It’s been a rather intense week.
My glamorous Great Aunt Barbara passed away on Monday, just five weeks after we laid her husband to rest, my beloved Uncle Davey. They were inseparable in life, and now are together again forevermore.
Dave is the youngest of my maternal grandmother’s siblings. Their entire generation is now gone from our family.
I can’t express the depth of this loss. Yes, it was their time. They lived long and good lives filled with love and contribution. But their departure leaves a huge hole in our hearts.
I can’t overstate how good they were to me. My Uncle Dave was the life of the party everywhere he went. He brought me all around Los Angeles introducing me to everyone he ever met. He called me regularly at college just to make sure everyone was treating me right. He danced with me at every family gathering. He showered me with gifts. My Aunt Barbara was more reserved and selective about who she bonded with. I am honored to have been one of the people I think she truly liked. (She told me so.) Losing them is especially hard for me because it brings a new phase of mourning for my grandmother, gone 15 years. She was my best friend on earth and always will be.
My Uncle Dave had experienced cognitive decline over many years, so his death was not unexpected. But my Aunt Barbara went quickly. She was glued to the impeachment hearings when I visited her in mid-December, showing signs of aging in her body, but not her mind. She delighted in little gifts and stories of college life from her granddaughter, my baby cousin Hanna (age 20) who I love like a sister. She had her hair done every week and was always adorned with statement jewelry and a bold lip.
But Barbara took a steep decline just days before Dave passed, and though it looked as if she might rebound, like that she was gone.
When Fredrick and I flew to LA for Uncle Dave’s funeral on March 1, we wore face masks on the planes and through the airports because the virus had begun to spread in the U.S. That our family can’t gather together now to honor Aunt Barbara makes this loss all the greater. Only their sons, my mom’s first cousins Jeff and Larry, and their respective spouses Beth and Darren, plus granddaughter Hanna, will be allowed at the gravesite for interment today. The rabbi will lead a brief service over the phone for them.
Passover starts tonight. Three of my clients have been laid off this week. My hometown NYC is in peril, with temporary gravesites being considered in Central Park. It’s all too much to bear. And I know I’m one of the lucky ones, a person of privilege with a stocked pantry, and a safe and secure home, and a loving partner with whom to ride this all out.
I’m thinking of Exodus and how much my people have endured for countless generations. I’m thinking of people locked in homes with domestic abusers who may never be free. I’m thinking of people without homes and without food, refugees who had nothing before and have even less now. I’m thinking of black friends who are even more marginalized at their companies now that working from home makes them easier to ignore. I’m thinking of everyone touched by this awful virus and the even worse pandemic of hate.
I just have to believe there is something wonderful waiting for us on the other side. I have to hold onto hope, or I’ll fall into despair. The Jewish people made it out of 40 years in the desert to arrive at the promised land. A lot of people never lived to see it. But they made the journey possible, carried in our hearts.
Barbara and Dave, I will carry you in my heart always. Please give my grandparents big bear hugs when you find them, and one day, hopefully a very long time from now, please come find me.
I love you. Happy Pesach. Rest in peace.
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