I received the news that Aunt Carol died peacefully early Saturday morning. The date was January 22, 2022; she was 94. Her story of courage and triumph throughout her life will inspire you; she inspired me. Although Aunt Carol said we cannot choose the path our lives take, I believe she did choose her way. She chose strength and hope rather than the road of despair brought on by the tragedy of losing her young daughter Debbie-Jo in 1959 and her eldest daughter Kathy in 2021 (z”l).
NEXT STORE NEIGHBORS
I grew up living next door (I used to think the words were next store) to my dad’s sister, Aunt Carol, Uncle Milt, and cousins Kathy, Lisa and Lori. The subURBAN myth in my young mind was that our grandparents didn’t want to drive all over Long Island to visit each week. Two houses went up for sale and, my family and my aunt’s family grabbed the deal. My childhood memory also recalls that grandpa gave a sizeable down payment on both houses in Westbury, NY; he always liked to get his way!
A lifetime of memories with my aunt flood my mind, from traveling to Florida with them as a kid (when I liked the bumpy plane rides) to sharing holiday tables and the joy of family. One such piece of advice from the early 1970s was “Don’t sit in the sun because it will give you wrinkles!” Excellent advice that I ignored and later found that life and the sun gave me wrinkles. I also think she told me not to smoke because it will stunt my growth – it was an easier time back then. If only smoking caused a case of shortness.
Below is an inspiring passage demonstrating courage after loss, that Aunt Carol wrote many years ago.
Aunt Carol’s Story – In Her Words.
Aunt Carol struggled with increasing illness over the final years. But her final gift to her family was her last week of life. Her daughter, Lisa, a physician whom I have spoken of in previous blogs didn’t leave her side. Other close family members were also at Carol’s bedside. Lisa is the rock for the entire family and demonstrated her compassionate, empathetic skilled medical talent with both her parents. Lisa documented the transformation of her mother’s last week of life. The change in Aunt Carol’s skin, her peaceful face, and the acceptance of love and care. I was able to see this transformation through photos without Lisa saying a word. Aunt Carol let family members and her devoted assistant Barbara know, that she was OK. It was her time.
May Your Memory be a Blessing
We celebrated Aunt Carol’s life on Wednesday, thanks to the genius of Zoom, I was able to attend. The eulogies and outpour of love were extraordinary. Grandchildren sharing the unique relationship they had – each felt special and truly beloved by their grandmother. Aunt Carol and my Uncle Milt (both of beloved memory), and married almost 70 years, cherished family above all else. This is a lesson that I have taken to heart.
Especially touching for me was the eulogy given by Carol’s baby brother – my 91-year-old father.
Aunt Carol had the courage to continue life. She taught health and physical education for 35 years and continued to live a healthy, active life into her 90s. She was my substitute gym teacher at Salisbury Elementary School. I remember one day in the gym working on the rings that were attached to large ropes. I was the only one who was able to do a flip and my classmates insisted it was because my aunt was the teacher and not my incredible skill! Really!
Mourners from all across the country spoke of Carol’s impact on their lives and the community. Carol and her husband Milt devoted their time and resources to JAFCO. and other meaningful charities. Carol’s grandson Jeff wrote, “Thousands and thousands of lives were improved (if not saved) because of *their work with JAFCO.” They received the Lifetime Achievement Award for their contributions. Aunt Carol and Uncle Milt chose a path of philanthropy, community engagement, leadership, and family. They choose life – We can all learn a lot from their story.
I will never forget you, Aunt Carol; I just found a new place for you in my heart.
You can purchase my book Raising Jess A Story of Hope on this site or through Amazon and other retail outlets.