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Remembering Shira

By Tova A. Serkin

This was originally delivered as a eulogy at the funeral of Shira Palmer-Sherman '02, on Dec. 24, 2000.

I've always thought that Shira's parents were omniscient. How else could they have named their daughter so perfectly? Shira is the Hebrew word for song and that is what Shira has been to me, a beautiful song that has touched my life in so many ways. I searched my memory last night for just one story that would show you all how incredible Shira was and how important she will always be to me, but I couldn't find one. She may have been a small person physically, but Shira Palmer-Sherman cannot be summed up with just a few words. Instead I want to share a few thoughts and memories that will hopefully give you an idea of who Shira was to me.

I spoke with a friend last night and I told him I was trying to figure out how to talk about Shira. His first response was "show tunes and laughter." And it's true, two of the most noticeable things about Shira were her love of singing and her smile and laughter. Shira would brighten up any room she was in and make everyone around her happy. She could talk you into doing anything with her charm and her wit and, of course, her huge smile and big eyes.

Shira had a sort of silly gesture that she would make when she was tap dancing or singing certain show tunes...both of which she did on a very regular basis. It got to the point where my friends and I all started imitating her...we call it "song and dance." There is a song we often sing at Hillel after lunch on Shabbat called "Yom Zeh L'Yisrael" and there is a line at the end: "B'Shabbat yoshevet b'zmir ooh shvacha." ("On Shabbat we sit in song and praise")...and without fail, every time we would get up to this line my friends and I would catch Shira's eye across the room and started doing "song and dance."

At the beginning of this school year, the four girls from my closest group of friends decided to meet weekly for lunch in Adams House. Shira, Leah, Naamit and I were very busy but didn't want to lose touch. Invariably, one of us would miss our lunch date for some reason or another...but never Shira. She was there rain or shine, even if she had a test right after or was really busy. Her devotion as a friend never ceased to amaze me. Though she could be forgetful about other the time she left a novel in my room our first semester at Harvard and didn't pick it up until the end of sophomore year, she would never forget about other people. Shira's devotion to her boyfriend Jesse was incredible and when I saw them together I knew how perfect they were for each other.

Last night I looked back at my journal from my Israel trip nearly four years ago where I first met Shira. After our second night in Israel when Shira and David, another person on our trip, had gotten into a loud argument about Judaism I had written "Shira crying really made me wistful that I don't have the same intensity of emotion about religion." Shira was passionate about everything she did. If she had an opinion, you knew it. I have always admired Shira for that and after spending a lot of time with her family this week I can see exactly where she got it.

Finally, I want to read a brief excerpt from a poem by Rav Kook called "The Fourfold Song"...This is a poem Shira and I learned on our Israel trip and it has always reminded me of Shira.

"Then there is one who rises toward wider horizons until she links herself with all existence, with all God's creatures, with all worlds, and sings her song with all of them. It is of one such as this that tradition has said that whoever sings a portion of song each day is assured of having a share in the world to come."

Shira--you have been the "song and dance" in my life and in so many others. I will love you forever.

Tova A. Serkin '02, a Crimson editor, is an environmental science and public policy concentrator in Kirkland House.

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