In loving memory of Alicia Ross
Alicia and Sharon

Sharon's Eulogy for Alicia

When I was a little girl, I would sometimes sit in my mother's lap and she would stroke my hair, and say, "My love, my dove, my tender vine. My lily among the thorns." When I was older, she explained that when King David fell in love with Beth Sheba, he wrote her love letters, and in one he addressed her with those words.

The Yiddish word beshert translates to "meant to be" or "destined". Alicia and I knew we were beshert. Alicia Heather was born on February 8, 1980 while I was on holiday, and when I got home, our lawyer met us at the airport and said, "You have a baby girl". I fell in love with that baby girl, and will hold my love until the day I lie beside her.

She was an adorable and good baby, a precocious toddler, a blossoming pre-teen, and a terrible, terrible teenager. She spent four years in Montreal at university, studying, partying, and growing up a little. Sadly, part of that process involved grieving the death of her high school sweetheart, and I always told Alicia that that process would ultimately help shape her into a more kind and empathetic person. It did.

Alicia then spent a year in Australia and grew up some more, and when she returned, Julie and I knew we had a new woman in our home. Somehow, through her adolescent rebellion, her initial grieving for Greg and her terrible depression in fourth year when his death caught up with her; through her travels, and her loneliness and struggles to "make it alone" and gain independence away from home, a lovely, mature, appreciative woman came home.

Alicia and the dogs Alicia loved her family, our dogs, her friends. She loved reading good books, listening to music, her job, travelling, going on canoe trips, going to rock concerts. She loved working out at the gym, watching "24" and "The Amazing Race" — always saying "We could do that Mummy!" I can't swim. She loved taking Julie's side when I got too headstrong, telling him, "You've created a monster." She loved crossword puzzles, her new iPod and computer, and all living creatures.

Alicia and Jamie She loved us all, but Alicia's love for her brother Jamie was a different kind. The love between Alicia and Jamie was that of the resilient and unbreakable bond of two siblings who, together, so young, had struggled through and endured the pain and insecurity of a broken home, and the uncertainty of a new family. My Jamie is the other half of his beloved sister.

The other day he said, "Mummy, did you know that Alicia did a portage with me carrying her pack and a canoe in bare feet? It was crazy!" No, I didn't, but I can picture it now.

A few years ago, Alicia said, "Mummy, you introduced Jamie and I to camping. Let's go on a canoe trip — just you and me." I was hesitant, but off we went. We drove to Algonquin, paddled across Smoke Lake, and set up camp on a cousin's property by the water. That night, we lay on the dock in the Muskoka pitch black dark, staring at the stars, sharing a bottle of red wine, making spooky faces into our flashlights and laughing our drunken heads off. She said to me, "Mummy, it doesn't get any better than this". No, it doesn't. Later, my 5'10", 20 year old baby slept in my arms, smelling her shmoochy (her fluff) in one hand, sucking her finger with the other, and I was happy.

Speaking of her shmoochy. I'm told that one night at Ian's, he caught her cutting up his duvet. "What are you doing?" he screamed. She said, "I need my fluff." "But my duvet!!" "So, sew it up", she said. "I need my fluff." So, she went to sleep happily smelling her fluff, and sucking her finger.

People have asked me, how do you remember Alicia? I remember Alicia one morning in July, standing at the fridge, her hair in a long blond pony tail, wearing worn old clothes. I looked at her fit, strong profile and thought "My God, you're so pretty". But if you told her that, she'd say "Nah".

I remember her lying in my lap while I stroked her hair — a favourite pastime of hers. I remember her blowing me a kiss before she boarded the plane for Australia with her SARS mask. I remember her writing her piece to get into the fine arts program at Baythorn Public School. I remember her jogging, her ponytail wagging side to side. I remember Alicia the first time I nestled her in my arms to feed her, and falling in love. And I will never, never forget Alicia, laughing and smiling a huge smile at me, the last time I saw her, at 11 o'clock, August 16, 2005, the night she disappeared forever.

Alicia and Julie My husband's favourite memory of Alicia is when she had come back from Australia, and had just started working. She said, "Julie, let me take you out for dinner — just the two of us." She told him over that dinner how much she appreciated everything he'd always done for her, and how much she loved him. But that love went two ways. Julie says he sat there thinking, "You've come such a long way, and I love you so much." He said to me the other day, "Sharon, it's not so much the memories I have, but the feeling I had every time she came to me for advice. She made me feel so appreciated. She made me feel like my advice really counted." My husband was G-d's gift to me and both my children. Whenever a crisis arose, it was usually Julie that Alicia would go to for advice and emotional support.

Alicia and friends A memory both my husband and I share is one involving Alicia and her best friends: Ian, Elliot, Eric, Greg, and a few others — "The Boys". Alicia was about 19 and had become semi-normal. She asked if she could go to a Phish concert in Maine with "the boys". She'd been pretty good for awhile, and we decided to reward her with our permission. In the very early morning the group was to start their long drive to Maine, in my car, of course. I kissed my girl goodbye, told her to be good, and drive safely. I crawled back into bed. My husband promptly got out of bed and went outside. I watched from our bedroom window to see him standing there in his boxers waving a big kitchen knife in his hand, pointing it at the boys. They were all nodding, and then my husband kissed his Pookie goodbye and came back to bed. I said, "What was that?" "Nothing," he replied. "I just told them to take care of Alicia, and if anything happened to her, I'd cut off what the Moyl left over." To this day, they're still her best friends — "The Boys". And today, six of them are taking care of her one last time.

When she was hired by Hewlett Packard, Alicia said to us, "Why did they hire me? I know nothing about computers!!" And we replied, "They must see something special in you, Alicia". And they did. At HP, she blossomed from a nervous, uninformed greenhorn to an appreciated member of the team — one who was on her way up, and who I've been told is now sadly missed.

Two weeks ago, Trisha and I went there to meet some of Alicia's co-workers, to thank everyone for their support, and to bring her personal things home. One co-worker took me aside and said he had to share something with me. He said that he and Alicia had been talking one day and she asked if he and his wife had children. He said "No, we can't have children." Alicia asked if they'd thought of adopting. He replied that he couldn't consider adoption, and when asked why, he then explained that he "would be crushed if his child ever wanted to find her biological mother". Alicia said "I didn't". "You're adopted?" he asked. "Yes". "And you never wanted to find your biological mother?" Alicia said to him, "I have the best mother in the world, and we have a wonderful relationship. Why would I need anyone else?" He then told me that he had been so inspired by her, he went home and told his wife he'd changed his mind — he now wants to adopt. He then told me, that as a tribute, if they adopt a girl, he hopes to name her Alicia.

Trisha noticed another co-worker hanging around while we made the rounds. He followed us to the lobby and took us aside. "I must speak with you" he said. "I was off on sick leave for several months due to depression, and Alicia was one of the two people I contacted for support. Your daughter," he said, "was so compassionate. Her sympathy and support helped me return to work."

I'd been right. Being one of those who have suffered and escaped that terrible dark room of sadness, Alicia had become more empathetic and understanding of human frailties, and I am proud that she eventually did mentor someone and help them find their way.

Of course, Alicia wasn't perfect — she was not the most pleasant person in the mornings. One Rosh Hashonah, she had slept in and had to be awakened for synagogue. Knowing what lay ahead, Trisha and I casually asked Julie if he'd go down and wake her up. We waited and listened while poor Julie went down and softly knocked at her door. A loud roar accompanied by some choice swear words came blasting through her bedroom door, like something from The Exorcist. Julie came upstairs, looked at us, and said "Thanks a lot."

Alicia and Dave Going through Alicia's room, I found her memory books filled with airline ticket stubs and fabulous photos: Birthright to Israel, Algonquin Park with Jamie, Ian and Elliott, Peru with Ramsay, camping out in the Negev and Judaean Deserts with Aviad, Jamaica, Australia and Japan with Dave. Rock concerts with everybody, Cancun and Nassau with Trisha, the family in Florida, us girls in Vegas.

She also had a special memory book for Greg. I found and wistfully read a bookmark tucked inside. It bears a poem authored by Lynne Hancock. I thought yes, this will be Alicia's message today. It reads:

“When I come to the end of my journey, and I travel my last weary mile
Just forget if you can, that I ever frowned, and remember only the smile.

Forget unkind words I have spoken. Remember some good I have done.
Forget that I ever had heartache, and remember I've had loads of fun.

Forget that I've stumbled and blundered, and sometimes fell by the way.
Remember I have fought some hard battles, and won, by the close of the day.

Then forget to grieve for my going. I would not have you sad for a day,
But in summer just gather some flowers, and remember the place where I lay.

And come in the shade of evening, when the sun paints the sky in the west,
Stand for a few moments beside me, and remember only my best.”

To Jamie, she was "Leesha", to Trisha and Randi, she was "Leesh" or "Leeshy", to Andrew, she was "Hey Leesh", and to my dearest Julius, she was his beloved "Pookie" and "Pooks". To me, she was my beshert. My beshert.

A favourite lullaby of mine to Alicia was:

Down in the valley, the valley so low.
Hang your head over and hear the wind blow.
Roses love sunshine, violets love dew.
Angels in heaven say "I love you".

Goodnight, mein zeesa kind — my sweet child.

From Mummy and Julie, your brothers and sisters, your bubby, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and your friends who will love you forever: goodnight... our love, our dove, our tender vine, our lily among the thorns.