Many thanks to everyone who attended Ella's memorial service, or sent their condolences.
The program for the service is available here.
Here are the texts of (most of) the speaker's remarks:
Denise Brown, director of the Montclair High School Dance Company where Ella danced all through High School, dedicated this year's performance to Ella - see the dedication in the program.
The Macalester Theatre and Dance Department Spring Concert Program also dedicated the performance to Ella, and donated proceeds to her fund.
It's very hard for me to believe that I'm here to say goodbye to my best friend and baby sister. It's hard to imagine taking a long family car trip with an empty seat in the back. It's hard to believe that she won't be stopping by my apartment to watch HBO shows. She won't frantically message me on Gchat asking for dating advice.
For most of our lives, I was a big brother to Ella first, and a friend second. Growing up we had few interests in common. She excelled in school and was a brilliant artist, while I had social and athletic ambitions. We fought constantly — as young siblings do — but I always knew she looked up to me. I wanted to set a good example and protect her from all of the potential pitfalls of adolescence.
We became closer as we got older, bonding on long family vacations. When we traveled to Europe, she was my guide through the world of art and culture. She encouraged me to expand my diet beyond pizza and cheeseburgers, and to learn to enjoy local delicacies. As much as I wanted to be the know–it–all big brother, I was learning so much from her.
After Ella graduated college, she moved back to New Jersey, and we began seeing each other regularly. I was amazed that she'd outgrown her teenage awkwardness and truly embraced her individuality. When she moved to Queens, I teased her for being a hipster, but she wasn't a hipster. She didn't belong to any category; she was just Ella and I was so proud of her for being exactly who she was.
She came to me constantly for dating advice. She could not figure out why it was so hard for her to meet someone, and wondered what she was doing wrong. I told her not to do anything differently. I knew dating would be tough for her. Not many guys her age are mature enough to handle what a special person Ella was. It was hard for me to see her get hurt as result of her individuality, but I was so happy that she refused to compromise or change for anyone. It made my job as a protective older brother easier.
A year ago, we took a birthright trip to Israel together, where our friendship reached a new level. We grew up as non–practicing Jews, and often struggled to reconcile our connection to Jewish culture with our lack of spirituality. Birthright taught us that we have a place in Judaism, and helped us each find our Jewish identity. The fact that we were able to find it together made it that much more special.
After that trip, we were best friends. Our bond as siblings was as important as ever, but when we were together, we just felt like two 20–somethings living the dream in New York City. Ella was a frequent visitor at my apartment, and was embraced by my roommates and friends as if she was a member of their own family. We shared recipes, restaurant recommendations, and dating advice. Just recently, we started planning a trip to a music festival: we hadn't decided between South–by–Southwest in Austin, Texas or Coachella in Southern California. Our musical tastes were not similar, but we both thought spending that time together would be a dream come true.
The night before her accident, Ella and I met our grandparents at an orchestral performance at Carnegie Hall. On the way home, the NQR trains were closed downtown, so we had to take the 1. As only two Bandes can, we accidentally swiped into the uptown train, and had to wait an extra 15 minutes before we could get the train downtown. I couldn't have cared less, because it gave me a few more minutes to spend with Ella.
I'm going to miss my baby sister so much. I found a sense of purpose protecting her. It was such a joy to watch her blossom and find more of herself every day. I know she only scratched the surface of her potential. I'm also going to miss my best friend. Ella was my biggest supporter. No one believed in me more, or held me to a higher standard. It's very hard to picture a life without her right now, but I know that she would want me to be strong, and insist that I be happy. I'll be inspired by her memory and live every day in a way that would make her proud.