Kate: A Brightness that Can’t Be Dulled

For my extended family, this has been a very trying time. Two weeks ago my irrepressible, ebullient and exquisite step-niece died suddenly from as-yet unknown causes. She was 27.

Over the weekend, my step-brother, my former sister-in-law (I use the term “former” for the sake of exactitude because she very much remains a part of our family), my nephew and my niece’s fiancé led a tribute to Kate at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

The memorial service opened with a loving, honest anecdotal eulogy from my brother and closed with the tossing of flowers into the Boston Harbor. The women in attendance were given a tube of rich red lipstick, a favorite of Kate’s, who was a talented makeup artist.

We became a family more than 27 years ago with the union of my mother and their father, both widowed at the time. Between them they had five children, and 10 grandchildren, Kate being the third from the youngest. Despite everyone spread throughout the United States and one overseas, we have come together often, usually for happy occasions like milestone birthdays, weddings, b’nai mitzvahs and the occasional Thanksgiving.

Amazingly, our parents are both in their late eighties, and as a family we haven’t faced a tragic event in more than 20 years. And now this.

As Kate’s parents would want, we remember this young woman, not with sadness, but rather for the joy she brought to life. We picture her at every family event – most recently at two weddings – acting as the social coordinator, dragging her cousins onto the dance floor and moving spiritedly to the music. Her smile and energy filled a space the way helium expands a balloon. And so Kate lifted our spirits.

No life should end as young as this one. And no parents and sibling should feel such pain. As family and friends we can do little but validate their loss, love them with all of our hearts, and remember their Kate in all her vibrancy.

That, and rock her red lipstick.


Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go but I had convinced my childhood friend, Barbara, to fly in from California, agreed to meet a few old friends for lunch and mailed in my check.

The die was cast for me to attend my high school reunion. And so I did, this past weekend.

Before you respond like so many of my more recent friends, “No thanks, I wouldn’t go to mine,” let’s consider the sway of the high school reunion:

Where else do you experience equal doses of curiosity and familiarity?

Where else do you party with 100 plus people, all of whom know your age?

Where else do you see the first boy/girl you ever kissed, and a couple of others you wished you had?

Where else do you talk with people who remember your childhood house?

And your parents? And that Miss Raycroft really was tough on you in English class? And that you always did want to become a writer?

And where else do you enter a room filled with football jocks, Ivy League braniacs (shout-out to you, Cuz), far out artistic types and ordinary kids, like me, and it no longer matters?

Truthfully, who cares? At our age, we’re just grateful we’re able-bodied enough to attend.

Three days later, I am still thinking about the evening, feeling elated that I went. If only I could get this tune out of my head:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

CHEERS to Lower Merion High School class of 1969!


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