The Presidio, San Francisco, CA
June 21, 2002
Thank you all for coming today.
If the true measure of a person can be taken by the quality of the people she calls friends, then my sister Danielle should be remembered as a real superstar. If the true measure of a person can be taken by quantity of the people she can call friends, then my sister has to be one of the all-time greats. And were that superstar here today, she would have no doubt prepared a speech thanking among others the Academy, her many fans, her manager, etc. It therefore seems appropriate for me to thank several people, both on Danielle's behalf and on behalf of myself, for all that they have done for our superstar.
First, thank you, Mila, for all that you have done and all that you have sacrificed to take care of Danielle during the last four and half months. No one can put a price on the love, attention and care that you gave Danielle when she needed it most. Thank you, Mom and Dad, first for having given us Danielle to start with and for all that you have done and sacrificed to care for Danielle in her remaining time. Thank you, Joey, for taking care of both of my sisters. Your patience and compassion seem to know no bounds and we are so fortunate to have you in our family. Thank you, Kate and Susan, for all that you have done for Danielle and for my family. You were there for Danielle and for us at the very beginning and you are here with us now. If there is something positive that we can take away from Danielle's illness, it is that we have had the opportunity to know you both. Thank you, Cindy and Karuna, for all that you have done. There are many others, who wrote, visited, baked, donated money and did other things to make Danielle's last 20 months rich, happy and full of love. I want to thank each and every one of you at least as a community if not by your names.
I also want to thank one other person and one other organization. Jon Rosensweig has been a remarkable friend, resource and counselor. He gave his time freely to help Danielle and our family navigate the maze of rules and regulations to get Danielle the assistance she required. And thank you to everyone, especially the management, at SquareTrade. Danielle had worked at SquareTrade for only two months when she was diagnosed with cancer. Although the company was forced to conserve resources and make cutbacks as it sought to establish itself as a new enterprise, the company's incredible generosity allowed Danielle to have health insurance and part-time employment for the duration of her illness.
Danielle sent Jody and I several letters during the first year of her illness and she would always finish them by admonishing us to take care of each other. It was a message that she lived by, and the outpouring of love from so many friends old and new, over the past 20 months makes it clear that her message was heard.
Almost immediately after Danielle was diagnosed, I began to think about what I would say when this day finally came. I even thought that the most fitting way to deliver a eulogy for Danielle would be to do it while wearing a set of X-Men pajamas and a pair of Scooby Doo slippers. Unfortunately, I think she snagged the last available pairs.
So what can I say about one of the coolest sisters you could ever hope to have? I think what I will always keep with me is Danielle's joy and passion for life and all that came with it. And in her short life she did it all.
My sister was a woman who was a registered socialist at age 15, but at the same time so wanted to be a congressional page that she mounted an all-out lobbying effort to secure a spot and eventually persuaded our congressman to give her the nod. This same person went to Smith College to major in women's studies and otherwise remained a passionate political activist. But despite these serious matters, she could still sit with me and laugh hysterically while watching Dom DeLuise parade around in a mask and cape in "Cannonball Run."
It was her intensity and passion that allowed her to live life more fully in 29 short years than most people do in 60, 70, or 80 years. And it allowed her to face her illness with incredible courage and amazing grace.
The other day, I remembered a line from the movie "The Shawshank Redemption." The movie, which is about a man named Andy, who is imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit, is an incredible story about not giving up and not losing hope. Like Andy, Danielle was the victim of an unjust sentence. He was sent to prison; She was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 27. The movie ends with Andy escaping to live free on a beautiful beach where his best friend joins him. I can see my sister free on the beach right now. But the line from the movie that I remembered was a line that Danielle could have delivered: "You can get busy living or you can get busy dying." Even when she was confronted with a terminal illness, my sister Danielle got busy living.
I will share one story with you that I think says it all about who Danielle was. About three months after her first surgery, I came out to visit Danielle for a few weeks and we took a trip to see some of her friends in Portland. One night we went to a dimly lit, kinda grungy karoke bar. Danielle was still getting sick from chemo, her skin was itchy and breaking out from her medications, her hair had not really grown back yet and her face was bloated from steroids. She was undeterred, of course, and jumped up to sing "Bust a Groove," with sweet moves and perfect rhythm. After she sat down, a woman across the room sent one of her friends over to ask Danielle for her phone number and to request another song. Even with her body beat up and ravaged by her medical treatment, Danielle's charisma was apparent to that woman and probably to everyone else in the room.
As the oldest brother, you hear from your parents from time to time that your siblings look up to you for one reason or another. In a moment of weakness, perhaps even your siblings will admit it to you. But the truth is, I really looked up to Danielle. For me, my sister Danielle was the embodiment of everything that life is about. She was open and loving, she was charismatic and quick, she was passionate, and she was funny. I will miss her for hundreds of reasons, but I will miss her especially because she always gave me a sense of being truly alive whenever I was with her.
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