(A tribute in memory of my best friend, who passed away from Leukemia on Yom Kippur ’07 – written 09/23/07)
Carolyn was a lady from day one when I met her as a freshman in high school until her last day on earth. We now have to get used to a world without Carolyn, without her smile, her happiness, her high strung energy, her vitality, etc… – a star at every event. She’s quite a loss to everyone.
My dearest Carolyn, Car or better known between us as simply shmate (a term of endearment often used between us)…
Words cannot express the loss I feel, and how much I miss you. In fact I woke up in quite a start around 4:00 am on Yom Kippur morning saying just that: “Carolyn, I miss you, don’t go.” Later in the day I found out that you actually passed around 4:00 a.m.
Although you and I have over 30 years of wonderful memories together, and I have them vividly flowing in my head every day, for once I was speechless, and needed to work hard in expressing my thoughts… And as I am doing this, I am both crying and laughing as I reminisce about all our life’s memories together.
You and I had a connection from the very first moment from that we laid eyes on each other when we first met in Yeshivah of Flatbush High School. I remember us as young attractive popular teenage girls in the 70’s. You, a year younger than me thought that it was very cool that you were friends with a sophomore, and at the time I being one of the few immigrants from Russia around, it made it even more interesting. With the cultural differences between us, our relationship took on a lifelong path of depth, respect and heartfelt friendship. I instantly fell in love with your zest for life, your unsurpassed energy, your unsuppressed vitality. You were simply unstoppable.
I knew that you were going to play a very important role in my life. The bathroom became our secret hiding place where we would sneak out to from class and were we could laugh and gossip. I would tell you about Erez who you found so fascinating, and you about a cute boy in your grade named Zvi Levy. And who would have known that we would wind up here in Florida almost 30 years later with the same two men that we fell in love with us kids, and with our own kids who are today older than we were then, and you and I as close as ever, and nothing that could ever come in the way of our true friendship.
Soon in your second year of high school, your unique personality and looks caught the roving eye of your classmate, the sophomore stud, Zvi who was recently imported from Israel especially for you. Zvi who was very good looking and popular himself was shy and mellow, and your outgoing personality balanced the two of you out, and you created a perfect match, and an exceptional couple, your love deepening everyday, as you were destined to build a Jewish home together, and bring 3 wonderful children into the world.
You and I found that we had a lot in common, and we would secretly meet in the bathroom, cutting classes (a fact that we tried hard not to disclose to our own kids or our students at Hillel) discussing our high school crushes, you on Zvi, and I on Erez, and since Erez who happened to be friends with Zvi’s brothers and who was the brother of Udi Nurieli, also your classmate and Zvi’s best friend, we had an even stronger bond, and we all became fast friends. Erez forever calling out to you: “Carolyn, you look hot!” (even on some days at Hillel, and Carolyn embarrassed would yell at him smiling: “Erez, stop the Rabbis can hear you!”)
Our life would then take us on many different journeys, twists and turns. We spent years laughing and crying together. Through these years of laughter and tears, we hung out in the school’s bathroom, cafeteria during lunch, had sneaked away from school before the whole security issue was born, and hung out in each other’s homes. Seeing our kids do the same with each other years later brings a big smile to my face.
We spent our lives in each other’s closeness and proximity. I remember our mutual parties and sweet sixteens, our sunning on your backyard porch or at the Seagate cabañas, grabbing a pizza pie, while spending hours watching All My Children, One Life to Live or General Hospital in early June (which happened to be during some missed periods at school, but we’ll keep that between us). We would bring the tv out, having the cord stretch a mile into the house, so that G-d forbid we would not miss even one episode. And, yes, back than it was worth playing hooky from school or cutting class for it.
We would march together in solidarity at the Israeli Day Parade, or the demonstrations for the release of Soviet Jewry (a subject close to both of our hearts). We would also take on other community projects, and in many ways life was much simpler then.
In the summers we would go to Coney Island or Manhattan Beach, and hang out with our friends. Or I would come to your house in Seagate, and we would go to the cabana club at the beach there. Our lives were always busy and full in different ways.
As time went on, our friendship never derailed with each other or with our respective boyfriends, withstanding the challenges of high school and college years. We spent years on helping each other and being there for each other, through both our good and difficult times. We simply were meant to be together. We were always there to pull each other along, and help each other get back on our feet, like a young doe learning to walk.
After college we were two of those rare couple who were lucky enough to marry our childhood sweethearts.
We’ve had years of happy occasions and celebrations together. You and Tzvika prepared the path for me on my wedding day by walking together in front of me to my Chupah, a day that I dreamed of for such a long time. You made such a beautiful bridesmaid for my wedding party in a deep red dress, proudly escorted by your handsome Zvi, a term of endearment that you always used for him.
A couple of years later, you made an even more beautiful bride in your exquisite wedding gown, as we all have come to know and appreciate your fine taste for things that life had to offer. I who was eight months pregnant with David, could not resist the full of life dance floor at your wedding, gleaming with happiness for you, cheering you on.
From the time you came into Zvi’s family as a young girl, the Levy family took to you and loved you as their own, and you felt the same towards them, calling Zvi’s nephews and neices, your nephews and neices… You being blessed to be an only child, a large family was very important to you, and you clung to them, who became your own, with all your heart. Any new or old friend, who you made or had, became another sibling for you.
As David came into the world and you came to see him at the hospital, you fell in love with him, and called him: “Duvidle”, and would say let me look at him long and hard, so that I can have a boy just like him. And a few years later, you surely did.
You lived around the corner from our house in Brooklyn, and since you were 12 days overdue, you decided to take a stroll to my house to maybe speed things along through walking. As you walked in and had to climb infinite flights of stairs to get to my living room, you found me cleaning my cabinets, as I think I was the one nesting for you. You sat down, and while chatting with me, all of a sudden a large jar of ragu sauce slipped out of my hands and splattered all over your feet and my floor. Well, the pure shock of it, was enough to send you to the hospital and bring our brilliant Wayne into the world.
Eight months later, my Sarah was born, and you and I spent endless hours in the park playing and taking pictures with our kids.
After a few years, you decided to join Rafi and Elana, and Udi and Zippi in Florida slowly bringing the rest of Zvi’s clan here, while I stayed behind in Brooklyn, missing the births of your wonderful Todd and Sara, and you made a new world of friends here who came to know you and your liveliness, and fell in love with you as well.
Although, I was not next to you, our friendship stayed strong, and we would chat daily, you saying: “So, do you have a scoop?”
I guess I could not be far from you for a long time, as after a few years, we joined you in Florida as well.
As we matured, we learned from our mistakes and to trust our gut instinct. We went to the movies or for coffee, or simply a movie. Our lives were always full of activity, as its norm with its daily agenda of mornings, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, shopping, mall, supermarket, shul, school, work, and sometimes one and the same.
Together we celebrated each other’s weddings, britot, (luckily my youngest, Jonathan, was born in Florida and got to know and love you from day one, like my oldest David and Sarah) birthdays, and our kid’s Bar & Bat Mitzvahs by lighting their candles for each other, with happy tears in the corner of our eyes as we watched them grow. I was fortunate and lucky enough to plan your simchas with you, with you entrusting me to create with you your kids’ beautiful invitations, favors, and whatever else that was needed to make your events as unique as they were, which no one could ever out do.
As far as I am concerned, I don’t remember life without you being in it, as having met you at such a young age, and seeing our kids grown and being already older by quite a few years than we were when we first met, makes me wonder at how is it possible that so many years have already flown by us and so quickly.
You had lived your life to the fullest, until its tragic end at your young age. Nothing you ever did was simple, but rather unique and elegant, beautiful and posh, full of your bountiful sense of humor, your strong values, morals and beliefs. It’s your positive attitude, your high strung energy, your elegance and your strong will and hope, what made you stand out from the rest, as well as your well bred manners. You could simply write a book on etiquette and what was the right way to behave in society. Unfortunately, too many people forget that very important fact.
Although deep in your heart you knew the truth to your destiny, predicting it for a very long time, you took it on with all your strength and power and challenged it, fighting it head on. It’s on those occasions that we think that we are having a bad dream or are mixed into a plot of a bad horror movie, or that the world has gone nuts & mad.
And, therefore, I just wanted to simply put down on paper how much you really mean to me and how much I truly love you and worship you and the love for life that you had, and that you are a true meaning and definition of what a real friend really is. You always cared about the feelings of your loved ones before your own, because of your giving and caring nature. I am very LUCKY to have had you for a friend and will cherish you in my life forever. Your request will surely be granted, as is the legacy of our friendship. Your merits have no end and you were one strong and courageous person. Your optimistic, positive nature, your level of maturity was incredible. You were full of life and hope, and were a real strong fighter.
I simply don’t understand a world without you, our Carolyn. Through my tears, mourning for you, I had told your incredible mother, Belle, which means “beauty”, a woman of such incredible strength, a pillar to us all, who never left Carolyn’s side in her battle for a moment, fighting right along with her every day, a woman who taught Carolyn all about what it takes to be a perfect, nurturing mother and a sophisticated lady, always guiding her in the right direction. The two of them shared a strong a loving mother-daughter relationship. Crying, through my tears, I said: “Belle, A branch has been broken off from my heart!” And she said to me: “She was such a good person. She never had a jealous bone in her body, and only wished good for everyone, and wanted everyone to be happy.”
(Thank you Belle for bringing Carolyn into this world and sharing her with us. Carolyn would not be the woman we came to know and love today without you!)
So anyway, just to say it simply, CAROLYN YOU WERE A TRUE LADY! You were from the first day that I met you, until your last day on earth. Your beauty knew no bounds both inside and out. You were a perfect wife, mother, daughter, and friend – a true definition of what woman of Valor really is.
As I stood there choked and heartbroken in the room next to your death bed the day before Yom Kippur, watching you live your last hours on earth and your life being extinguished, looking like an angel, I tried desperately to find the brightness of your beautiful smile, which was always so promising, hopeful and full of spunk. I could not comprehend this life’s slice of fate. I remember thinking that this must be some kind of a mistake, or a crazy dream or that I was put on a set of a horror movie, and then I realized that this is real and there’s a lesson to be learned from this. You heaved heavily and needed not to say a word, as you knew that I knew you well. You needed not to say good-bye either, as you knew that someday our paths would cross and we would see each other again.
You were sent to us as a message calling to let us know that we all need to stop and look around and truly rethink our life and the reasons that we are all visiting here. We need to remember and work hard to cherish and love each other, and never take life for granted. You taught us that we need to develop patience and understanding for each other. We need to evolve as better people by seeking truth and honesty and adhere to it completely. Life is precious and alone is a miracle. We must savor every moment. We are worthless without G-d and each other.
What lives forever is our soul, our body form comes and goes. You left us quietly, contently and not in vain. You have healed and are at peace now, your pain and suffering have finally ended, and that alone is a blessing and a relief to us all. As we kissed the coffin containing the human evidence that you were among us here on earth, so that we could part and say good-bye, we could feel your spirit hovering over us, as you had promised to let go only of your physical being and keep your wings of spirit around us for all eternity.
As we grieve, we go through waves and stages. We question our loyalty and faith, as we hit a wall full of unanswered questions. We try to compromise, and hit depression crying, blaming and punishing ourselves until, through devastation, we finally accept reality. Time heals all wounds and life will go on, but the world will never be the same without you Carolyn, as you and the richness that you added to us cannot be replaced. You will be truly missed, but your memory of your inner and outer beauty will dwell in us forever and you will never be forgotten. Your legacy will go on in your children, their children and so on. We will hold vigil and you will forever live in our hearts. Your presence is still and will always be felt.
You were sent to us as a token and an example of what a true human being should be and follow after. And although our connection with you was short lived, and may seem only but a moment, we were lucky to know you. You were unique and above us all. G-d took you up to heaven as he needed your help in his judgments and your beautiful words of wisdom. We need to know that life is fragile, given to us as a gift to be cherished every moment and it can be altered and taken away as quickly as it is given.
Hashem took you from us on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of our religion, which fell on Shabbat, making it even more special, this proves your righteousness and zchut, as the gates of heaven were wide open to accept your soul.
Although your life’s path took you early from of us, you are still an angel within us. We will forever feel your warm breath, soothing as a mid-summer’s breeze and your wide warm wings upon us, still comforting us long after you are gone.
We will so miss you Carolyn. Your sunny, always smiling face. We will miss your knack for planning parties and events, seeing you dancing with your full spirit at parties. We will miss your pure goodness, your holy righteousness.
WE LOVE YOU, and you the pillar of strength that you were, are very dear and important to each one of us in our own way.
We will love you always and forever.
Shalom, our dear Katriela,
Your best friend,