By Rozzy Hooper-Hamersley
It was the most lovely and touching service and burial I have attended in a long time. Tim and Ben, your presence was very moving and I am so grateful that you were there. Thank you, Tim, for your very supportive and understanding phone conversations. Ben, it was lovely to sit in the peace of the smaller chapel and then to walk into the sanctuary to pay our respects at Leslie's casket, beautifully draped in flowers. Thank you for coming early.
I had spent the previous evening with David Levy, Loren Freeman (Leslie's companion of 20 years), and Jeffrey Saks (Leslie's dearest friend on the West Coast) and we reminisced and looked at pictures and laughed and cried and told stories well past midnight. It was a privilege and an honor to be with these gentle and dear people and to hear what the last five months have been like for Leslie and for them. They cared for him so tenderly and it was not easy, not for any of them.
The service at Congregation Shaare Emeth was attended by lots of family and friends, folks from the Theatre Dept. at Webster, Leslie's high school chums and still others from years past - an incredible collection of people. Rabbi Stiffman was as gentle a soul in his eulogy and in the prayers as I have seen in a long time. He has known the family for years and joining him were two Catholic priests who have been very close over the years to the Eberhard family. All of these men spoke and prayed, Leslie's brother-in-law who buried Leslie's sister (Susan Yaffe) just three years earlier spoke, as well as a nephew. Rabbi Stiffman read an incredibly beautiful statement written by David over which we wept and laughed. Scott, Leslie's nephew was absolutely charming and began his remarks by saying "There aren't many bad things you can say about my uncle Leslie...but he was a terrible driver, and I was always sick to my stomach each time he dropped me off at the airport!" We just howled. He went on to talk about how caring and helpful Leslie had been when Scott moved to LA years ago. He ended by saying "I'm not sure if God has a plan or not, but I just hope he doesn't need a ride!"
It was a chilly day but the sun came out when we reached the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery for the interment. Thank you, Foxy, for your very dear e-mail which I read last night. The Episcopalian burial service is almost identical in terms of the honor of shoveling dirt onto the top of the casket and the prayers at the time of burial. The lowering of the casket was very profound and hard and important. One of the most moving sights was when Leslie's junior high school chum, now wheel-chair ridden from a car accident years ago, was assisted by someone at the graveside with the shovel.
I sat there looking at Mrs. Eberhard who has now buried two children in five years and I cannot even begin to imagine the depths of her sorrow. She is a tiny woman whom Leslie absolutely worshipped - the family pictures we saw back at the house where we sat Shiva were so charming and dear and reveal the love and affection that binds this family together. Loren cared for her so sweetly when it was time for her to make that difficult walk to the grave.
In the three days I spent in St. Louis, most of them with Carrie, David, Loren, and Jeffrey, I was struck over and over - as we all have been since 9/11 - by how fleeting and precious and lovely life is. We said goodbye to and then helped to bury a man who had only reached his fiftieth year yet led such a vibrant life, made so distinct by the love, whimsy, and spirit in which he enveloped everyone who knew him. All of us remarked repeatedly how important it is to stay in touch, to call, to write, to visit. I am so lucky that I was able to be there and I thought of so many of you and those remarkable four years, so long ago now yet as vivid as if 1970 were yesterday.
Godspeed, darling Leslie.
January 18, 2002
© 2002 Richard H. Fox