My remarks from the memorial service of Donna Jones, secretary of Block Yeshiva High School for the last 18 years:
Among the most extraordinary figures in Jewish history were the sage Rabbi Meir and his wife, Bruriah.
Rabbi Meir returned home one evening and was surprised when his wife met him with the following question:
“Some time ago a man came and left a precious object in my care,” she said. Now he has come and asked for it to be returned. Should we return it or not?”
He answered her: “My dear, I don’t understand the question. Obviously, whoever receives a deposit in trust must return it when the owner asks for it back.”
Beruriah took his hand and led him to the bed in the next room, then drew pulled back the sheet to show him the lifeless bodies of their two sons, who had died suddenly from a plague.
Rabbi Meir began to weep, but Bruriah said to him: “Did you not tell me that we must return a deposit to its owner?” she said. “Our children were never our own possessions. They were entrusted to us, and now their Owner has taken them back” (Midrash Proverbs 37: 76-29).
And so it is for us here today. The Almighty gave a most precious gift into our trust. But now He has taken Donna back.
We always want to speak well of those who have passed on, but in the case of Donna we don’t have to exaggerate, we don’t have to embellish, we don’t have edit or omit or revise.
In a world of constant complaints, Donna always had a smile. In a world of constant criticism, Donna always had a compliment. In a world where it has become fashionable to be a cynic, Donna saw the best in everything and everyone. In a world plagued by faithlessness, Donna was fiercely loyal to the core.
She was a constant source of strength to every member of our faculty, reminding us of the priceless contribution we give our students daily when so many found fault, encouraging us to persevere while so many were trying to pull the rug out from under our feet. Donna was our angel, our gift from G-d for every moment that we had her.
The sages tell us that the truly righteous make the transition from this world to the next effortlessly and easily, without anguish, for their souls are so lofty they can barely be contained within their worldly bonds. Donna slipped away far too soon for us, but her spirit was truly a spirit that belonged in Heaven.
Donna, you did more than touch us, more than reassure us, more than reaffirm our mission. You became part of us, part of each and every member of our faculty, part of each and every student. We won’t merely remember you; you will live on in all of us, for as long as we are able to carry on in the work that you valued so much, and of which you were so much a part.