When I was little, we used to play a game. One person would stand in the center and the other players would form a circle around that person. Then the game would begin. Sue Sue was that person in the center of the circle and when she became so critically ill, I saw a group of family and friends join hands around her. No matter where you were standing or who you were standing beside, you held on tight- no questions asked.
Last night, after the funeral, Harold graciously invited "family" back to the club for dinner, as we had done so many times before. This would be the beginning of firsts- changes and transitions to our new reality that is to be "Sue Sue-less". We had our mini shiva. We told stories, we held each other and wondered how we'd go on and in those exchanges the unlikeliest of bonds were formed.
I saw MY mother look and listen- taking in what must have been a surreal scene. The other grandma was no more and she would now be in charge of grandmothering. People wanted her to know how much Sue Sue loved me. I stood back and took it in.
I saw Alan hugging all her friends. They take such comfort in him. I saw Eliza, my 13 year old hugging and 80 year old man. I heard "old" women telling Liza what an incredible woman her grandmother was. And I watched Eliza, my teenager, cherish the sacred exchange. Everyone was there by invitation and with a purpose. We were a part of her circle, a circle that now exists without its center.
A few weeks ago my friend Laurie sent Sue Sue a beautiful letter, made a homemade photo album tied with ribbon and drew Sue Sue a "picture". On the paper, she drew a sun and Sue Sue was the round yellow circle. Each ray was the name of one of her "people". There was Harold, Reny, Zina, Reva, Auntie Roni, Alan and Dylan and Eliza and me. Sue Sue was surely our sunshine and we are now her rays.
After dinner, we said our goodbyes, actually our "see you laters” with the promise that it would not be goodbye. There is a very real fear amongst most of Sue Sue's closest friends, that her passing will mean that we never see each other again. I vow that this particular Rosenberg contingent will do its part to keep the ties that bind. In this excruciating experience, I have gained a few new girlfriends. We helped each other through and have come out the other side. T
his is a hidden treasure and more important that any piece of jewelry she could have left behind. She left me her girls. I will take good care Sue Sue. I will treasure them as I would her favorite golden trinket.
As we were leaving dinner, Eliza whispered something in Alan's ear. She asked Alan if we could stop by our cupcake shop. This was the perfect idea- we would eat something sweet to celebrate the sweetness of a life lived for others, and most certainly for us- her family. So we piled in the car, with Aunt Roni and Al in tow, and headed for the Ave. It was the perfect finish to a perfect day.
As heavy hearted as our day was, the world would go on, and nowhere on earth would make that clearer than Atlantic Avenue. Crowds of people filled the street. You could feel the hum of energy and while our day had been filled with grief and sadness, life would now give us a pause and present us with much needed distraction. In the simplest of endeavors, we are reminded, if we only choose to see, that somehow that life goes on.
On our way in the car, Auntie Roni said that she felt Sue Sue had made us all closer. I agreed. I told her that in any tragedy, there is a silver lining if we're only wise enough to see it. One of Sue Sue's legacies, is that she has tightened the Rosenberg circle, and Harold of course, would be included. (Last night the bartender thanked Mr. Rosenberg for something, and Harold barely had the heart to tell him that in fact, he wasn't.) . We sat, our family, and devoured our cupcakes. This was a desperately needed “feel good”.
I knew that Sue Sue was watching. Our table was round, and again I was reminded of our role as her circle. This was the first time I felt her since she passed and I could tell we were doing it right. Just as her service had been fitting, this was a sacred ending to a day that honored our Sue Sue. I looked around and I saw Eliza, who spent the entire day weeping. Her tears made her that much softer and sweeter to me. I saw Alan who stood tall and spoke with such honor for his mother- he was my knight in shining armor. I looked over at Aunt Roni who quietly spoke of her unwavering love for her sister and so graciously thanked me for my TLC, there was Al, her husband Al who supported her through.
All in all, it was a day I’ll never forget. Everything happened as it should and I know that Sue Sue is happy that we will carry on. I realized in that moment that the agony in losing someone you love is not in losing the center but in figuring how to still be the circle.