Eulogies & Tributes

Francoise Collet
Nancy Festinger
Nick Luttinger
David Mintz
Ivan Otero
Janis Palma
Richard Palmer
Marta Sarubbi
Tony Thomas


Ana Ilse Gómez
Pablo Neruda
Wislawa Symborska
Consuelo Tomás


17 enero 2008
What I'm Proud Of

Dear family of Mirta and Dagoberto, and friends from everywhere,

We are gathered here on Court Street in Brooklyn to mourn Mirta Vidal Orrantia's untimely death. We are also here to remember and give thanks for her life.

This service will salute her in a manner that befits her, independent of any one religious tradition, honoring her with heartfelt words in two or more languages. (For the language-challenged, if you don't understand, just raise your hand, the room is full of interpreters.) I know I speak for everyone in saying that our sorrow today is deep, and unbearable, though bear it we must, we have no choice. Of course, it's incomprehensible that we will no longer be able to visit with Mirta, hug her, kiss her cheek, ask a question, talk on the telephone, laugh with her, work with her, debate with her, have tea or lunch or dinner with her, go to conferences or movies or concerts with her, see that reassuring, ravishing smile of hers, hear her call Dago her amorcito, her tesoro-I have never heard those words spoken more tenderly than when she addressed him in that way. We will not have these things in real time, and we will be the poorer for it. But we will carry the image of her and the oral memories always, in our minds and our hearts-- they are part of us.

Mirta had what I would call a luminous presence, and once you felt it, you didn't forget it. I feel privileged and lucky to have shared so much of her life. I can still hear her voice the first time I talked to her on the telephone in 1982, when she was the supervisor in the Eastern District and I was a newly certified interpreter- her voice was not exactly what one expected to hear from a bureaucrat in a courthouse-it was lilting, soft, like a pillow, sensitive, like poetry- beckoning me to Brooklyn, a place that was soon to become my home, later to become hers. I thank my lucky stars that when she married Dago - and they were married just a few blocks from here- she ended up living around the corner from me. Our paths intersected in so many ways-in our love of language, of idiom, the written and spoken word in all its forms; our love of classic jazz, boleros, salsa, all music; our interest in homeopathy and the healing arts; the hunger for travel, sunshine, the enjoyment of good food; the people we knew in common; our amazement at the circus of life; the endless fascination with the interpreting process and its practice; current events, of course, politics; our continued bafflement at the world… we never ran out of things to talk about. Whenever I stopped by for a few minutes, I stayed for hours.

Mirta had a love of life and a concern for others that kept her going even as her health was failing. She was a valiant believer in humanity, in the desire of people to do the right thing not for themselves but to do right by others. In a word, she was a mensch- and by the way, in addition to Portuguese, Spanish, English and some French, she knew all the important words in Yiddish, too. I take comfort in knowing that she knew she was loved and appreciated by many people, and that she felt when she married Dago that she had found the greatest happiness of her life.

We are going to pay tribute to her with some readings from the great well of literature, then some messages sent by those who have not been able to join us, followed by anyone who wishes to offer extemporaneous remarks. Thank you all from far and wide for being here.

I'd like to start by reading two brief passages. The first is from ancient Greece by Apollonius of Tyana :

"There is no death of anyone but only in appearance, even as there is no birth of any save only in seeming. The change from being to becoming seems to be birth, and the change from becoming to being seems to be death; but in reality no one is ever born, nor does one ever die."

And the second is from China, 3d century B.C. (Chuang Tzu)

"To have attained the human form is a source of joy. But in the infinite evolution, there are myriads of other forms that are equally good. What incomparable bliss it is to undergo these countless transitions!"

Nancy Festinger