This morning, Estelle reminded me of a truism: When a loved one dies after 97 years of life, you undoubtedly mourn their passing, but you also celebrate their life.
Irene was born at the turn of the century into a large family with 6 brothers and sisters. Although she most certainly grew up in hard times, she always focussed on the positive while telling us stories about her life. She would tell us how she would take Milty and Roy to movies with a loaf of buttered bread, a nickel, and pickle. They could stay there all day by sneaking into the restrooms during intermission.
She met Ben in the early 20’s, and they were married for 44 years. Gloria and June drew the best from both parents–the strength of spirit from Irene and the quiet dignity of their father.
As grandchildren, there are so many great memories to share that is it difficult to limit them. Our summers at the beach are certainly at the top of the list. Picking raspberries so Nana could make jam, letting Nana clean our catch-of-the-day, and just having the family close together. Irene was matriarch of the family, and her love for all of us was unconditional. No matter where we went and what we did, we knew we could always count on Nana to be our biggest booster.
In later years, Irene kept her intellect sharp by reading voraciously and staying up with current events through The Today Show. She was overjoyed to welcome great grandchildren into her life, despite our best efforts of giving our kids confusing names, like Ilana, Aliyah, Alena, Hannah, and Leah. In the best of times, Nana had trouble with easier names, and we always knew to wait until the end of the cycle to answer. She maintained an active social life, which also helped keep her young.
If we had to pick one trait that described Nana best, it would be her indomitable spirit. She never wanted to miss anything, and through sheer force of will she almost never did. As I’m sure Pam, who provided and coordinated such wonderful care and compassion to Nana in the last years of her life, will attest, she maintained that spirit until the end. As recently as a few months ago, Nana participated and won a CD in a music trivia contest.
We have all been made richer by our love of Irene and her love of us. We know she desperately did not want to leave this world, but I’m sure that it would be a comfort for her to know that her spirit resides in each and every one of us.
We love you, Nana.