Tag Archives: grief

Brothers and Sisters Must Stick Together

19 Jan

“Brothers and sisters must stick together,” my parents would continually make this statement to my brother, sister and me throughout our childhood.  If we had a disagreement, they would intone this mantra. It was used in many ways.

If a friend of my brother’s bugged me, he would stop it. But then he would bug me.  Brothers protect sisters from others, but that does not mean he could not tease me. His interpretation of this saying.

Over the years my sibling and I have come together many times to help each other.  And this sentiment fills my mind and my soul. We will always stick together.  We repeated it many times when our parents passed away within nine months of each other.

As we cleaned and divided their homes, my brother would say, “Nothing is worth fighting over.”  And we knew that “Brothers and Sisters must stick together.”  It helped to hear these words from my parents. It was an emotional time, and sometimes we needed this reminder.

But I have to say my parents and their siblings took this to the zenith degree.  My Dad and his sister passed away within days of each other. It shocked us, as we sat shiva for both.   My Dad called my Aunt almost every day after my Mom passed, but even before they spoke often. And each winter spent months together in Florida. At the time I remember thinking that they could not survive without each other as they were so close. So although I was shocked when it happened,  I was not really surprised.  Brothers and sisters must stick together.

But this week it really amazed me.  To be honest my Mom and her brother had a separation.  They did not speak to each other the last years of my mother’s life. This broke her heart. Although she often spoke of her brother, Mom passed away before the rift was ended. Her mantra of “Brothers and Sisters must stick together,” did not help in this instance.  But my cousin, who I always kept close with, came to see her. And that help to ease her.

In the past six years the family has healed.  My siblings and I have visited with my Uncle. We see our cousins.  We help in times of need.  Brothers and sisters sticking together. The family has reunited.

Yesterday my Uncle passed away.  He had been ill for a while, but this week he went into hospice. I spoke to my cousins multiple times during the week.  And texted in between.  I love her and I knew this was so difficult.  And then he slowly slipped away, just days before his 90th birthday. When I got the call I was not surprised. But a few minutes later it hit me, this day was my Mom’s yahrzeit, the religious anniversary of her death.

I texted my cousin: her response was perfect, “Maybe now they will make peace.”

But to me it was a sign. To my siblings I texted, “Brothers and sisters must stick together.”

Missing My Friend

14 Sep

Now that my daughter’s wedding is over. I have time to reflect on the other major event in my life.

Women have several best friends. I do not have just one best friend, I have several: different women who give me support, love, a sounding board, comfort, friendship, and family. I am fortunate to have many best friends: the women who have gone through life’s joys and challenges and have always been there for me, just as I have been there for them.

Right before my daughter’s wedding I lost one of my best friends to cancer. It broke my heart.  Every time someone we love dies, it takes a little slice of the heart. I have survived the deaths of my grandparents, parents, cousins, aunts and uncles and even some friends. But this loss just breaks my heart.

My daughter said, “Mom I know you are so sad, but this is my wedding. Please focus on me and how happy I am.” So I had to push away my tears and focus on the joy of my daughter and future son-in-law. I needed to stop grieving and join the celebration.

The Friday before the wedding…two days before, my husband and I went to the funeral. How could I not go and say goodbye. I sat with another close friend. I held her hand and my husband’s hand as the funeral service progressed. Just as I was thinking ,“How will I get through the wedding.”   My friend turned to me and said, “What would she want? How would she act?” We both knew that she would want me to be so joyful at my daughter’s wedding.

We did not go to the cemetery. My husband and my friends insisted that I go home and get into wedding mode. I asked my close friend to shovel dirt for me. Even though I could not be there, I wanted to complete the act.

As we left the funeral, my friend’s husband rolled down the window of the limo to reach out to me. We spoke. I hugged him. Any other time in my life, I would have been there for him and their sons.

Another of my best friends called. She was preparing a shiva meal. And would put my name on it. There was no way I could go to any of the shiva services. I had the rehearsal dinner, the wedding and company throughout the holiday weekend. I felt the love of my friends to help me get through this bittersweet time.

My friend fought a battle with cancer. She was always gracious and strong. She was the kindest person. Everything was delightful in her world. I would ask, ‘Do you want to go for lunch?’ Her answer, “that would be delightful.” We would go out with her and her husband. Any thing I suggested would be delightful. When she chose the show or the restaurant, I in turn would say, “That would be delightful.” Delightful became one of my favorite words to use. It is so uplifting, just as she was to everyone.

It was not an act. She saw the world as a happy place. And her oh so happy attitude transformed people. She got things done. There was never a need for accolades and attention. If something needed to be done, she did it. Write a grant, organize lists of names, write letters, be there for a friend. Even when she was sick, she never stopped helping others.

Over the last year or so, she could not travel. Whenever I went out of town, she told me to send her photos. I sent many text messages with photos from throughout the country, Alaska, Canada, Seattle, New York, New Jersey, even the world: India, Israel, Italy, Spain. Wherever I went, she went with me.   I sent the most beautiful photo I took each day. She would respond with little messages telling me about her treatments and how things were going.

When I returned from a trip expecting to go and see her, she sent me a message.   She was going back into the hospital. “I just realized I never sent a welcome home,” she wrote. “The docs have decided to put me in the hospital… Sorry for the bad news. I am going this evening….”

So like her. Sorry for the bad news. She always thought about the ones who loved her. She knew it would hurt me that she was not progressing as well as we hoped. I visited her in the hospital. I visited her almost every week. I did what I could, as did her other friends.

But nothing really prepared me.

She called me three weeks before she died. She wanted me to come over with soup from our favorite deli. She was home alone. We spoke for two hours. It was our last visit. I cleaned the kitchen. I hugged her. I basically begged her to live to come to my daughter’s wedding. I knew it would not happen. But the thought of losing her was so very difficult.

I did not go back to see her. We continued to text back and forth for the next two weeks. I sent photos and long messages. She sent one or two words. Our last words, I said, “Love you.” She responded, “You too.” And that was the end. I kept sending messages even though I knew she would not/could not respond.

And now the wedding is over. My daughter and her husband have left town. Now I can grieve for my wonderful, delightful, kind, nice, bright friend. Only now can I open the box I kept in my heart during the wedding and cry.

Only now can I think about how much I will be missing my friend.

Shalom Salaam Peace

14 Nov

Where does the corruption of the value of life come from?  What sort of religious leader sends people out to slaughter innocents? Who is the person who would commit such acts of violence against others and self for some sort of glory? And how do sane and good people cope in the presence of such acts of evil?

To come out in the name of a religion to kill without thought or consciousness is so wrong. These acts are acts of hatred and evil. Not the teachings of any religion.

But these acts cause rebounding hatred and fear. They spread a virus of unease causing even good people to lose their own inner common sense as they see these acts of horror.

We have seen it over and over as towers fall and trains explode and burn and innocent people perish in restaurants, concerts, marathons, stores. 9/11 in the USA. 3/11 in Spain. 11/13 in Paris. Stabbings in Israel. Beheadings and mass murders in areas controlled by the disease that is ISIS.

Those who act for these militant Islamic groups are not the true voice of any religion. Just as the Christians who perpetrated the Shoah did not represent all Christians. Those who use religion as a reason to murder corrupt religion.

The terrorist want to win by creating more terror and more fear. But in reality there are many more good people than there are evil people. We are the majority. We must work together. We must overcome fear. And we must reach out to the other good people in the world to create a presence of love and understanding.

Yes we must work together to rid the world of the evil of these groups who commits horror. But we must not become them.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet. May the memory of all the people killed and murdered and injured in attacks of hatred in Paris and Israel and throughout the world be as joyful memories to their families and friends. May their names be blessings. May their families know peace as they find a path to comfort.

But may the haters be destroyed and the seeds of such evil be eliminated from the world.

Blessed is the peacemaker. May we all continue to work for peace. Cursed are those who would bring hatred to the world.

Blessed is the Name.

Shalom. Salaam Peace be unto all.

Why I will Keep Ranting Against Gun Violence

13 Oct

Dr. Archer presents at the

Dr. Archer presents at the Heartland Coalition Against Gun Violence Community Forum.

As I stated in an earlier blog, the death of Susan Choucroun, a friend who I met through the National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Kansas City Section (NCJW), was my final straw in gun violence and needless deaths.

I made a promise to start advocating to work to stop gun violence. Yesterday, October 12, 2015, I continued that promised by going to the Heartland Coalition Against Gun Violence second community forum: “Gun Violence: A Public Health Issue.”

I belong to two organizations that helped to sponsor this event, NCJW and Grandparents Against Gun Violence. I felt that since Susan had been a member of NCJW, in fact had served with me on several committees, it was only right that I attend this event in my efforts.

Listening to Dr. Rex Archer, the Director of Health for Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, strengthened my resolve.   He spoke of violence as a contagious disease that causes not only physical injury but moral injury as well. He stated that we had to stop it as we reverse an epidemic. And he stressed the new models of dealing with violence by creating new norms.

He stressed also that gun violence is usually not an action by people who are diagnosed with mental illness. Instead people who are mentally ill are the least likely to do violence to others. He called it a “side-tracking issue, because without a gun you cannot do mass murder. Guns are the issue.” He continued by saying that weapons manufacturers fund the NRA. The NRA is a front for the gun industry to lobby.

The audience was told that easy access to guns is the major issue, not mental health.

I listened to lectures by Kansas and Missouri state legislators: Barbara Bollier and Judy Morgan; by a Children’s Mercy Emergency Room physician who has seen children die as a result of gun violence; a psychiatrist; members of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime (including Al Brooks), Aim4Peace and the Kansas City Missouri Police NoVa (No Violence Alliance).

All the speakers were excellent, explaining in detail what happens to those people touched by gun violence and those who suffer mental health issues. Sixty-one percent of all gun deaths are suicide; and gun suicides account for over 90 percent of people who commit suicide.

Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, parents of one of the 12 victims in the Colorado movie theater slaughter, was the most important presentation. I learned more about the PLCAA Law that was signed by George W. Bush on October 26, 2005, just ten years ago.   A Law that MUST be repealed!!!

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act makes it impossible for any American citizen to sue a firearms manufacturer and dealer, or ammunitions manufacturer or dealer, for negligence when a crime has been committed. That’s right, they cannot be sued.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips tried to sue the ammunitions dealer who sent the murderer of their daughter 4,000 ROUNDS, 4000!!! Of steel sided bullets; these same bullets that were shot six times into their daughter, Jessie. Killing her! They hit her legs, her abdomen, her clavicle and one to the head that blew off 4 inches of her face. Sorry. But is it true. When they tried to sue, not for money, but to get the dealer to have to do background checks, the case was dismissed because of the PLCAA Law and they are held liable to pay for the $200,000 in attorney fees for the ammunition dealer. This is insane!

I came home from the conference to see on the news that two Milwaukee police officers are suing a gun shop for negligence in selling the weapon as the man who shot them was only 18 at the time and not of legal age to buy a gun. This case is also pivots on the PLCAA Law. (Today, October 13,  the jury found the store liable and negligent! )

The other important information I learned is about the Kansas Law that will go into effect in July 2017 that allows guns on college campuses. Oh My God!!! Do you remember last year when Johnson County Community College was on lock down? My son was there. Locked in a room with his professor and other students. Hiding in a darkened room sitting quietly but texting. My son came home after that experience stressed and saddened.

I asked Barbara Bollier, a Kansas State Representative. What happens after the law goes into effect if the school security sees someone with a gun? Well there will be no lock down, and no effort to stop the person with the gun until the person fires the gun! That is right. It will be legal to carry that gun on Campus! Insanity!

But it is more than that. Dr. Archer told us that 40 percent of all guns sold are sold without a background check because they are sold through internet, gun shows or personal sales. FORTY PERCENT. The background check loophole must be changed!!!

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I learned that we must all take action. WE must repeal PLCAA. WE must repeal Kansas Law, The Personal and Family Protection Act!!! We must vote to get the background check loophole repealed!

Our Vote is our weapon against the public health issue of gun violence. We used our vote to stop smoking in public places. We used our vote to impact drunk driving.   Now we must use our voices and our vote to end gun violence.

Do not be silent!

As Lonnie Phillips said” “If you don’t vote, you are part of the problem.”

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/why-i-have-to-write-about-gun-control/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/what-a-week-a-murder-and-a-campus-lock-down-impact-my-life/

Why I Have to Write About Gun Control

3 Sep

It has been a bizarre week in Kansas.   First has been the trial of the man who killed two people at the Jewish Community Campus and one at Village Shalom in April 2014. I know his name, but it is not worth saying. He wants the publicity. He is a sick demented man who was able to get guns and act out on his baseless hatred.

Second it is the anniversary of the killing of five innocent people in a quiet cul de sac. I knew one of them. I saw her brother and sister in law when they came to our synagogue to say Kaddish for her yahrzeit two weeks ago. Her death was shocking, happening just five months after the JCC shootings. I think the entire Kansas City metro was in shock after these two mass killing events.

Finally, it is something her nephew posted. Saying that his aunt was an activist. She was. And she would want us to do something about the gun problem in the United States. And I believe she would.

So I will say something.

I have used a M-16 during target practice. It is a gun meant to use to kill.   I have walked a path along the dorms at Mount Scopus at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, holding an Uzi. I was taught to hold it to my hip and spray in a half circle if I needed to shoot. In was 1974. The Yom Kippur War was still on everyone’s mind. And those of us who lived in the dorms had to do guard duty once a month. Usually I held the lantern. But we had to know how to use a gun, just in case the other person was injured or killed.

I know that guns can be used for protection. But I also know that guns can be used to kill. And I do not believe in senseless killing.

I do not think anyone in the 1700’s thought that one day there would be guns that could shot out multiple rounds of bullets in seconds. I do not think that they imagined a nation that exists now. When people do not have to have guns to provide food for their families or that militias no longer are needed. They wrote the Constitution in different times

I believe that people are misinterpreting the Second Amendment because they are unwilling to accept what is needed: stricter gun laws.   The Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The right to bear arms is tied to the need for a militia. We have no need for a militia now. There is no need for all these guns to be out in the public.

I am not against people owning guns for sport, although it is not a sport I am interested in. I do not think that all gun owners would kill innocent people. But we see time after time, guns getting into the wrong hands.

I am sick of the NRA’s intense lobbying of our legislative representatives. And how their gun money is swaying the votes to go against common sense. They do not want regulations; they do not want more background checks; they do not want licenses.

To drive a car in this country, you have to have a license and insurance. You have to pass a test to prove you know how to drive. You should have to take a test to prove you know how to use a gun before you are allowed buy one!!!

To move into an apartment for the first time, you have to have a background check. My son did: to rent an apartment, not even to buy a gun.

But to buy a gun in some states people can just go into a store or go online or go to a gun show and buy a weapon of death. It has become too easy to kill in the USA.

We have seen time after time innocent children and adults going to school, or going to the movies, or perhaps shopping at a mall, or to the gym, or in the case of Susan C. just standing in her driveway at the wrong moment.

When will it stop?

When will we say to the men and women who serve in our state and national legislatures that we will not vote for them if they take money from the gun lobbies?

That is what I plan to do.

I think that enough is enough. Every one of us must make a stand and no longer remain silent. The NRA and gun owners should not be running our Congress. WE, The PEOPLE should be running Congress.

The Final Frantic and Frenetic Search.

20 Mar

“I put it in a safe place.” Seven little words that put dread into our hearts whenever our Mom uttered this sentence. They were always followed by, “but I don’t remember where I put it.” This usually happened right before my parents were going out and she needed a special piece of jewelry to wear.

And it had nothing to do with her age. My Mom started putting her jewelry into a safe place into our apartment in North Bergen when we were young. The problem was that she never remembered the location of the safe place for that item. She could find other items, but never the one she was searching for at that moment.

My Dad, brother, sister and I would jump into action. We would search the house starting with her favorite hiding places. (Places I will not disclose, because maybe someone in my family still uses these places.) It would be a frantic and frenetic search,

Sometimes we found the item, but other times it was lost for almost forever. I say almost, because often, many years later the item would turn up.   My mother had a beautiful silver and semi-precious stone wedding band that disappeared for a decade. It was found in the bottom of her closet, years later by my father, quite accidently. So safe places did work.

I think my Mom got this urge to hide items from her mother. My grandparents grew up in Europe and hid money and jewelry throughout their home in the Catskills.   They had a safe, but they also buried items in the crawl space and within items throughout their home. It was fear that led to this habit. The fear of the need to be able to grab something and run, but still have some money. Luckily they never had to do that in the USA.

They had owned a bakery in West New York, NJ. And my Grandma kept every silver coin that ever came into the store. She once told me that when a silver coin came in, she would put it in her apron pocket and later get a coin from her purse to replace it to make sure the drawer balanced in the evening.

When Grandma passed away, the family was in the Kauneonga Lake for the summer.  I had flown in from Kansas. Under my Grandpa’s instructions, we opened every purse, every shoebox, and checked every coat pocket.  He said, “Don’t throw anything out till you open it. She hid things.”  And he knew his wife. Because Grandma did hide money and jewelry.

We found over 900 silver coins: silver dollars, half dollars, quarters and dimes. Money was hidden everywhere. By the end of the weekend of cleaning, we had bags filled with coins and bills. The coins were divided between her two children and among all the five grandchildren. The money was put into the bank for my Grandpa.

After my Grandpa died, I inherited their bedroom set. My Mom sent it to me with items still inside. She could not bring herself to clean it out. In a small top drawer I found a little purse of my Grandma’s. Inside the purse was $10.00. We missed that! I still have it, put away in a safe place.

My Mom developed this need to hide things, I am sure, from her parents. And so she hid her jewelry throughout their home. It helped the one time we were robbed in North Bergen when I was in high school.   The thieves searched and destroyed my parents’ bedroom. But never found her hidden stash. Her secret and safe place was so good, even the thieves could not find it!

Later, when they moved, her hiding jewelry was so crazy, as they actually had a safe in their apartment. But when she died, the jewelry was missing. It was not in their safe deposit box at the bank. That would have been easy. It was not in the safe in their home, another easy spot. No, Mom had hidden her stash away. And it was our job to do one last search; one last mystery to solve. Thanks Mom!

My sister was frantic. She called me six weeks after Mom died and a few days before I flew out to Jersey to help clean my Mom’s items from the apartment. (In Judaism you do not clean out a person’s items for at least a month. So my sister and I were getting ready to do this.)

“I cannot find Mom’s jewelry,” was her comment. Not said in a calm way at all, kind of an hysterical laughing scream.

“Don’t worry! We will find it,” I replied. I really was not worried. I knew it was in a safe place somewhere in that 1600 square foot apartment.  We would find her hidden stash.

When I got to New Jersey, my sister, nieces, daughter and I started cleaning. We opened every shoebox and every purse. But I knew it was not in those. My Mom was so stressed by what my Grandma had done so many years ago, I did not think she would make us go through the same stress. But we checked everything.

My Mom was more organized. She had a little cloth eyeglass bag that she often put her jewelry in. I started searching all the boxes and bags she had piled around the shelves and floor of the closet. There were many! And then:

EUREKA!

I found the jewelry. My sister was so relieved. She sort of sighed a deep sigh. But I felt sad.

‘I put it in a safe place’ had so much meaning that those words had a safe place in my heart. I can still vividly hear my Mom’s voice saying these seven little words. In a way, finishing the search broke my heart. I knew the last safe place was discovered. The last frantic and frenetic search was completed.

 

The Melody of “Autumn Leaves “ Haunts Me

23 Feb

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Bob Dylan recorded Johnny Mercer’s Autumn Leaves for his new album, “Shadows in the Night”! This song has been haunting me since 1981! But now Bob Dylan is singing it, too!

My history with this song is driven by emotion. So to hear Bob Dylan’s rendition of it on the radio while I was driving somewhat stunned me. Luckily I was close to home and was able to pull into my garage. Yes, the song has that big of an impact on me! I even sent a text message to my sister and husband about it. They know my issues with the song.

My Grandma Thelma passed away from a massive stroke in 1981. I flew in from Kansas just in time to see her once more. She could not talk to me when I came to the hospital. But when I bent over her, she grabbed me with her good arm and pulled me closer. She then licked her hand and rubbed her kisses on my face. She could no longer really move her lips, even though she wanted to kiss me.

I felt her love. I knew that she was near death. I was glad I was able to see her once more.

She died that night. I think she was waiting for me to come. I was the one to tell my grandfather.

After her funeral in New Jersey, my parents, my grandfather and I drove back to the Catskills together where Grandpa and Mom would be sitting shiva at my grandparent’s home. It was August, and everyone was up in the mountains for the summer. It made sense to be where all their friends could visit with Grandpa.

The song haunts me.

All during the way, the long drive back to Kauneonga Lake, it seemed for the entire two hours, my Grandpa Nat sang Autumn Leaves. He told us that Grandma and he had made a vow to sing that song when the other passed away. It was their favorite song. In reality, I am sure he did not sing the entire trip, but it felt as if he did.

We did not notice the beautiful scenery along the way. We did not notice the landmarks that usually mark our journey. We listened to my grandfather sing. He had a beautiful voice. He sang and sobbed. My mother and I sobbed with him. I honestly do not know how my Dad drove. The words and melody were etched into my heart. For weeks it echoed in my mind.

The song continued to haunt me.

Years later a movie came out called, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” It’s sound track featured songs by Johnny Mercer, including Autumn Leaves.

I have never seen this movie. I did not want to hear that song.

But one day, while my husband and I were in the movie theater waiting to see another show, I began to feel sick to my stomach.

“I don’t know what is wrong,” I told my husband. “But I really don’t feel well. I feel like something horrible is going to happen. I think we have to leave.”

“It is the song,” he said. He knew about my issue with Autumn Leaves. “They are playing the melody of Autumn Leaves. Why don’t you leave the theater for a few minutes.”

I left, and came back when the song was over. My feeling of dread disappeared and I relaxed once I knew why I felt sick. I was really amazed by how my mind, my unconscious mind, could relate so strongly to a song, while my conscious mind was unaware that it was impacting my emotions.

However, in a way, the sound track to “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” helped me. For a few months the song was playing all the time on the radio. I started to be able to hear the melody without crying. Eventually I could also listen to the words without crying. I still felt an ache in my heart when I heard it, but I realized that this song was a commentary on my grandparents love for each other.

My Mother’s birthday is this week. Perhaps it is fitting that I have heard Autumn Leaves a few days before my Mom’s birthday. Perhaps it is fitting that Bob Dylan is singing this song. I have loved Bob Dylan’s music for my entire life. I still remember the first time I heard him sing Pete Seeger’s, “Where have all the Flowers Gone.”

I know that the melody and lyrics of Autumn Leaves will always haunt me. Even though I can now listen to the song without that awful feeling of dread, or thinking something horrible will happen, I still feel that ache. I remember that trip back to the Catskills. I envision memories of my grandparents and parents whenever I hear it. And whenever autumn leaves begin to fall, I feel my loved ones’ spirits close to me.

 

 

 

 

http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/j/johnny_mercer/autumn_leaves.html

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gnp58oepHUQ&list=PL1012F30BBCC1BEE9&index=4

 

http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/autumn-leaves

 

Remembering those who passed: Yom Hazikaron

5 May
My son thinking in the map of the communities destroyed at Yad V Shem.

My son thinking in the map of the communities destroyed at Yad V Shem.

In 2005, I took my children and parents to Israel for a family wedding and a three-generational trip. We hired a private guide, as my Dad had a heart condition, and I wanted the trip to be as easy as possible for him.   It was wonderful in that sense. Our tour guide knew all the downhill paths for my Dad to walk.

Although my daughter was in college at the time, my son was just in eighth grade. I was a little concerned about taking him to Yad V Shem and Mt. Herzl. But we went because it was important.

At Yad V Shem, the Holocaust Memorial, my son was uncomfortable, especially when we went through the memorial for the children who perished. But the map of Europe and the destroyed communities felt more comfortable. He walked through that section with my Dad. They stopped at Bialystok, where my Dad’s family had lived before coming to the US. And my Dad told him some stories.  My son sat and thought about what he had seen.

After that it was to Mount Herzl. To see all the grave of Theodor Herzl, who helped to establish a Jewish homeland, and  of young men and women who died fighting for Israel was difficult. My son asked a question, “Why are there some stones with no names, or no dates on them?”

These are the graves of people who came over from Europe, who survived the camps. The first thing they did upon arriving in Israel was to fight for survival again for the independence of the state of Israel. Unfortunately, many of them no one knew their name or their date of birth. Just the day they died.   This is what the guide told my son.

We continued walking through the cemetery to the graves of famous people, when I realized my son was missing.   I did not want to go yelling through a cemetery, but I was concerned. So we all split up looking for him.

Then I saw him putting stones on a grave. This is a Jewish tradition. We do not leave flowers, we leave stones as remembrances.. This is an old tradition, and I am not sure why. But I think perhaps as we return to dust, we become part of the ground. I could be wrong.

In any case, there he was putting stones on the graves of soldiers.

“What are you doing? Why did you leave us?” I demanded.

“Mom,” he said. “I am putting stones on all the graves of people with no names. I wanted to make sure someone remembered them. I wanted them to know someone loved them.”

My heart; my son. I still cry for these unnamed soldiers. And I still cry remembering the love in my son.

Yom HaZikaron. We will always remember.

Ballroom Dancing: Relaxation, Reflection and Exercise

3 May

Dancing the Fox Trot is the most difficult for me. It is not because of the tempo or the moves. I think Rumba and Cha Cha are more intricate. East and West Coast Swing are quicker. Tango and Waltz are more elegant. The problem with Fox Trot is the music.   The music breaks my heart.

My husband and I have been taking ballroom dance lessons for almost ten years. We are finally at the point where I feel comfortable dancing in public and believe we know what we are doing.   When the right music plays, I sway with the beat.

We move to the dance floor and just relax into the music and the enjoyment of dance. As we are dancing, usually I forget everything going on and just focus on the mood of the dance. At the same time, we realize that we are getting our exercise for the day, as every part of our body is involved in the dance.

Recently we were on a cruise and danced every night. The dance band was marvelous. There were five or six other couples who also enjoyed ballroom dancing. It was wonderful fun.   We danced every dance in our repertoire: Tango, Rumba, Cha Cha, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, Waltz, Two-step, and Fox Trot.

My parents dancing at a cousin's wedding in Israel. My parents dancing at a cousin’s wedding in Israel.

But I often mess up the Fox Trot. I get distracted, off beat, or forget a step. My reason: the music — those classic American songbook songs — make me tear up. If I hear Begin the Beguine, by Cole Porter, I see my parents swaying. I hear the words, Embraceable You, by the Gershwin brothers, and I only see my parents dancing.   Add Summertime by George Gershwin, and that is my final straw. My Dad loved Gershwin music. I grew up listening to Porgy and Bess and Rhapsody in Blue. When a band plays any of his songs, and a few other composers as well, I sometimes find it almost impossible to dance.

My parents loved to dance. My Dad would put out his arm and sing the words, “When Frances Dances with me, Golly Gee. Oh How Happy I’ll be.” (He changed the words a bit.) Sometimes they would dance. And sometimes we would all laugh, because my Dad could not sing well at all. But that melody I know. It was my Dad’s anthem for my Mom and how he loved her.   (The Francis in the song was a guy. But since my Mom’s name was Frances, it worked just dandy.)

In the summertime, they would go out on Saturday nights to one of the big hotels in the Catskills for a show and dance. We knew where they went because they would bring home those little viewers on a keychain. When looking in the eye piece, we could see our parents in their ‘fancy’ clothes. I knew they probably had an excellent time away from us, and dancing arm in arm, and cheek to cheek.

Family events were another big dancing time. They did not like the wild music at the bar and bat mitzvahs, or the line dances. But when the band played ballroom music, my parents always danced. They loved going to weddings, not just for the emotions of the event, but because there was always great dance music.

Dancing swing at our nephew's wedding. Dancing swing at our nephew’s wedding.

My husband also loves weddings for the music. He dances with me. But when I get tired, he dances with our daughter, all of our nieces, my sister-in-law. Any woman who wants to dance can have a turn with my partner. Just be aware, he is a very enthusiastic dancer!

When my parents passed away just nine months apart, I could barely dance. It seemed wrong to be on a dance floor trying to do something fun. I should just be grieving, not dancing.   I stopped dancing the Fox Trot. I honestly could not listen to that music without bursting into tears.

But slowly my attitude changed. My parents loved to dance. They would be so happy to know that I was dancing. And each dance is a memory of them. “When we are out together dancing cheek to cheek, I’m in heaven,” thinking that my parents are dancing with each other Cheek to Cheek (by Irving Berlin) as well.

These wonderful songs deserve to be heard and danced to by people who love to dance. As I twirl about the floor with my husband, in our not so totally graceful moves, my mind sees my parents dancing at family events, or even in our living room, always smiling and laughing.

When my Dad died, we placed a photo of the two of them dancing with him so they could always be together. And whenever I dance the Fox Trot, I feel them next to me…dancing forever cheek to cheek in a wonderful embrace.

I hope we have passed the love of dancing to our children. I know my daughter loves it. She has taken lessons as well. I do not think she understands the memories of the music. But she holds the beat and the rhythm of the songs when she dances. And I know that wherever my parents are they are as happy as can be, knowing the love of dancing continues.

And for me, ballroom dancing brings me relaxation, reflection and exercise, the perfect combination for a hobby to share with my husband.

 

 

Music lyrics:

http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/g/georgegershwin8836/embraceableyou299722.html

 

http://www.stlyrics.com/songs/c/coleporter5950/beginthebeguine235309.html

 

http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/g/george_gershwin/summertime.html

 

http://www.sheetmusicbackinprint.com/popular/whenfrancis.html

 

 

Speaking Yiddish Always Brings Me Holocaust Memories

28 Apr

My maternal grandparents were from Poland and Galicia. They came to the United States in the 1920s. Met and married when Grandma was 19, Grandpa was 29. At home they spoke to each other only in Yiddish, although both learned to speak excellent English. And Grandma was a ferocious reader in several languages.

When I stayed with them, they spoke Yiddish to me as well. As a young child I could respond and easily speak to them. But that ended when my parents realized that my siblings and I spoke and understood Yiddish. They had been using it as a secret language to discuss finances and personal matters. So the order went out…stop speaking Yiddish to the children. My Mother, in later years, would tell me that she regretted making that demand.

But Yiddish connected me to my grandparents. And I studied German in high school and Hebrew in college. Then I spent a year in Israel at Hebrew University. While there I spent so much time with my great uncle and great aunts, who spoke Yiddish at home. So my Yiddish slowly improved, and I became more fluent.

The kneeling sailor is speaking to my Mom;behind her my Uncle; behind him my Grandma.

The kneeling sailor is speaking to my Mom;behind her my Uncle; behind him my Grandma.

My Grandma’s family was lucky. She went to Europe in 1931 with my Mom and Uncle and stayed for six months. When she returned to the US in 1932, she told my grandfather that they had to get everyone out. And she started the process. She was able to get visas for her father and sister. They made my great aunt younger than her real age, so she could come in on her father’s passport. Her brothers and their wives were not as fortunate. But they did survive the war.

My great aunt Tova, my great Grandparents Gimple and Chava. The man driving is an Uncle. And the horses and cart they bought with the money my grandparents sent. They all perished.

My great aunt Tova, my great Grandparents Gimple and Chava. The man driving is an Uncle. And the horses and cart they bought with the money my grandparents sent. They all perished.

My Grandpa’s family was not fortunate at all. They all perished. My grandparents did send his parents money and visa to come to the US. But they could not believe what would happen. They took the money and bought a horse and cart. They did not want to leave their other children and grandchildren. And my grandparents could not get everyone visas.

My mother used to tell me that every morning after work, when he found out that his entire family was murdered, my grandfather would sit in the kitchen and cry. He was a baker…up all night. But before he went to sleep for the day, he cried for all he lost.

In the meantime, my grandparents thrived in the US. They had two children, five grandchildren; two businesses, both a bakery in New Jersey and a bungalow colony in the Catskills.

Grandma wrote to her brother in Israel often. When I went as a college sophomore, I spent a year of college at Hebrew University. I had a cousin who was my age, and my great uncle and aunts (one uncle had died in the 1950s.) I met a few other relatives who had survived the Shoah. But no one ever spoke to me about it. I was young. But my Hebrew and Yiddish were improving rapidly.

Then when I was a junior in college, I took my Grandma to Israel with me during winter break. She had not seen her brother in 42 years. We spent a month together. A month I will never, ever forget.

The phone calls at the hotel would be in Hebrew. Someone would call and speak to me. “I understand the Tova S. is here,” they would say. “Yes,” I would respond. They would then ask genealogy. Who were her parents? Where did she live? When all the right answers were given, I would hear. Yes. She is my mother’s or father’s or someone’s cousin. And they would set up an appointment to meet with us: to see my Grandma.

And the holocaust became real to me. Each person in Yiddish told my Grandma their story of how they survived the Shoah. And who had died during that horrible time. If I did not understand a word, Grandma would translate. Sometimes they would tell me the word in Hebrew. Day after day, week after week, I heard so many stories.

But then came the worst of all. Rafael came. I knew him and his wife and daughter. His mother and my great grandfather were siblings. Rafael and his wife had never spoken to me about their experiences. But when Rafael saw my Grandma, it was an outburst of pain and crying from both of them. Rafael was my Grandma’s first cousin. His sister, Tova Malcha, had been my Grandma’s best friend. And Tova Malcha had not survived. When Rafael and Grandma met their memories overflowed. Not only on death, but on the lives they had left behind.

At that moment, at that time, my Yiddish was at its best. I understood all.

After Rafael left, I asked Grandma why no one had ever told me these stories? Why I had not met all these people who kept showing up? Why Uncle had only introduced me to a few of the relatives when I spent my year there?

There was no answer.

When we returned to the US, my Grandpa was so happy to see Grandma. “Never leave me again,” he said. He did not come with us, because he refused to ever leave the United States.

She never left him again, till she died.

And I never speak Yiddish or hear Yiddish without the images and sounds of that month in Israel and the Shoah ever present in my mind.