"Mort was my new friend, my dear friend, my deeply loved friend. He barrelled into the lobby of my hotel two years ago, smiled at me, and from that moment he was a steady stream of support, humor, advice, friendship and sweetness of soul.
He came that day to take me to lunch, as we had just met, we caught each other up on our past lives. And what I thought was how many lives he had already lived – each with total vigor, verve, amazement and innocence – as if her were the first person in creation to ever lead such a life.
He told me about Maria Pia, and his wonder that a woman so incredibly beautiful, intelligent and sweet dispositioned could love someone like him – and then confessed, rather bashfully, that love him, she truly did.
So Mort laid out his life for me – his beloved children, his plans, his music, his history and his future – and what a life of endlessless possiblility and blessings it had been and still was.
He called me his cousin – two unlikely New York kids living in London – and he was my true friend.
When I didn’t like my hotel, he and Maria Pia drove me to every possible hotel in London, where Mort insisted on walking me grandly through each lobby and the dining room to see if the ambience pleased me – pointing out the Ritz had too much traffic out the door, though the lobby was quite fine, etc…
And when my husband and I took an anniversary trip to Paris, Mort biked over to me a list of his beloved Parisian restaurants with which dishes we should order, which wine to try and how to pronounce ‘Shumann’ should we wish to use his name with the captain – which indeed we did. He suggested we select two or three restaurants from the five page list – but to his professed alarm, we went to almost every one - two a day when necessary, and tried all the dishes and all the wine, and of course said Mort Shumann had sent us, if for no other reason than to experience the smiles of joy when people inquired about him.
But that was what it was like to have a friend like Mort. You’re not biked over a five page list of life’s delights to try only a few. That wasn’t the way Mort came at the world – he tasted all its pleasure and urged others to do the same. That’s what knowing Mort teaches us and will remain as his urgent legacy to me – to seize everything wonderful and give it back with such love and precision and intensity.
I mourn Mort and I will love and miss him forever. The last time I saw him he was in hospital marvelling over how much his doctors and nurses knew and studying up on all his treatments and what they met
I celebrate Mort. This kind of man will not come again. But through the grief and sadness and loss, I think first of lovely Maria Pia and of the children and then all of us, because the extraordinary blessing of knowing Mort is that he will always be there with us and for us, presiding over our lives, and urging us to live them as gloriously as he lived his.
Eleanor Bergstein – New York City