"I feel as though a piece of me has died". These are the words my father-in-law used today to describe how he felt about his older sister passing away, our Aunt Lola.
We understand how he felt. They came from a very loving family of seven, five siblings and a mother and father, all of whom died during the Holocaust. He thought that he had lost everyone and by a stroke of luck found his sister after the war. Since then they shared an extraordinary bond and her passing meant that he no longer had any of his family.
Sure, he still had his wife of 64 years, two children, four grandchildren and one great grandchild. But nothing can compare to the bond that one shares with a brother or sister or parent. I have a brother and am certain that I would feel much the same way if I ever lost him.
My father-in-law and Aunt Lola were so much alike in so many ways. They are both kind, loving and generous in every way possible. My beautiful wife has inherited many of those same characteristics.
A big difference between the two of them is that they were both raised in an Orthodox Jewish household and Aunt Lola maintained many of those same practices when she came to the United States and my father-in-law did not. That may be the biggest difference between the two of them.
We often referred to Aunt Lola as the "Zsa Zsa Gabor of Brooklyn". She wore a lot of jewelry and many times when my wife complemented her on a particular ring, brooch or bracelet, she just took it off and gave it to her, saying "if you like it, then I want you to have it." And once she made up her mind to give you something, there was no arguing.
You were going to have it.
Aunt Lola had a twinkle in her eye and all three of her children seemed to have inherited that same trait, a marvelous trait indeed.
We are scheduled to fly to New York this coming Friday and had made plans to see her and the family on Monday, knowing that this may be our last chance to see her. Aunt Lola is 91 years old and in poor health. I guess that our timing was just a little off and that we will have to say goodbye to her in other ways.
Like my father-in-law, Lola is a survivor of the Holocaust. Both of them have incredible stories to tell and both of them have written books to tell them. Lola was personally responsible for saving hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives during this time. Her book is called "A World After This" and is an incredible introduction to this amazing woman.
I often tell the story of the funeral that my father had attended and afterward he approached the daughter of the gentleman who had passed saying to her "I am sorry for your loss". Her response was "I haven't lost anything. Everything I ever got from him I still have, I just stopped gaining".
Certainly we can all feel that way about our Aunt Lola. We have all stopped gaining.
You will be missed and will live forever in the hearts and minds of those who knew you. You may be missed most by your brother.