Friday, August 21, 2009

Evelyn Paller Strongin, זכרונה לברכה

(Written by Ari)

You may have noticed, and some people have inquired, that it's been a little while since my mother has posted to the blog. In the midst of my parents taking care of the girls and a well-deserved vacation, my grandmother's health took a serious turn for the worse and we cut the vacation short to drive back from Florida in order to be by her side.

At around 11:15 Thursday night, August 20th, she finally passed away after hanging on as long as she could possibly bear. My father called me immediately afterward, and Jessica and I will head up to Philly first thing tomorrow morning.

Sitting here quietly and unable to sleep tonight (so far), I decided that perhaps the best thing for me to do was to write, so I put together the following...


I’ve known this moment was coming for quite a long time, but no matter how much we think we have prepared ourselves mentally for the loss of a loved one, the raw emotion of the event itself is ultimately unavoidable.

But beyond the ephemeral grief and transient waves of sorrow, we carry something wonderful and special forward with us throughout the remainder of our own lives.

I like to think that we’re all inextricably connected to each other. It’s little pieces of our souls that reach out between us and bind us together when we meet, and as long as we remain on this earth, we have the privilege of reaching out to tug on that bond and bring someone in a little closer to us, or strengthen that bond with those we love. The severing of a bond that happens with the loss of the person at the other end can be traumatic, but after we heal, we are left with the little piece of that person that was connected to us. We may have forever lost our ability to tug on it or strengthen it, but we will always remain with that which we once shared between us.

So beyond the trauma of a recently severed bond, I am so grateful for the piece of my grandmother that I still have to carry forward with me.

Though she was not a particularly religious woman, I can’t recall very many Shabbat dinners she ever missed with our family. I remember spending countless hours as a child exploring the many hidden treasures of her basement, and long walks around Melrose Park. I remember being serenaded by Safety Songs like “When you Ride a Bicycle,” and “Ice Skating is Nice Skating,” when it was time for bed.

I was 13 when she and my grandfather came to live with us, and we moved together to our new house just after we lost him. I always felt so lucky that during some of the most difficult times in my life, she was always right across the hall to listen, with a pretty surprising level of discretion and confidence when it was necessary, and to always offer those magic words of advice, wisdom, encouragement and love that somehow made everything seem better.

All throughout her life and even up to her last breath, she took almost every bit of what was probably more than her fair share of adversity, absorbed it without bitterness, and converted it to compassion and consideration. She genuinely and deeply cared about everyone she ever knew, and would regularly reach out to distant friends and relatives to listen to what was going on in their lives. She was fiercely independent and self-reliant, and did what she knew in her heart to be right no matter what anyone else thought.

The world is probably a little worse off without her around, but I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that there are so many little pieces of her soul left scattered around down here among us, and that her memory will be a blessing to us all forever.


Stacey said...

You're last paragraph was sort of what I tried to say last night! She was a great woman, and world holds a bit of sadness today in her loss.

I'm so sorry to the whole family for the loss of such a wonderful woman.

Through her stories about her family (that she loved more than anything), I felt like part of your family. In a way, being there with her (but not at her last moments) had also brought me at peace with not being around when my Grammy died, but that sadness (of their loss) and happiness (from all the memories that will live forever in your hearts).

I'm so glad that I had met Beth at TBI so I had the chance to meet Evelyn and your family.

(btw...thanks to Jamie ( I hope I spelled it right) I now know some of the safety songs :) )

R.I.P. Evelyn Strongin...we love you and will miss you, but you'll always be in our hearts!

Anonymous said...

Considering how she used to exchange life stories with every person she met while picking out produce at the market, riding the train to work, and everywhere else she went, I am sure that she will be remembered by many more then we are even aware of.

Anonymous said...

I am so sad to hear about the loss of Mrs.Strongin. I will always remember her because she was the person who taught me about family. I learned what it really means to belong to a family. I learned what it really means to be accepted for who you are and to learn that each person can be a helping hand to another. Her warmth and her smile always welcomed me. I was a person who needed that warmth and that acceptance. Her lessons were passed on to her daughter, my friend, Marilyn. I am so happy to know Marilyn. I sadly say goodbye to Mrs. Strongin and I lovingly hug my friend , Marilyn. I love you, Mar. With loving thoughts to all of the family, Roxy

laura Feller said...

Dear Ari...
I was so comforted by your beautiful message and memories of your grandmother. It was my privilege these past 15 years to have known her and to have been the recipient of her wise counsel and in the reflection of her twinkling eyes and compassionate smile. I know that part of her soul is with me too and that she will always be a blessing in my life for all the years to come.
With gratitude for your exemplary words,

Unknown said...

Good job, Ari, and what a beautiful picture. I am so thankful that I too, have a little piece of that blessing. Love to all, Elaine