Sweet, Savory, and Something in Between…

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For those of you who knew my uncle Jeremy, and there were thousands around the world, there are many things you have all come to know about him. However, one would only need to spend a mere 10 minutes with Jeremy before you would learn all about: his chickens; couch surfing; how to cook one of the following: a whole pig, goat, or perhaps some small foul; a random fact about theater, celebrities, or some small grain of knowledge you’d never use again in your life; and perhaps possibly, how to properly set a kitchen table and clean a restaurant’s worth of dishes.

Jeremy was probably the only Sommer in existence to tolerate spicy food. He was one of the only people I’ve met who considered “regular ingredients” to be pomegranate syrup or a 50lb bag of whole wheat flour. He went grocery shopping for weekend trips and our family reunions like it was his last weekend on earth. He loved attractive Jewish male actors more than I did. He once made me cut down a tree outside his front house. A TREE. He had a “wine” collection that had turned into 70% vinegar. He once made me cry because he refused to take me to In n Out Burger. You couldn’t see the back of his pantry cabinets to save your life. And so many more ridiculous things that made Jeremy who he was…

Something happened between Jeremy and I during the last 8 months of his life – we realized we needed each other. Unlike before, I felt, our separate existences never needed to serve each other much of a purpose, besides our family reunions when I needed Jeremy to cook and he needed a mouth to feed. And during those last months, I tasted something that I had never truly come in contact with – this time it was bittersweet.

After hearing Jeremy’s diagnosis right before Christmas of 2012, the prognosis stated he had 6 months left. Jeremy made it to 8. And almost right up until the end, he still remained his true Jeremy self. At times, growing up, I didn’t know how to connect to my stubborn, loud, (and sometimes) obnoxious uncle, but when I came back to school this year, more than just our last name called us to be together.

When I came to visit Jeremy in January, he brought me to Glide for the first time. He may have been on his phone the whole time, but I know that over the past 25 years of him attending this church, Glide helped him find a community that would accept him no matter what. The mission of Glide is love unconditionally. While I had my differences with Uncle Jeremy in the past, I came to Glide letting go of my baggage, and embracing our differences, as well as our similarities. Coming to Glide with Jeremy is something I will hold sacred and special as I am sure many of his 50 couch surfers, family, and friends will as well.

Jeremy gave so much. He gave meals to the hungry (me), he gave shelter the poor (some couch surfers), and he gave until the very end. In fact, he is still giving. I look up to my uncle for being generous to the world: spreading culture, stories, laughter, food, and music. I look up to him for always being curious, for standing up to anyone, for being unique, and most of all, having a loving heart, although he may have had a hard time showing it.

I will miss my uncle deeply, in a way I couldn’t have ever imagined.

19 thoughts on “Sweet, Savory, and Something in Between…

  1. Rich Lasner says:

    I spent a few holiday weekends at Jeremy’s house on Dillon Beach with your family and friends. His generosity, non-stop enthusiasm and insane need to cook for many will stay with me as happy memories for many years to come. A truly unique individual, always full of surprises, My very deepest best wishes to your family in this rough time. I will miss him.

  2. Joe Bredau says:

    Dear Sasha: I am sorry for your loss, yet so happy for your gain. Your father spoke of your uncle over the years in a way I felt I knew him. Your writing of him has offered me the opportunity to embrace him.

    Thank you,

    Joe Bredau

  3. Betty Rubenstein says:

    Sasha…This Post was especially touching and you have once again done an extraordinary job of expressing the situation in writing….I’m so sorry about your Uncle, but delighted to read what you write…You have a future in writing!!
    Betty Rubenstein

  4. Mary Lou Barian says:

    Very beautiful, Sasha. I never met Jeremy, but after reading your tribute I feel as if I have. Love and peace to Jeremy, and to all of you who love him so dearly. xo

  5. Laurel Leone says:

    Sasha, Kaye shared your link with me, and I am so moved by your open-hearted, sweet, eloquent description of him and your special relationship with him. I didn’t know about the Glide connection. Steve and I have started going to Glide on Christmas day, and agree that it is a wonderful expression of joy, acceptance, service–all the qualities you admire so much in your uncle. Hope we get a little talk-time at the next Stillerman/Storm gathering! xx Laurel

  6. Joan Sperans says:

    Sasaha
    You’ve done it again, captured experiences and deep feelings in beautiful pros. Ur uncle Jeremy will always be in my heart and mind in so many ways and times: when I cook, I will miss his advice about that unusual ingredient that just makes the dish delisious; when I find a new restaurant he would have enjoyed, at a Servas gathering, while traveling … Saying I’m so sorry are such inadequate words. Sending hugs and love.

  7. Mike Gabel says:

    Really beautifully expressed, a wonderful gift, and such an accurate portrait of Jeremy .. Thank you, Sasha.

    Mike Gabel

  8. Donna Glassman-Sommer says:

    Sasha,
    You so eloquently described what was in all of our hearts in the Sommer family. Your writing is beautiful as are you!
    xxoox
    Donna

  9. Amy Sommer says:

    So true, Sasha … so true. Thanks — it’s lovely to hear your “voice” and have a little laughter to go with the tears. (Sweet and salty with a bit of crunch. Jeremy would approve.) I, too, feel so fortunate have known him and miss him dearly.
    Take care and see you soon.
    Love, Aunt Amy

  10. Andrea Jadwin says:

    Sasha, it was great to hear him talk about you during this past year. He was so proud of you and your travels, school, etc. Your description above is right on – it was my job to clean his ‘spice cabinet’ every year until it became so mathematically challenging that I couldn’t take it anymore!

    Jeremy was definitely the guy who loved nothing more than having 30 of his friends and family over for dinner so he could tell them where to get the best price on chicken thighs (bone-in). I will miss him every day.

    Andrea
    (his next door neighbor since 1965)

  11. Wendy Temko says:

    Dear Sasha,
    We grieve with you and Edith, and all the Sommer family, over the loss of our friend, Jeremy. He helped so many people and made so many happy.
    Thank you for your own story, Sasha, of your relationship with Jeremy and how you became so close to him in the last months of his life. He was lucky to have you as his niece and friend.
    Love from Judy & Phil, Wendy & Norman

  12. John Passarelli says:

    I didn’t know Jeremy but I work with your father and from the stories Paul told me about him, he lived his life to the fullest , surrounded by a very loving and caring family!
    My deepest condolences to you and your family and this was a touching tribute to his life Sasha ! Well done and again my sympathies to you and your family! Please give Paul a big hug from his friends at KORG.

    John Passarelli

  13. Carlo Nocentini says:

    Ciao Sasha, we knew you during our last visit in SF late of June. We were to visit Jeremy and you and one of yours friends have a breakfast together. We knew Jeremy in1994 during our honey moon. ThanJeremy come to visit usand all our family in Florence, Trieste, Gorizia…….we also organize Jeremy 50’s birthday in Greve inChianti….. Jeremy is a great friend for us, thank him for all and big hugs to you and all your family. Carlo and Franca

  14. Vicki Salsbury says:

    To all Jeremy’s family and friends, especially you Sasha, you don’t me or my family. We live in Maine.My son Aaron met Jeremy in SF in the 90s when he was working there with Jon Hutchins and Bill Sanborn. They were all great friends and had some great times together. My son died in 2001 and Jeremy cried with the rest of us. He and Aaron may even now be talking it all over where ever they are…..I heard from Jeremy quite often whenever he would be especially missing Aaron. It was always very touching. I will miss his letters but am glad to know he is out of pain and will see Aaron again.

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