30 January 2016, Melbourne, Australia
When thinking of speaking today, all my family felt it was too hard. They didn’t want to get too sloppy and emotional in public – so I put up my hand and here I am. It’s not everyday that my darling son becomes engaged to the most beautiful girl in the world.
According to George Burns: Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city. I think Gabe is well on his way.
As most of you know, I come from a large traditional highly dysfunctional family. I guess the cat is out of the bag. My parents’ divorced in an extremely acrimonious way. It made War of the Roses look like a garden party. As a result, a lot of my adult life has been focused on making my kids’ lives easier and more peaceful. It was my mission.
I did this with the help of Mark who could bring happiness and adventure into places in myself that were fearful and dark. And for the most part, we brought up our kids surrounded by warmth and acceptance. I’m very proud of our kids and who they have become.
2015 was in many ways a difficult year for our family. I was to learn that an aggressive form of stomach cancer had made a home in my body. I was always a high achiever. But 2015 was something very different as well. It was the beginning of a love story, a love story that enveloped every part of my life.
It started with me developing two shadows. One was Mark, whose every action was a symbol of love. The way he stayed with me in hospital each night when I was vulnerable. The way he keeps me safe and makes me feel I’m not alone in all of this. My smart husband who never cried started to cry a lot.
Then there was Gabe, my second shadow, who carefully followed me from appointment to appointment, quietly sobbing, holding all the sadness so I could be strong. He then arranged to come to Melbourne every week to be with me. He leaves Sydney, Thursday night and works from home Friday and stays the weekend. When in Sydney he calls me every evening after work on his way to the ferry to see how I am. He has a heart of gold and is incredibly reliable and present. I know he’s going to make a brilliant husband. He learnt from the best.
Then there are my gorgeous girls.
Sarah, who was the first to know and and as a doctor understood what my future might hold. Who could talk to me about her grief, and cry with me, and allow me to mother her. And for us both to find comfort in each other. I so admire Sarah – her integrity, honesty and spirit.
And that powerhouse Rachi – who is clever and thoughtful and practical and compassionate. Preparing food each night, ringing to see if I need anything to be picked up. Impressing me with the force of her will and still finding a place to be young and free.
And now, I have a third gorgeous girl. I couldn’t be more happy to welcome Gabi and her entire gene pool into our family. It’s a shame that most of you only know her outside, because what’s inside is way more beautiful. She is gentle and caring and considerate, smart as a whip, and I love her with all my being.
Indulge me a little so I can acknowledge the others who star in our tale.
Genia and Yossl who have loved me as a daughter. Yossl is the man with the twinkly eyes and enormous heart, who only knows how to be good and kind. He is devoted to his family to the point of selflessness; tells a killer joke and can laugh at himself with a knowing giggle. He is our example of what it means to be a true mensch. While Genia, with her witty tongue, and massive generosity, is the backbone of our family. She embraced me from the first time we met and if she could, would take my illness and make it her own, so I could be healthy.
My siblings are also a big part of this love story.
Ann, who is part sister part protector and is always there for me. Who immediately cancelled her overseas trip to be by my side when discovering I wasn’t well. Ralph, whom I respect greatly and with whom I share a special bond is one of the finest people I know.
Bradley, who began calling me his angel and shleps big baskets of food to my kitchen bench that are lovingly prepared by Tami, who cooks for me every week, twice a week, no excuses, no apologies, to make sure I’m nourished in more ways than one. And my baby brother Glenny who when I tried to tell him of my illness cried out in such deep pain and love that I felt it to my core. I have felt his pain and love every day since. And dear Julie, so supportive in the background with her humour and encouragement.
Johnny and Anita are as close to us as the house across the road, especially those two brothers, who while sipping wine, argue about politics as though the world is listening.
And then there are our nieces and nephews and extended family that I love and adore, and I know, who love and adore me. Because they show me with every interaction and communication.
And finally there are you, my cherished friends, who have researched medical journals. Who have fed me, even when I asked you not to. Who have spent time with me, and tried to spend time with me. Who have showered me in gifts and cards and texts and loved me from near and far. I’ve felt it and appreciate it more than you can know.
And how do love stories usually end? Well, with a proposal, and that is exactly why we’re here today. Not my engagement, thank God, but my beloved children Gabi and Gabe.
That’s already funny that they share a name. But there are more things that our families share. The Metz’s are like the Bakers’ Sydney Doppelgangers. There is Karen and Kerryn, both GPs. Colin a doctor of medicine and Mark, a doctor of history. The Metzs have 3 children - one boy and 2 girls as do we. We each had a dog called Simba. Their son Josh lives far away for work, as does Gabe. Gabi and Sarah are both resident doctors. And Deena and Rachi even look alike. The Metzs are a warm, close, beautiful family who have taken wonderful care of Gabe since he’s been living in Sydney, and I couldn’t be happier that our families are joining today.
Gabe’s proposal started yesterday in Sydney and finished in Melbourne. Could that be an omen? He included the most important people in Gabi’s life, and wanted them to be a part of their coming together. We’re so happy that Gabi’s grandparents, Marlene and Sidney, are here with us today and not on their cruise as originally planned.
I want to thank that handsome Josh for travelling from Los Angeles to celebrate with us all and our yummy Timnah for travelling from Boston. And I want to thank Gabi and Gabe’s friends from Sydney who hopped on a plane at the last minute to be with us.
Gabe is very protective of Gabi. He worries at a party if she goes to fetch a drink by herself, where is she, is she ok, will she manage at the bar? This is a girl who lived alone in Newcastle for four years, travelled to Norway & Tanzania to work in hospitals there and survived a 6 foot 2 inch stalker with a machete.
In some ways, they are a typical couple: one focussed on healthy eating – chicken salads, no carbs, no sweets – and that’s Gabe. Gabi is more of a chips and hamburger kind of girl. Their relationship is very playful and fun and loving. But beneath their charming exteriors they are fiercely ambitious and determined. It gives me so much pleasure to see them together.
In Love Story the movie, I never liked the line “that love means never having to say you’re sorry”. I believe that there are many times in a marriage that you have to apologise and many times you have to forgive each other. But here tonight, in my love story, with you who surround me, there is nothing to be sorry for. I feel so blessed, and despite my aching heart, I am filled with the happiness of a simcha that gives me a taste of all the good things to come. Lechaim to Gabi and Gabe, Lechaim to you all.
Kerryn died on 15 March 2016, just three months later. Her husband Mark Baker delivered this incredible eulogy.