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Judith MullerDear Judith,

I think about you often, and not only now that owing to Andrea, the conference is fast approaching which is the first evidence that your fear of being forgotten was unfounded. I don’t argue with people in general, but now I must argue with you. As I said then: “Judiths, since there are so few of them, are never forgotten.” It is a fact, of course, that as the years pass by, the vivid picture is obscured by a slight cobweb, but this only improves the image, since the cobweb is made of gold threads, and that makes the picture shine even more brightly.

Judith talked about death often and with affection; she said that she was always prepared for it, and that since it couldn’t come at a good time anyway, a smart person – whenever it comes – faces it as if it were time to die, since the unavoidable always happens when it should, even if the ones who stay behind disagree. During our conversations, I always believed that when the time comes, these brave thoughts would change. But luckily, this didn’t happen. I will never forget the time she called me and in an almost indifferent voice announced that she had cancer, as if she were sharing the recipe of her world-famous liptauer with me, and that she would fight her last and losing battle against it. I must admit that, like so many times before, I thought that her attitude was theatrical, but as the months passed, I began to understand the prudence and determination behind it. She would not allow any medical intervention that would prolong the agony; she consented only to pain relief. What else is this if not conscious determination?

As DEATH approached – with capital letters – she stretched out her arms and waited for the time when she could join her loved ones: her parents, her little baby, and her husband. I understood then that the woman I thought I knew was a real mystery, since in fact she had been preparing herself for the reunion for a quarter of century.

Dear Judith, your destiny gave you a lot and took a lot away from you, but as the last chords of the symphony of your life played out, it gave almost everything back, for you entered eternity just as you had planned – at home, wearing decent make-up, in your favorite pajamas, surrounded by your daughter and your grandchildren. This is almost pulp fiction, but in Judith Müller’s case, the manner of her passing was a paraphrase of her own saying, “Scent is a great illusion, and so is life, and so is death.

I know that you are resting your head on the palm of your now in that sweet gesture of yours reserved for the times when you are listening to people, and that even now you once again justify a remark of mine that made you so happy a few years ago: “Judith, it makes no difference how old you are, you are among the few who will be a lady even on your catafalque!”

We, who have stayed behind, are trying to the best of our ability to realize Judith’s dream of not being forgotten; after all, the young girl who started out from Debrecen, and who grew into a young lady in Haifa and an adult in Paris, left an indelible mark not in the brains, but in the heart of people.

The second half of the 20th century was a bit about Judith Müller, too.

 

Your friend,

Tamás Pálmai

July 1, 2014, Budapest

Judith MullerDear Judith,

I think about you often, and not only now that owing to Andrea, the conference is fast approaching which is the first evidence that your fear of being forgotten was unfounded. I don’t argue with people in general, but now I must argue with you. As I said then: “Judiths, since there are so few of them, are never forgotten.” It is a fact, of course, that as the years pass by, the vivid picture is obscured by a slight cobweb, but this only improves the image, since the cobweb is made of gold threads, and that makes the picture shine even more brightly.

Judith talked about death often and with affection; she said that she was always prepared for it, and that since it couldn’t come at a good time anyway, a smart person – whenever it comes – faces it as if it were time to die, since the unavoidable always happens when it should, even if the ones who stay behind disagree. During our conversations, I always believed that when the time comes, these brave thoughts would change. But luckily, this didn’t happen. I will never forget the time she called me and in an almost indifferent voice announced that she had cancer, as if she were sharing the recipe of her world-famous liptauer with me, and that she would fight her last and losing battle against it. I must admit that, like so many times before, I thought that her attitude was theatrical, but as the months passed, I began to understand the prudence and determination behind it. She would not allow any medical intervention that would prolong the agony; she consented only to pain relief. What else is this if not conscious determination?

As DEATH approached – with capital letters – she stretched out her arms and waited for the time when she could join her loved ones: her parents, her little baby, and her husband. I understood then that the woman I thought I knew was a real mystery, since in fact she had been preparing herself for the reunion for a quarter of century.

Dear Judith, your destiny gave you a lot and took a lot away from you, but as the last chords of the symphony of your life played out, it gave almost everything back, for you entered eternity just as you had planned – at home, wearing decent make-up, in your favorite pajamas, surrounded by your daughter and your grandchildren. This is almost pulp fiction, but in Judith Müller’s case, the manner of her passing was a paraphrase of her own saying, “Scent is a great illusion, and so is life, and so is death.

I know that you are resting your head on the palm of your now in that sweet gesture of yours reserved for the times when you are listening to people, and that even now you once again justify a remark of mine that made you so happy a few years ago: “Judith, it makes no difference how old you are, you are among the few who will be a lady even on your catafalque!”

We, who have stayed behind, are trying to the best of our ability to realize Judith’s dream of not being forgotten; after all, the young girl who started out from Debrecen, and who grew into a young lady in Haifa and an adult in Paris, left an indelible mark not in the brains, but in the heart of people.

The second half of the 20th century was a bit about Judith Müller, too.

 

Your friend,

Tamás Pálmai

July 1, 2014, Budapest


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