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Q Comes to Walled Lake

Q Comes to Walled Lake

I had heard a few weeks ago that some whack job maniac in a suburb 20 minutes from me killed his wife, oldest daughter, and dog, and was shot to death by police. Like most news readers, I thought, Holy Hell, what pushed a man to kill his wife, daughter, and dog? His dog? What did his dog do to him?

We get used to hearing stories about crazy loners who take automatic weapons and kill black people in a grocery store or Jews in a synagogue or random Chicago suburbanites from the top of a store during a parade. Sadly, we hear horror stories too often but a local man who kills his family? That’s not something you hear every day. But when his surviving 21-year-old daughter who thankfully wasn’t at their house said that her dad believed “deep state” forces stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump, staged mass shootings and the “fake” January 6th riot, and hatched plots to harm Americans with vaccines and 5G technology,” I knew that this wasn’t Kansas anymore.

It is the Michigan suburbs and post-President-Trump-America.

“This is an unbelievably horrific act,” Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. “It is so sad on so many levels.”

Police said Igor Lanis killed his wife, 56, and dog, and seriously injured his 25-year-old daughter, who was able to crawl away and called 911. She told dispatchers her father had just shot her but was too traumatized and distraught to tell them much more.

Bouchard credited fast-acting Walled Lake officers and deputies with saving her life while shooting Igor Lanis. The date of the shootings and Igor’s death was September 11th, 21 years exactly after other madmen killed over 3000 American citizens.

Rachel Lanis is now in the hospital. Her condition, after surgery, was upgraded from critical to stable condition.

The Detroit News confirmed that there was another daughter, Rebecca, who was not at the house because “she was at a friend’s house for a birthday” and blamed “her father’s mental health on his recent online interest in extremism and conspiracy theories.”

Rebecca Lanis later said that it “kept getting worse and he verbally snapped at us a few times,” but on Sunday, it turned violent after “he had an argument with my mother” and then suddenly used the guns in the home to fire at his wife and daughter, who was in the house.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, after the 911 call, Walled Lake police and sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the Lanis residence on Glenwood Drive at 4:11 a.m. The caller, later identified as a 25-year-old daughter, told dispatchers her father had just shot her.

As they searched the area, deputies heard a gunshot and headed toward the house when Lanis burst through the front door and fired − at least twice − with a Remington 870 shotgun. Lanis hit a car that an officer was behind and a home. A Walled Lake officer and a deputy returned fire, fatally shooting Lanis.

Deputies found the daughter who was shot “trying to crawl from the home.” Her mother’s body was found during a search of the home. She had been shot multiple times in the back, and it appeared she was trying to flee out the front door.

Autopsies of Lanis and his wife, Bouchard said, indicate they both died from gunshot wounds, although official results are pending. The sheriff added that officials are now checking cellphones and other electronic devices belonging to Lanis to see if they hold any clues to a motive for the shootings.

On the next day, the younger sister, Rebecca, put up a GoFundMe page, to help pay for her sister’s traumatic injuries. “Hi, my name is Rebecca Lanis, and on September 11, 2022, I lost my mother, father, and dog in a fatal shooting perpetrated by my father. My older sister, who is just 25 years old, was seriously wounded and remains in the hospital. Any support provided will assist me in paying my sister’s medical bills and will help us get back on our feet after this horrific tragedy. Our aunt, Mela, has set up this fund with support from our family members. Donations will be transferred from her directly to my sister and me to help with these expenses.”

Rebecca Lanis has raised over $71,000 in the first month of this GoFundMe page.

When I first posted this GoFundMe post on my Facebook page, my daughter, a teacher, wrote how horrible this act was. What I didn’t know until then was that Rebecca and her sister had both gone to Hillel Day School, a Jewish day school in Farmington Hills, the same school that all three of our kids went to, the same school that my oldest daughter teaches at today. Two graduates of Hillel, now in their early 20s, had just lost their mother, their dog, and their father, who had become a fanatic follower of Trump’s election lies and QAnon.

We have become bombarded by all sorts of crazy shit in the political world but we don’t imagine that it can hit so close to home. Almost 300 of the candidates for Congress in November’s election have denied that Donald Trump lost the last presidential election to Joe Biden. Trump is still the leader of the Republican Party, has pushed many candidates who believe him instead of normal government officials. He also plays songs from QAnon at his rallies and many in his audiences put up the signs of QAnon.

“I want the media to call out Q because this is all their fault,” Rebecca Lanis wrote, after the tragedy. She lamented how her father’s fall down the QAnon “rabbit hole” changed him from a loving, fun and carefree man to someone who “would get really pissy over the smallest things” and warn of imagined dangers posed by modern medicine or 5G towers.

“It’s like he got possessed by a demon,” she wrote.

As a Jew, it is especially disturbing to see another Jew, also a father of children who went to a Jewish Day School, turn from a law-abiding normal citizen to one who believed in stolen elections and a conspiracy-ridden anti-Semitic extremist group, urging its followers to hate Democrats, liberals, Jews, and minorities who don’t believe what they believe.

The Jewish funeral site posted this in Igor Lanis’s obituary, “Dear father of Rachel Lanis and Rebecca Lanis. Loving son of Sofia Lanis and Jacob Fayn. Also survived by many other loving family members and friends.”  They didn’t write that Igor was possessed by political demons that have destroyed many other lives and left a trail of death, including the January 6, 2021 insurrection on the Capitol.

When insanity and murder come so close to our homes and deeply affects people like us, we have to stop and wonder what has happened to so many people in our country.

No one is immune to hatred and violence. No one.

Card Collectors

My little brother Kenny loved sports. He knew more about Detroit sports teams and its athletes than almost any adult. Kenny kept track of the sports statistics of almost every player from the Detroit Tigers, Lions, Red Wings, and Pistons, along with his favorite college teams, MSU and U of M. He preferred MSU over U of M because he was able to witness an actual championship, the only one of his life, since he was born a few months after the Tigers miraculously won the 1968 World Series Championship. He relished the joys of watching Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser leading MSU (where his sister Leslie went to college) to a 1979 national championship, soundly defeating the great Larry Bird. Both Magic and Bird were drafted that same year and signed with the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics, continuing an intense rivalry that spanned 15 years.

My brother didn’t just love sports. He was also a card collector which involved buying and trading hundreds of cards with his friends. He collected thousands of them, including Mickey Mantle, Kirk Gibson, Gordie Howe, and the fabulous hockey rookie, Wayne Gretzky. My family knew that Kenny loved to trade cards but didn’t know how valuable and extensive his collection would become.

Kenny loved sports so much and fittingly spent the last day of his life with my father at a Detroit Tigers game, watching Detroit beat Chicago in a 1-0 nail-biter on July 20, 1982. After the game, on the drive home, another car sideswiped my dad’s Chevy Citation on 11 Mile Road and Inkster, a half-mile from their Farmington Hills home. I was called by a policeman to come as fast as I could to Botsford Hospital on Grand River where my mom, my aunt, cousins, and I waited, so scared we could hardly talk (my sister Leslie was in Europe with her symphony and didn’t find out for another day) In the hospital, we learned that my dad survived the deadly accident but his youngest son did not. Kenny was pronounced dead after midnight and I had to go into my dad’s hospital room to give him the devastating news that his son, my little brother, was gone.

Kenny’s bedroom was a treasure trove of sports posters as well as boxes of baseball, football, hockey, and basketball cards. My mom and dad could barely touch his room for years and kept all of his cards, preserving a small part of Kenny’s memory. They hoped that one day, my sister Leslie and I would have kids and eventually pass the cards down to our kids or grandkids, sell them, or keep them as souvenirs of a time when sports were thrilling to, among others, a little 13-year-old boy.

My parents gave all of the boxes of cards to my wife, Judy, and me, to store them and eventually do something with them. These boxes survived two basement floods and many clean-ups, including a clean-up in 2019, when Judy organized all of Kenny’s cards. She had heard that Mike Silverstein, who had dated Judy’s sister, Nancy, many years earlier and still kept in touch with the family, was a knowledgeable card collector and could help direct us. When Judy’s brother, Joel, another great sports fan of Detroit sports, died in the same year of a heart attack, Mike came to the funeral.

We realized then that we would eventually contact Mike about Kenny’s cards. When Covid 19 reached the U.S, bringing fear, lockdowns, and extra time for many to clean up, wade through, and organize extra stuff. Judy and I thought: why not now? So I contacted Mike on Facebook Messenger on July 16, 2020, almost 38 years after Kenny’s death, “Mike, I don’t know if you remember me. My sister-in-law, Nancy Frank, says that you know a lot about baseball cards and she was going to contact you. We have thousands of baseball and other sports cards in our basement that my brother, Kenny, collected before he died in 1982. I know many were worth a lot then and probably more now. We are looking for a card dealer who could value these and sell them. We are willing to pay a pretty good commission on them because they aren’t doing us any good and our son isn’t interested. Are you? Let me know. Thank you.” Mike wrote back within minutes, “Of course I remember you!! Hope all is well. I appraise collections all the time!! What is a good time to take a look at the cards?”

Mike came over that night, spent about two hours thumbing through the cards, and took some boxes home, letting us know he would get back to us soon. We told him that we weren’t in a rush since we had had the cards for decades and had done nothing with them. He seemed to know which cards had sales potential and which ones didn’t. While watching Mike for a brief time, we felt his passion for sports and cards and were pleased with the way he honored my brother’s collection. Kenny’s collection of cards was my brother’s long-lost treasure and Mike treated the cards as if they were his own.

About a week later, Mike showed us which cards had the highest potential value and explained how cards were scored. He admitted that Kenny had a lot of valuable cards but that it wasn’t simply the athletes, statistics, or rareness that made them valuable. It was whether each card was near perfect or not. They could be scored from 1-10 based on centering, corners, edges, and their surfaces. We later learned that Kenny’s Gretzky rookie card (stored in a plastic case) had recently sold for $3.75 million and so we were excited what his card could possibly fetch. But Mike said that realistically (as he looked at this card in depth,) it was probably around a 3.

We told our son, Kyle, about it and he asked if he could send it to the ultimate grading facility, PSA, with a payment of $225. In a few weeks, it turned out that Mike was right. Kenny’s Gretzky card was graded a 3 and Mike said that the market at the time for his card was somewhere between $1200-$2400. There hadn’t been much excitement for sports during the last year of Covid because most arenas and stadiums didn’t let people in to watch games live. So without fans and their loud cheers, many people lost interest. Mike suggested that the Gretzky card would probably get more after hockey season in 2021 started. So we agreed to wait a few months, let Mike take Kenny’s cards to card conventions where he could draw a lot of interest with the Gretzky card and a few other top cards.  He asked us if he should take a good offer on the Gretzky card or instead wait for hockey season in 2021 when the price of trading cards could rise. We told him that he could wait. We were not in a hurry.

 Mike had told us that he had had kidney cancer and took medication and went into remission. We also learned a few months later that he had a serious case of Covid before the vaccines were offered. Yet, Mike’s attitude was positive and nothing seemed to stop him. On Father’s Day, his daughter, Jenna, wrote on her dad’s Facebook page, “Happy Father’s Day Dad! Can’t wait to go to Michigan State games with you again soon.”

We simply waited to contact Mike again, understanding that he would let us know how Kenny’s cards were selling or if we should wait a few months to sell. We didn’t give it much thought, until the last week of October, 2021, when we heard our rabbi on Zoom services recite a healing prayer and include “Michael Silverstein and his family.” Judy and I were worried and so I sent Mike a message on Facebook Messenger. No response. I checked again a few hours later and then I got a ping on my phone and then read, “This is Mike’s daughter, unfortunately he is not doing well and we have to take him off life support tomorrow.” I responded to her that we were stunned and saddened and would pray for him.

Prayers didn’t help. Mike had gotten sick at home ten days earlier. He said he didn’t feel good and after two days, was admitted to Henry Ford Hospital. He had also had a cardiac arrest, we learned, and according to his friend, Steve, who visited him in the hospital, Mike was mostly unresponsive in his bed.

So we waited with dread and heartbreak, realizing that Mike would probably not be able to watch Saturday’s rivalry game between the Michigan Wolverines and his beloved MSU Spartans, both undefeated and in the top ten. I thought back to Mike’s Facebook page when his daughter Jenna said she couldn’t wait to see MSU games with her dad and felt sad that they wouldn’t be able to see any more games together.

We forgot about Mike for a few hours when we watched the football game between the two undefeated Michigan schools on Saturday afternoon. My wife Judy and son-in-law Jonathon, both U of M grads, rooted for the Wolverines, and our daughter, Ilana, an MSU grad, and our two granddaughters, Talia and Shira, wore Spartan shirts. Michigan had a commanding lead but MSU made a valiant comeback in the 4th Quarter, taking the lead and the victory. Judy and Jonathon were upset, Ilana was thrilled, and I was disappointed since I was rooting for Michigan.

Everything changed later in the day when we read on Facebook that Mike died. His daughter Jenna wrote, “Today I got to watch one last Michigan State win with my dad. Right after the game he grew his beautiful angel wings and passed away. He will always be my hero. I love you most dad! Keep those MSU wins coming 💚💚” His wife, Suzie, later wrote, “My heart is broken 💔My wonderful husband is at peace today. I will love you and miss you forever. I was so honored to be able to watch MSU beat U of M with you yesterday! RIP baby! I love you most!”

The next day, his other daughter, Kayli, wrote, “Yesterday evening my world was turned upside down. Trying to think of the words to say is impossible. This world lost an incredible human being and I lost my best friend, my dad. My dad is no longer in pain and can finally rest peacefully. Thank you dad for being the most amazing father to me and Jenna Silverstein and an incredible husband to Suzy Smith-Silverstein. You are our everything. We love you, we love you, we love you. May his memory be a blessing. Rest peacefully Dad.”

I stopped caring about the Michigan Wolverines, Kenny’s cards, how much the cards were worth, or anything else after I heard the news of Mike’s passing. I read about what Mike meant to others, how devoted he was to his family, how much joy he brought to everyone around him. He was unselfish, kind, a true mensch. When Judy and I watched the funeral service on Zoom, we weren’t surprised at the inspiration others felt from Mike’s life. Like Kenny, he bought and sold baseball cards as a young boy and became an entrepreneur, selling tickets for concerts, music events, and sports. He didn’t just sell tickets, Mike told them. Instead, he sold “memories.”

Mike owned two sports memorabilia stores in Grand Rapids and Monroe and even after those closed, he still bought and sold sports cards. He had an incredible memory and was “one question away from being on Jeopardy.” He loved the hustle and bustle of life and even though he was struck by cancer too early in his life, he never stopped living. He was a very hard worker and devoted to making people happy. I was struck by a story when he drove four hours with his nephew Riley to deliver 2 Jonas Brothers tickets to a customer. He made $12 on the tickets but he didn’t care about the time and his gas money. He just wanted people to be happy.

I can only imagine what my brother might have been if he had lived and realized that he might have followed the same path as Mike because they were similar. He would have still been a lover of sports, probably a smart businessman as an adult, a passionate entrepreneur, still buying and selling sports cards, and quite possibly starting a wonderful family like Mike. But all this is conjecture and pointless to imagine. But it doesn’t stop me from dreaming that Mike will get to meet Kenny on the other side. I picture them together, talking about baseball cards, Magic Johnson, Detroit sports, MSU football games, and rock bands.

I didn’t care that Michigan lost a football game. I cared more that Mike was able to watch one more MSU game with his family and that his last memory was an incredible come-from-behind win that he shared with his whole family. He passed away at the end of the MSU press conference, which is stunning in itself. It might just be the ultimate way to finish life, to be able to do what you love, with your loved ones right by your side.

Even though Mike died too young at 59 years of age, I can only hope Kenny and Mike are able to see us still, watching us from above, watching all the sports games that they can now see on their own big-screen view of the world.  

Mike told his family that what he wanted to be written on his gravestone was “A Front Row Ticket to Life.” I pray that Mike and my brother are able to get actual front row tickets to whatever they want to see, whenever they want to see…sports games, our daily lives, anything we can imagine. Anything.


I wrote this on the Jewish Day of Love in 2021, in memory of my parents, who had both died on that fateful day, one year apart.


July 25, 2021

I took my 4×6 card with my Aliyah on it and walked up to the front of the synagogue. The Torah was taken out of the ark but the rabbi said that due to recent increases in Covid cases in Michigan, the medical team had advised him that the Torah would no longer be paraded around the synagogue and touched by its members. I just stood there, waiting for the Torah service to begin.

          I had asked and received the Kohen Aliyah which is the first blessing to be read at the beginning of the Torah service for Parshat Va’etchanan on July 24, 2021. Parashat Vaetchanan tells how Moses asked to see the Land of Israel, made arguments to obey the law, recounted setting up the Cities of Refuge, recited the Ten Commandments and the Shema, and gave instructions for the Israelites’ conquest of the Land. Since I was a Kohen (Kohen is the Hebrew word for “priest”, used in reference to the Aaronic priesthood, also called Aaronides. Levitical priests or kohanim are traditionally believed and halakhically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the biblical Aaron, brother of Moses,) I could get the honor.

          I was told I was a Kohen when I was young, as my father was also a Kohen and of course, his father, my Zadeh. I never asked how they knew for sure since my grandfather traveled on a ship from Russia when he was ten years old, to escape the pogroms in Russia, which were violent and designed to eliminate the Jewish people. My Zadeh was never religious, unlike my grandmother, Anna, whose parents were Orthodox Jews. I just simply accepted that my dad and his father were Kohens since that was listed on their gravestones.

          A decade ago, when my sister, parents and I went to my cousin’s twins’ bar mitzvahs, we got into a discussion with my oldest cousin Harvey and my cousin Scott on whether we were actually Kohens. Harvey said he was a Kohen since his father said he was. Scott argued that we weren’t and that it was a fictional story designed by my grandfather. I will never know now but on the word of my father and grandfather, I am sticking with this: I am a Kohen.

          I stood by the steps leading up to where the Torah would be read, waiting for my name to be called. I walked up the designated area, where Aliyahs were to be read. Since the pandemic of Covid-19 had begun, no one was allowed to touch the Torah scrolls. In fact, for most of the year and a half since March 2020, the vast majority of services had been done on Zoom, where everyone prayed remotely but together on screen. However, in the last months leading up to July 2021, as Covid cases declined and most restrictions were removed, in-person services were held on Shabbat, which also included those participating remotely on Zoom.

          I had never been the designated Kohen on Shabbat services before and the only reason I had asked for that honor was because it was my parents’ Yahrzeit on that exact day, the 15th of Av, called Tu B’Av, which the rabbi explained was the designated day of love for the Jewish people.  Seven years earlier, my father had died in Beaumont Hospital and exactly a year after, on the same day in the Jewish calendar, my mother died in her room at Regent Street in West Bloomfield, with my wife, Judy, my sister, Leslie, and Rabbi Shere by her side.

          My wife and I have believed since my mom died, that my dad came for my mom on this day, his Yahrtzeit, TuB’Av, the Jewish Day of Love. There are many who believe that there are no accidents. Well, in this case, I am in agreement. My parents dying one year apart on the Jewish Day of Love was no accident.

          I thought of my mom and dad when I stood up on the Bimah, semi-frozen, watching and listening to the Rabbi give his commentary. I just stood there, not knowing exactly where I was supposed to stand. I knew that once it was my turn, it would be easy to read the blessings as I had read them so many times at Bnai Moshe Synagogue in the small chapel on Mondays and Thursday mornings, when the Torah was taken out during the week. I waited for my turn and then was called on to read the first blessing. As I stood there and listened, I realized that this was the Torah reading when the Ten Commandments were read. Everyone in the synagogue was called on to stand up while Rabbi Pachter, the Rabbi Emeritus, read all ten.

          I understood that this was a great moment to be able to stand and deliver the Aliyah blessings. The Ten Commandments were read once a year, the same date as my parents’ Yahrtzeit. I stood there, wondering if my mom and dad were high above me, listening. I read the blessings as I had done so many times before and walked off the bimah stage, a little unsure what I was supposed to do next.

          My dad would have turned 90 if he were still alive. His birthday was August 14th. He died on August 11th, 2014, seven years earlier, three days before his birthday. He died as the rains came pouring down, flooding much of Beaumont Hospital and so much of Metro Detroit, the same day that Robin Williams took his own life. I later found out that Robin’s birthday was July 21st, the same day that Kenny died, and I couldn’t help wondering if my mom and dad had been able to meet what in my opinion is greatest comedian in the spirit world. (My other told me through a medium three years exactly after she died that she was searching for movie stars but hadn’t found any yet.

          The summer of 2021 was a summer of rain and flooding. We faced a small flood in our basement a few times and ended up replacing the gutters which had contributed to the flooding. We also found out we had lots of mold in our basement, discovered by a mold company, which we decided to have removed. We knew of so many others who had power outages and flooding as well over the summer, including my sister in Columbus. The medium who told me in a group reading that Milton and Rochelle and Kenny were there with me (she listed their names) had two major floods during the summer and had to get rid of so much of what was in her basement.

          There are times we have to clear out all the clutter we have accumulated in our lives, our possessions, and in our minds. How do we know what to get rid of? How do we know when there are sudden connections between events, between people? We don’t know when they reach us out of nowhere and give us chills. I can imagine the medium saying the word, “chills,” she utters when she feels the presence of ghosts who connect with her.

          I think of the ghosts before me. I remember Scott, who believed that the Goldman men weren’t Kohens and tragically died on May 28, 2019, at 58 years of age, just weeks after Judy’s brother, Joel, 61, died of a sudden heart attack. Scott and Joel died before the global pandemic had killed hundreds of thousands in the US and millions more around the world. Why then did two relatively young people die?

Today, I can’t help but thinking that Scott knows more than I do, that he has become wiser and now knows the truth about my grandfather, my father, and so many others who have left our world. If Scott cares any more about something that doesn’t matter much, he can discover the truth from our Zadeh, if my dad, Harvey, and I are really Kohens. Were we descendants of Moses or are these just stories we like to tell ourselves?

There are so many people who I grew up with and knew who have left our world. I started writing the book, Little Mitzvahs, after I turned 50 and I can hardly believe that 15 years have passed so quickly. I am now 65 and remember when my dad turned 65, when he told me how fast his 40 years of work descended on him. I have worked 44 years and understand.

I turn to prayer almost every morning. I dream and remember my loved ones and I quietly grieve for them and for so many more who leave us every day. I listen to the recent podcasts of comedians Louie Anderson, age 68, and Bob Saget, age 66, and know that each moment, each breath, is fleeting, is temporary, is a path to an end. But I am thankful nonetheless for everyone, for every memory, for each Aliyah, for each new moment.

I thank You,

living and enduring King,

for You have graciously returned my soul within me.

Great is Your faithfulness.

(from Modeh Ani prayer, translated from Hebrew)

The Death of My Doctor

After I took my annual blood test at LabCorp, I drove to my office, turned on my laptop and checked my email. Since I had signed up for the email list from my local Jewish funeral home, I often received a list of daily funerals, their names, ages, and relatives. I rarely paid it much attention, until Friday, the last day of September. I was deleting my emails until I took a double take as I read the first name on the funeral home’s list.

It was my primary care doctor, whom I had seen a few months earlier and during the last two weeks, called twice to get my medication renewed. I couldn’t understand why he not renewed my medications.

My doctor had died the day before Rosh Hoshana, the Jewish New Year. Like me, my doctor was Jewish but he was four years younger than me, in seemingly good health, with a busy practice. I wondered how he had died and assumed that a middle-aged man, slightly overweight, must have died from a heart attack. I called my friend who had recommended this doctor seven years ago. He knew the doctor had died and told me that he was told by someone close that my doctor hung himself at home, right before the New Year.

It was then that I realized I really knew nothing.

I watched my doctor’s funeral on Zoom. He was born on Memorial Day in 1961, a brother to three siblings. He had graduated the University of Michigan in three years and went to Wayne State (same college I attended) Med School. He was mentioned by the rabbi as someone everyone liked, the “kindest person,” and the best friend of his wife, also a doctor, of 40 years. They had the same engraving on their wedding rings, “always and forever.” He was a devoted caring doctor, had hundreds of loyal patients for decades. He was the “best friend of his oldest son, Bryan” and was loved deeply by his two daughters, his youngest also a graduate of U of M. His wife and son and brother-in-law were all doctors. He had a life that everyone could envy and he seemed “happy.”

After the rabbi, his wife spoke words on a page, very quietly, her hands held by her son and oldest daughter. She spoke about how wonderful he was as a husband, father, and grandfather of two young children, 1 and 3. There were hardly any clues to his mental health until the end of the ten minutes when she said that she hoped that his “demons” were now gone.

After she spoke, my doctor’s wife and all three of his children held onto each other with outstretched arms as if to stop each of them from falling, falling to the ground.

My dad’s youngest sister committed suicide in her bathtub 45 years ago. My dad’s good friend shot himself in his beautiful Wabeek estate 20 years ago and our good friend’s sister shot herself on the last day of the year nearly 3 years ago. My friend and his wife, her sister, found her at home. What we had heard from her was that she was “losing her mind” after all her cancer medications and believed that she had Lewy Body Dementia, which is what Robin Williams had before he killed himself, on the same exact day that my dad died.

Do we really understand what drives people to eliminate themselves from their lives and devastate their families? My wife texted me after the funeral, “Mental illness is an illness. People blame those who can’t help themselves. Obviously, he didn’t get the needed help or it just didn’t work….His demons got to him. You can’t save someone from themself.”

In some ways, it felt as if I were watching my own funeral. But after it, I vowed to be resolute. Even when I fall into despair, I know what suicide does to the survivors. So I make my vow, no matter my demons, to always choose life over death.

In Memory of Kenny (updated in 2022)

In Memory of You, My Brother  


(updated in 2022)

Sometimes I forget

What can never be again,

A life that disappeared,

Yours, begun on a fearsome,

Ice-drenched December

Night, ended thirteen years later,

In a car after a baseball game,

Less than a mile

From home, forty

Shattered years

Ago. I can barely remember

The timbre of your voice,

Chanting your Bar Mitzvah

Prayers, the sound of your

Lingering laugh. When I sift

Through your photos,

The collage of your silent

Faces seem out of focus

In dense disbelief.

I keep imagining

The ghost of you hovering,

Helping us, how I don’t know.

I imagine you still dribbling

On a gray pavement, each

Shot a silent swish. Do you

Glide above the children

Back and forth on a court

In a league named in your memory?

Can you help them stop and savor

Their lives; can you help me?

Today, my dream is a prayer

That you, dad, and mom

Know what we know,

Your family now blessed with

New life, two beautiful girls

And two boys who remind

Me of you, fifty years ago, and

Each precious moment of

That life, yours, that I now try

So hard to remember.  

My Father’s Hero

My Father’s Hero

May 21, 2007

I lost my only brother at 25 but I have been blessed with a father for 50 Father’s Days. I have watched and admired how someone who had so much ripped away can still be delighted by his grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. He listens and plays with them as if he were their brother, as if he were their age.

My father’s hero was Hank Greenberg. In my father’s childhood, “Hammerin’ Hank” became the most prolific hitter on the Detroit Tigers. The first Jewish superstar, Greenberg refused to play on Yom Kippur when the Tigers were fighting for a pennant. In 1938, he hit 58 home runs, the most home runs since Babe Ruth’s 60, and in 1942, he volunteered to join the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II.

As my father and I walked the corridors of Comerica Park and viewed Greenberg’s photo and his 1945 Detroit team, I listened to my father’s memories of “the magical season” when my dad was 13, the hometown hero returned to his city, and the war ended.

This was the first time that my father and I went to a Major League baseball game in decades and his first trip to the “ballpark” that replaced Tiger Stadium. As the Tigers and Orioles reached the sixth inning, the wind started to gust and the rain fell hard on our heads. We then decided to escape the driving rain and went to watch the game on a 19” TV screen above the concession stand.

As we watched Gary Sheffield come to the plate, my father told me about the return of Greenberg. My dad and his friend had paid 50 cents to get bleacher tickets for a doubleheader on July 1st, 1945, Hank’s first game since joining the army. The Tigers were up in the early innings of the game but Hank’s turn at the plate was many batters away. My dad decided to join his friend who said they had plenty of time to get a hot dog before Greenberg. But the lines were very long, my dad said, and then a thunderous ovation erupted while they were in the bathroom. Hank had hit his first home run since World War II and didn’t homer again that night and didn’t play in the doubleheader’s second game. After the story about his deep disappointment, we heard a loud noise and watched Gary Sheffield on instant replay hit his first home run since joining the Tigers.  

I couldn’t remember when my dad and I had last seen a Tigers game. Even though we had worked together for two decades in the company he managed, I couldn’t recall going to a game with him during or after hours. Instead, I remember my days in Little League and the time I slugged my first good hit over the left fielder’s head with the bases loaded and trotted the bases from first to second, heading to third. I will never forget the third base coach, my dad, screaming at me to keep running. But I was too tired and stopped at third as he yelled, “You could have had a grand slam!”

That’s what I remember now though my memory is selective, often focused on what’s most hilarious or horrible.

My father’s most towering memory is his worst, the night he went with my brother, Kenny, to a Detroit-Chicago baseball game in the summer of ’82 when Kenny was 13. On their way home, at the last traffic light before he entered his subdivision, another car raced through a blinking red light into my father’s car, slamming into the passenger side. A few hours later, my dad lay badly injured in a hospital bed but his son, my brother, did not survive.

My father has lived with so many what-ifs in the last quarter-century. What if he had swerved left? What if he had slowed down or sped up just five seconds? What if he had never gone to the Tigers game with his youngest son?

The last night he shared with Kenny can never be erased. The night has markers every year, always within six weeks after Father’s Day. This year is the 25th anniversary of the death of my brother, Kenneth Samuel, who was born on December 23, 1968 and died on July 21, 1982.

I now think of the grief of parents when I read of dead American soldiers in Iraq and know their aches may soften but the haunted wishes for their sons or daughters’ returns will never disappear.

I know survivors fortunate to have fathers are incredibly lucky, as I am, after my father survived the crash and stayed in my life for another 25 years.

My father was a tough boss and sometimes a demanding father, expecting a lot from me. Or so it seemed before my three children, before watching my oldest son, named after Kenny, ready to enter his fourth year of college.

I lost my only brother at 25 but I have been blessed with a father for 50 Father’s Days. I have watched and admired how someone who had so much ripped away can still be delighted by his grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. He listens and plays with them as if he were their brother, as if he were their age.

My mother, sister, wife, and I know that a 75-year-old man with lymphoma and veins prepped for kidney dialysis won’t live forever. So we must be thankful for the days we have left, the nights we will never get again.

I am thankful for memories and imagination. After the seventh inning, when we left Comerica Park, I began to envision Kenny’s last night alive when he and his dad entered Tiger Stadium.

I smiled when I imagined my dad showing Kenny a photo of the one and only Hammerin’ Hank. I could picture the enthralled eyes of my brother, listening to his dad reliving his childhood in 1945. I could envision Kenny’s delight as he heard his dad tell him about his hero, Hank, coming home after fighting in a horrific world war and then leading his Detroit Tigers to a World Series Championship.

Road Rage and Regret

Bengals celebrating against SF in Super Bowl XXIII Jan 22 1982

After the Cincinnati Bengals prepare for their first Super Bowl since 1989, I think back to when they played against SF in Detroit. I wrote the following essay in 2006 when the Super Bowl was about to be held in Detroit.

(Printed in The Detroit News First Person Essay as “Super Bowl road rage—and regret,” Sunday, January 29, 2006 edition, Page 19A)

Everyone’s excited about the Super Bowl coming to Detroit. Jerome Bettis is thrilled to play in front of his home town. Stevie Wonder is preparing for his pregame show, the Stones are practicing for halftime, and office pools are picking points on the Seahawks and Steelers.

Me? I just try to avoid TV commercials and news shows preparing us to watch. I don’t have the heart for it. I live in my own time tunnel traveling back to the days of Super Bowl XVI in Detroit.

I had turned 25 on January 3, 1982. I was working for my dad’s company, Hardware Sales and Supply, and had money in my pocket most of the time. I worked in purchasing and advertising, sometimes receiving perks like the two Super Bowl tickets given by Master Lock, a sponsor of the Super Bowl. Their sales representative presented the tickets to dad and me in early December.

My father decided to give his ticket to my little bother Kenny. He turned thirteen on Dec. 23rd and this was going to be one of his birthday presents. Kenny was a big sports fan. He knew every Lions player and most others in the NFL.

When January 24th arrived, what everyone feared occurred. The snow fell steadily and the streets were slick. The wind-chill factor was minus 30. I’d told Kenny to be ready early and picked him up at my parents’ house three hours before the 4p.m. kickoff.

The streets weren’t slippery near home. I drove on Middle Belt to Square Lake Road. Traffic was moving pretty well until Opdyke, about three miles from the Silverdome, which we could see from the car. It looked like a circular silver Oz and we were on the gray brick road of Opdyke with plenty of time.

We listened to some of Kenny’s favorite songs on my 8-track stereo in my blue Fiat Strada. There must have been an accident ahead. We listened to Supertramp and REO Speedwagon as we moved one and two car lengths per minute. The brake was on most of the time.

We had an hour to go and I was getting nervous. We turned on the Super Bowl pregame show on AM radio and waited.

We’d stopped moving, my blood pressure was rising and kickoff time was approaching. I pounded my fists on the steering wheel, furious at the Silverdome crew and planners in charge. Weren’t they prepared for bad weather? Didn’t they have other roads and parking lots?

Kenny sat quietly, a 13-year-old boy dreaming of the big, green Super Bowl Silverdome field just a few feet ahead and football players in colorful uniforms right in front of him. He’d only been to a few football games in his lifetime, never a playoff game. He couldn’t wait to get there. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and into a restroom.

I opened the car window and heard a man asking for tickets. He would pay $100 per ticket.

I told Kenny we’d probably miss the first quarter anyway, and asked him what should we do. He gave me a half-hearted smile, and said $100 could buy a lot of football cards and he needed a new baseball mitt anyway. I took the money, gave Kenny a $100 bill, stuffed mine into my pocket, passed the stadium, and turned 180 degrees back down Opdyke.

On the way home, we listened to the first half on radio. I told Kenny we were lucky to leave since it was a blowout, San Francisco leading 20-0. We reached our parents’ house by halftime, in time to see Up With People presenting a “Salute to the 1960’s and Motown.”

Kenny and I watched some of the third quarter. After San Francisco held Cincinnati to two yards on four plays during the “greatest goal line stand in Super Bowl history,” we stopped watching.

 Kenny went to his room and I went down to the basement. When I came upstairs, I went to Kenny’s room and saw the Cincinnati Bengals score a touchdown to make it 26-21 with 20 seconds left.

Kenny stared at the crisp one hundred dollar bill.

Cincinnati tried an onside kick, which San Francisco recovered. The game was over.

The next year, I was invited to a Super Bowl XVII party, but I could hardly watch. I drank a few beers, ate some appetizers, and laughed. When I stared at the TV, my eyes started to water, so I went into another room and ate some more.

Only a few months before, Kenny had seen his last Detroit Tigers baseball game before being hit in my dad’s Chevy Citation just a few hundred feet from their house. I was called to come to Botsford Hospital. That night, I had to nudge my dad, his head swollen with bruises from the crash, and whisper to him that Kenny was gone.

Next Sunday, when Super Bowl XL game is played, and tickets now being sold on eBay for $2000 and more are scalped outside Ford Field, I plan to sit with my daughter, Marlee, in her bedroom, five days before her 11th birthday, playing any game she wants: Uno, Twister, or Skip-Bo.

It doesn’t matter. I will have no rage. I will not be her father that day. I just want to be her friend, her friend forever.

The Driver’s Test

Outlive Me

(from my book, Outlive Me, 2005)

As I tiptoe from bedroom to bedroom

Unable to sleep, I move closer

To my children’s faces,

Their ears cuddling the pillows,

Deep into their death-defying dreams,

Their breathing stops and starts,

The faint snoring of their hard-working

Chests rising and falling inward,

Their breaths rhythmically slowing.

My oldest daughter is taking her

Road test Saturday to get her license,

My son is due to graduate Wharton in

Less than three years and my youngest

Daughter is in the fifth day of her

Second period. She told me with

A voice of sadness

That she can’t go swimming

In “papa’s pool.” I want to tickle

Her armpits and wake her, let us

Listen to our iPod Shuffles

Together and forget that she

Will be Bat Mitzvah’d in two years.

Not even eleven years ago

She escaped from my wife’s womb,

Her screams bursting in the hospital

Room, the blood covering her eyelids.

I thanked everyone then, God

Mother Nature my wife the nurses

From this monumental moment,

This third and last miracle

Of my life. I pull up a chair

And gently kiss her cheek.

I wait and wait, thinking of the

Coldplay song Ilana loves,

“Don’t panic” which repeats and repeats

The words, “We live in a beautiful

World.” I can’t stop hearing it

And start singing in the faintest of breaths.

Marlee starts to stir, her eyelids

Fluttering, as if she could feel me

Hovering over her,

As if she could hear my prayer

As loud as I’m thinking it:

Outlive me.

Outlive me.

My daughter, Marlee, was desperate to get her driver’s license when she turned 16. She had been planning on it for over a year. At 15, she was acting already like a 25-year-old. Getting a license was going to be her ticket to freedom, to respect from her friends, to being in the next stage of her life.

It was September 2010 when we went to a Grosse Pointe Park Lincoln dealer to look at a 2009 black Mazda Tribute with only 10,532 miles, designed for her to drive. When we bought the car and brought it home, my wife, Judy, went to check it out and said, it smelled like cigarette smoke. She didn’t like it at all but to Marlee, it was the greatest car in the world and she was thrilled.

Marlee was a pretty good driver, like our oldest son, Kyle, and oldest daughter, Ilana before her. Marlee had a good knack of holding the wheel, stopping not too quickly, and not going too fast, while I was in the car with her. She did well in Driver’s Ed and I don’t remember how many times I went out driving with her. There were no near misses or anything that sticks out in my memory.

Everything was moving along for her to get her driver’s license right after her birthday. She was nervous and wanting so badly to make it. We drove to Mercy High School where the driver’s license instructor was stationed. I had her parallel park and back up in the cones there, always the hardest thing for me ever since I got my license in 1973.

Marlee and I got to Mercy High School early in the day on Saturday, February 13th, 3 days after her 16th birthday. We practiced parallel parking and backing up between the cones in the parking lot. Parallel parking is still the skill that I have the most trouble with, to this day. We practiced for a few minutes before the driver’s test woman came out to meet us. I remember her as a middle-aged black woman but I don’t remember much more that.

I got in the back seat and Marlee sat next to the driver’s ed tester. I was a little nervous but I had been in the car many times before with her and she was a competent driver. So we took off first down Eleven Mile Rd and then took a right on Orchard Lake Road. I knew what was coming next because I had sat for the same basic test with my son, Kyle, 9 years earlier and my daughter, Ilana, 3 years after Kyle. It had been about 6 years since I had to go through another driver’s test.

I knew where we were going. We turned right on the I696East interchange off of Orchard Lake Rd. Marlee stayed in the right lane and was able to keep up with the highway traffic. I thought that once she was able to pass this part of the test, the rest would be easy. We got off on the first exit, American Drive, went south to Eleven Mile Road and headed toward Middlebelt Road, back to Mercy High School. I figured we would just go straight through Inkster Road, where my brother Kenny lost his life over 28 years earlier, in a traffic accident with my father who was driving home from a Detroit Tigers baseball game. The passenger side of my father’s car was hit by a young woman who crossed a flashing red light, slamming into my father’s car. My father and brother were rushed into Beaumont Hospital and Kenny was declared dead a little after midnight on July 21, 1982.

Eleven Mile and Inkster was less than a half mile from where my parents lived.

A few blocks before Inkster, the driver’s license tester told Marlee to prepare to turn left. She slowly got into the left lane and I partially froze, knowing that this was the intersection that I almost always avoided since the 1982 accident. The time this took felt a lot longer than it was, as Marlee drifted into the left lane, ready to turn. But what happened next is still foggy in my mind.

There was oncoming traffic heading east on Eleven Mile Road. Marlee was preparing to turn left but when the traffic cleared, she didn’t turn. She didn’t move. The tester said “Marlee, turn.” She said again, “Marlee, turn,” slightly louder. Then she shouted, “Marlee, turn!”

I moved up in the back seat, with an instant dread, an instant thought, Not again! I then yelled from the back seat, “Marlee, turn!” A car was just about to go through the intersection, heading east, heading right into our car if Marlee turned. Suddenly, the car flinched ahead and Marlee put on the accelerator and turned, the approaching car slamming on the brakes to avoid the collision.

We were on Inkster, driving south away from 11 Mile Road. I could see the half-panic, half-relief stare of the driver’s tester and the look of panic and fear in Marlee. This was a teenage parent’s worst fear, his child unable to drive safely, unable to avoid a collision, and for me, it was like reliving the most horrible night of my life, when my little brother, Kenny, left his life after a horrendous accident, in the same intersection, over 28 years earlier.

The rest of the driver’s test came quickly as Marlee turned into a subdivision and calmly drove through a few turns down side streets and back to Eleven Mile Road, heading west to Mercy High School again.

After the driver’s tester told Marlee to pull into the parking lot and parallel park between two cones, I was almost okay, as my daughter seemed to get back to being a good driver. But when we stopped, the tester turned to Marlee and told her that “you know, I cannot give you a passing grade,” as you handled the intersection turn “poorly,” not turning when she needed to. The good news, she told Marlee, is that the test could be rescheduled in a week or two and if she did everything right, she would pass. “It was only a matter of time,” the lady said.

The trip home was awful, as Marlee cried nearly the entire time, saying that she couldn’t believe she didn’t get her license, that her life was over, as a license was all she ever wanted. I told her, all that was important was that she was safe, no one was hurt, no one was killed. We would practice again and she would probably do very well.

I wondered then…what was the meaning of the sudden stopping at Eleven and Inkster, the sudden slow-motion near-deadly near-miss test? Was Kenny saying to Marlee, be careful, pay attention, because if you don’t, you will die like I did? Was he saying to her, stop caring so much about something so trivial like a driver’s license, a license to drive the lethal weapon of a car? Or was all this just a coincidence that my brother played no part in?

Marlee told her mom that she was devastated, that she did not get her license, that she didn’t remember what happened, why she choked the way she did. A few minutes later, when Marlee went to her room to cry, I turned to my wife and said that this had been one of the scariest moments of my life, that I was scared that Marlee and I were going to be killed in the same spot that Kenny was.

The rest of the day stood in slow-motion, caught up in my mind’s eye, reliving the few moments of dread, of terror.

We drove again, Marlee and me, quiet and concentrating on the road. We went through the same route and she did well, turning exactly when she should, holding the wheel without fear, driving like she was an experienced driver. When she went back to take the test, she passed “with flying colors,” as the saying goes, flawless and fearless.

I prayed again when we went through that intersection, that Marlee would drive perfectly, that she would be safe, that she would always be safe. I prayed that Kenny had actually frightened her badly but made sure that she and I were okay. I prayed that Kenny was still around, that my little brother was with her ten years ago and is still with her today, insuring that my youngest daughter is safe, protected, that she is kept from the ultimate danger, that she will outlive me and live a long, long life, away from fear, far from pain, kept away from death as long, as long as she can.  

Seven Months of Covid

Seven Months of Covid

The first time I found out that Cheryl had Covid was on April 28, 2020 with her Facebook post, “I am fighting the virus. I can use all the prayers I can get.” My cousin Fred married Cheryl in the early 80s. He was the first cousin on my mom’s side to marry. They lost their first child after having a difficult labor. Her name was Kara Erin and according to my cousin, she was “beautiful.” Kara was born and died on September 23, 1983.

On July 1, 2020, Cheryl wrote on Facebook, “Tell the ones you love every day, how much you love them. I say this because in an instant, they could be gone.” Thankfully, Fred and Cheryl had two more children in the 1980s, Sean and Seth. Seth was born on Cheryl’s birthday, August 31, 1989. For the last 25 or more years, Cheryl lived with sickness, hospitals, and surgeries. And since her divorce many years ago, Cheryl fought the battle of sickness mostly alone.

Cheryl had what is now called “Long-Haul” Symptoms of Covid. “There is an urgent need to address long-term symptoms of the coronavirus, leading public health officials said this week, warning that hundreds of thousands of Americans and millions of people worldwide might experience lingering problems that could impede their ability to work and function normally.”  (“Covid Survivors With Long-Term Symptoms Need Urgent Attention, Experts Say,” NY Times, Pam Belluck, December 4, 2020) “’This is a phenomenon that is really quite real and quite extensive,’” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said at the conference on Thursday. While the number of people affected is still unknown, he said, if long-term symptoms afflict even a small proportion of the millions of people infected with the coronavirus, it is “going to represent a significant public health issue.”

On July 8, 2020, over two months after Cheryl was tested positive for Covid, she wrote a long exposition about Covid as well as so many other things. “I am starting a new group it’s called well I got many names for it and I would love your input I think right now we’re not together at all as a society and my goal is to get us together everybody, old people young people black people white people green yellow, tall short people. I feel like everyone is so narcissistic right now and all people really are thinking about is themselves when you just have to put on a mask to protect yourself and others and people are arguing about that. You have to wonder, it’s not like you have to inject something or get a drug or get something experimental. All we’re talking about is a mask and yet there are so many people out there that aren’t willing to do that and because they’re not going to do that, they’re testing positive for Covid-19. I personally want to try to get the numbers down to 0.

I tested positive and I’ve had it. It’s not something I would want anyone to get. Simple things like wearing PPE and masks could prevent it; that would be amazing. So many of our children and grandchildren are starting school in September and I want them to experience what I experienced and what are friends experienced. I want them to be able to be with other children and socialize. I don’t think home school is the answer. Half the fun of growing up is being with other people. It’s not always fun, sometimes you’re bullied. I was bullied as a child but you know what I learned from it and everybody learns from things that you do. I was talking to an Amazon rep for 2 hours and had the most interesting conversation and he lives in Chile and his lifestyle was completely different than mine. We grew up totally different and yet we both learned a lot from each other….

“Let’s see what we can do to really make this world a better place for our children, our grandchildren, our friends’ children and everybody and stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about what we want the world to be everybody it’s a fight every day when I was fighting for my life I had to think of even the littlest thing just to make me go on and it’s not easy but I’ve also learned that nothing in life is easy and if it what he was easy we wouldn’t appreciate it….

“There are many different avenues around where people can talk to each other and get together and I think getting together is the key. Nobody wants to be alone nobody wants to deal with all the things home and we have stress at home we have stress at work we have stress with our families and our extended family right now and I don’t think there’s anywhere in life that there isn’t stress but I think that we can do better and we can like each other and help each other as opposed to saying, let’s do this together as far as I can see nobody’s doing it together starting all the way up all the way down…

“I know what I look at my granddaughter and my grandson all my problems go away I can’t be with them but virtual hugs and virtual kisses what I have to do right now and I know the day will come where I’ll get to do it for real and you know I try to keep up and let them hear my voice and see my face on Zoom or Skype you don’t like the way I think I’m not a big fan of social media but I do think it can be used for a good purpose you know I’ve met so many people and I’ve done so many things I’m just having to deal with what I’ve had to deal with that and I say get rid of the anger and the bitterness and all that and let’s just try to get along and to work together.”

There were more Facebook posts that Cheryl shared over the next few months:

On July 14, 2020, she wrote, “What would you do? Yesterday before therapy a man at rehab said to me, u know those Jews they’re all the same. It took me by surprise. What would u have said if anything? Since anti-Semitism and hate in general is on the rise, am I just being sensitive? Ór since he didn’t know I was Jewish were his true colors showing? He has made other comments before but this was definitely different. So… What would you have said or done if anything?”

She wrote on July 18, 2020, “I love these children (her grandchildren Ezra and Nora) more than I thought was possible. I’m learning how to walk again and when I see their 2 little faces, I get the motivation to go on. Hopefully next week, I will take my first step and so on and so on.”

July 23, 2020 “Well I stood up today. Haven’t gotten the courage to take my first steps but the day is young. I have PT this afternoon and I hope I will be in the right mind set to take a step. Who would of thought at my age that just taking a few steps would be so difficult. I guess I have to watch the videos of Ezra taking his first steps. Holding on to the couch for dear life with terror in his eyes. Finally letting go and the look of relief and joy in his face that he did it. Hopefully I will be able to report the same experience.”

July 25, 2020 “You are braver than you believe, Stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Winnie the Pooh

July 26, 2020 “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Martin Luther King

On July 28, 2020, Cheryl pleaded, “Those of you that don’t want to wear mask: would you rather wear oxygen for the rest of your life? Think about it!!!”

On August 12, 2020, she asked those who had Covid, “For those of u that lost your taste and smell because of the virus, have u gotten it back? If so how long since u have recovered did it take to get them back? For those of u that have gotten Covid-19 did u lose all your hair? If so, are you wearing a wig or just dealing with the hair loss?

I have lost all my hair in one day; my thick long hair all fell out. I couldn’t stand the outcome, so now I am wearing a wig 24/7.”

August 31, 2020, Cheryl wrote, “It’s my birthday today and my son’s Seth Birthday. I can’t believe 31 years ago, I had this 2-month-early 4lb-6oz baby boy. 31 years later, he is married to the love of his life Sarah. He’s a CPA with a great job, a new house, and a new dog. Happy Birthday Seth you’re an awesome young adult. have a Happy Birthday and an awesome day. I love you!!!!😘😘♥️♥️

It’s been a crazy year for me. The worst is I got Covid-19, was on a respirator etc .

The best news is I survived!!!

I am starting to learn to walk again. it’s hard work but worth it. I want to thank my OT’s and PT’s who have been so supportive and helped me so much remaining positive and helping me get through this hard time.”

October 2, 2020 “I voted today!!! Make sure you vote too. it’s up to us to make the difference.”

October 25, 2020 “Please wear your masks!!! I am recovering from the virus. I still can’t walk. I can’t remember things. I have muscle pain that is indescribable. My taste and smell still haven’t returned. Just think, by wearing a mask it will reduce your chances by 80% or more so you don’t have to go through this. I will never be the way I used to be so please wear a MASK.”

October 30, 2020 “To all my friends and family today is moving day!!!!! Can’t wait. Still not walking but I am getting there. My major message: Wear your mask!!! No excuses wash your hands all the time wear your mask! You never want to go through what I have gone through. To all have an awesome day. To Karen (her daughter-in-law’s mother who had Covid), I am thinking about you. Stay strong. You will get through this my thoughts and prayers r with you for a speedy recovery. To Craig (her daughter-in-law’s father who also had Covid), the same: stay strong, baby steps. You and Karen will get through this.”

November 6, 2020 “Exciting News!!!! Having one

of the worst medical years ever. I have my very own

apartment It is so beautiful !!!!!”

Nov 20, 2020 “Today I am going to ask my doctor about donating my plasma/antibodies against Covid. It would be so awesome if I could help someone else. The only immediate problem is I have been sick and I don’t know how long I have to be healthy before I can donate. Keep your fingers crossed.”

Cheryl last wrote on November 22, 2020, A“This little girl has changed my life. Sean’s little girl Nora. Now I am obsessed with 2 grandchildren. Ezra 5 1/2 and Nora 1 1/2 I am so blessed.” This was the last post she ever wrote on Facebook.

On December 1st, my wife, Judy and I, received the news from my cousin Fred that Cheryl passed away. Her father had also died on December 1st, seven years earlier.

Cheryl was buried on Wednesday, December 2nd, with only her two sons and her two daughters-in-law in attendance. The recording of the funeral was on the Internet the next day. It was a 20-minute service, Cheryl’s 60 years summed up in 20 minutes. She fought, according to the rabbi, through 25 years of sickness but he said “she won the battle,” since she had two wonderful children who were both happily married, and she had two grandchildren, Ezra and Nora. After 36 years, she had finally had a baby girl.

I believe that Covid also gave Cheryl’s life some more purpose. Cheryl became vocal on Facebook and tried to use her voice to warn of the dangers of Covid and to wear a mask. Many people may never understand that point of view but some of us will.

She wrote just ten days before her death that “it would be so awesome if I could help someone else.” My hope is that her words will help someone. Let her memory be a blessing, not just to her small family and friends but to all those who never knew her and yet are able to gain some wisdom from reading her words.

Cheryl had the effects of Covid-19 for seven months but her words are a warning to all of those who don’t believe in the devastation that this virus can cause, since it has already killed over 280,000 in the US and over a million souls around the world.

Cheryl’s life was fraught with sickness and sadness but she was blessed with two extraordinary children and two grandchildren and a voice at the end that sends shivers to those of us who are afraid in these times of Covid.

I go back to the words that Cheryl shared from Winnie the Pooh that can be lessons to all of us. “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” And I think of Chery’s own words that sum up her life so well, “Tell the ones you love every day, how much you love them. I say this because in an instant, they could be gone.”


To Kenny


During the Coronavirus Quarantine in April, 2020, Judy and I found a photo that I didn’t remember taking. I also found this letter in an old drawer down the basement from my mom to our little brother, Kenny. 

You will always be Kenny to me, though you kept insisting you wanted to be called Ken. Tomorrow, you’d have been fifteen. You would have been such a handsome boy. Soon, your braces would have been removed and that would have been exciting for you. You would be able to chew gum again; that is, you would be able to chew gum without me telling you to spit it out.

What new interests would you have had? Baseball cards or stamps or stocks or tennis, or would you have been interested in girls? I believe you’d have done well in high school, enjoyed much, and probably avoided the drug scene. You’d have seen the foolishness in it. Perhaps you’d have tried, but you were always the type of kid who could get a natural “high” from life. You see, Kenny, this is the advantage and, I’m sure, the only one: I can see you as I choose. Maybe you will miss out on some pleasure but I must console myself that you are missing some very painful times.

I surely know the real meaning of pain. I am trying so hard to go on without you but it is the most difficult thing. All those years of being with you, when you were sick or sad or when you were funny or especially when you were happy…your eyes were so bright then. You gave us your zest for living and you gave us the strength to go through a lot of hard times, but most of all you tried to teach us the strength to be rational instead of being over-excitable with no reason. You showed us how painful it was for you to see us upset. Because of that, Kenny, I must try to do as you wanted us to do. I will go on and survive and enjoy some things because that will be my memorial to you. Life will never be the same without you, but I will try to enjoy parts of my life and get some satisfaction out of the things I do. But please, be patient with me. This is not an easy thing; you were such an important part of my life…it will take time.

Still, somewhere in a little corner of my heart, I keep hoping things will change and you’ll come back to us. But in time, somehow, I will accept that this can never be, that you cannot be with us in body, but I know, for the rest of my life, you will always live in my heart


Al my love,