartment.
Little could I forecast the processes and speed of communication within our community.
Later that summer came that “deluge of a day” I mentioned earlier.
I was a candidate for a position with a company located in the Concorde Centre office building in Aventura. I had just completed an interview and was heading out the main entrance that rainy day. To my Northern eyes, the rain was astonishing. Even though I was carrying an umbrella, I made no attempt to reach my car.
But my own guardian angel brought forth at that very moment two, not too tall, enthusiastic and beautifully dressed sisters. They eyed my umbrella.
We began to chat, Arlene, Bernice and I. Well, respectfully. I’ll stick to the word “chat” but you get my meaning. As we watched the downpour, the conversation went like this:
Bernice: So, you live round here?
Jan: Yes, I moved down from Boston.
Bernice: What town do you live in?
Jan: Here in Aventura.
Bernice: Really, what part?
Jan: (Proudly) Country Club Drive.
Bernice: What building?
Jan: (Puzzled) Eldorado Towers.
And then without missing a beat, this beautiful, tiny, energetic, mischievous woman says to me:
“Oh, you must be the guy with the baby grand piano and the red oriental rugs!”
“Shocked” is too weak a word for my reaction. They say it’s a small world but this is ridiculous. The amount of data, information and statistics that Zelda and Bernice exchange daily would make even Yahoo blush with envy.
Bernice and I became fast friends. Together we travelled the circuit of antique shows, art exhibitions, jewelry exchanges, farmers’ markets, flea markets, rug stores and automobile showrooms.
Bernice was an irrepressible shopper and a master of the lay-away and the merchandise return. I would say that the customer service departments of Marshalls, Loehmann’s and Bloomingdales are already considering staff reductions.
But most importantly for me, Bernice and Arlene and Pedro cheerfully and warmly invited me into their lives and into their homes and into their family. Whenever I was alone on a holiday, there was always a place reserved for me at their table.
It’s not a coincidence that Bernice left us at this time. All the medical technology, miracle drugs, all the Western treatments and all the Eastern treatments, prayers and wishes could not have forestalled her departure. In my opinion, this was the chosen hour.
Arlene, Pedro, Michael, my friends … at this season of Passover and Easter, I truly believe that Bernice wanted to draw our attention to the meaning of the holidays and to provide us with some instruction.
Next Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Jews around the world celebrate Passover. Passover commemorates our Exodus from bondage and our journey and redemption – our forty-year journey from less than humble beginnings to the prospect of peace and prosperity.
The Rabbis tell us that not one Jew, not one man or woman who left Egypt ever set foot in the Promised Land. Only children and grandchildren born in the desert ever made it. Moses, our leader and teacher, Moses himself could only view the Promised Land from afar.
Perhaps not even one of us here today will ever reach our promised land. But what we learn from our tradition and what Bernice demonstrated throughout her life and what she so artfully remined us of today, that just as Jews crossing the desert generations ago, we all need to receive a lot of help and we all need to provide a lot of help to others along the way.
To succeed in our journey, we need an audacious leader, a sensitive teacher, an inciteful advisor, an intuitive counselor with a soft shoulder and one hell of a good sense of humor to make it through. For me, my friend Bernice possessed all those characteristics.
Lisa, your mother was never more effective as a leader than when she organized and coordinated a moving memorial service for dear Zelda last year.
Shari, as your heard just this past Monday, your mother was never more courageous, when from her hospital bed, she continued to help me navigate the quicksand and storms of my own life.
Keith, when I needed help with my little business, your mother provided incisive and encouraging advice. When my apartment needed a keen eye, Bernice stormed through Burdines and Home Depot; I couldn’t keep up.
Julie, when my mother’s health began to fail, Bernice located just the right home health care agency. When my mother needed additional medical support, Bernice and Arlene referred me to excellent professionals.
When my mother needed an outfit to attend her grandson’s wedding, Bernice picked out the dress and the shoes.
I may never reach my own promised land, but Bernice was at my side these last four years. She provided lots of spirit and more than a few outrageous jokes. And overall, she provided the best damn stock market tips which, to my everlasting regret, I never followed.
When my mother passed away last May, I kept most of her favorite collectables. The rest I gave to charity. I didn’t quite understand it at the time but I decided to keep her dress, the very dress she wore to her grandson’s, my nephew’s wedding, the very dress Bernice triumphantly plucked from the rack at Marshalls.
Now I know why I kept the dress. I will forever have a tangible reminder of my warm and generous friend. A silk chiffon reminder of the newest and best-dressed Angel in Heaven.
My friend Bernice.