Stories: Who We Have Lost

Take Care of Each Other

Story aboutDan Cruz, Irene Cruz, Keith Cruz (2 of 2)

As a young adult, Keith would call and ask my advice on many things. He would take an hour to tell me a five minute story! He loved comic book collecting and sports. He was close to his nieces and nephews and I believe the greatest thing in his life was getting married and having children. His kids brought him great joy and he was incredibly proud of them. It breaks my heart to know that he will not get to see them grow up, graduate from school, get married, or one day even become a grandfather. But I know, with all of my heart, that he will be watching over them and his legacy will live on through them.

Although it is tragic that we lost mom, dad, and Keith within nine days of each other, it’s important that they be remembered for how they lived and not the way they died. My parents had a love like no other and loved my brother dearly. They would not have been able to be apart. One comfort I have is that they did not know each other had passed so they never had to go through that pain. God knew they could not be without each other and so brought them home together. My dad ALWAYS said “Take care of each other” to us kids. So now I want to tell my dad to take care of mom and Keith. Kevin and I will take care of each other and make them proud. We love you and miss you: now, forever, always. Rest in peace until we meet again. Take care of each other.

My Second Mom

Story aboutIrene Cruz

There are so many things I loved about my dear, sweet Irene and so many memories that I treasure. She was a constant figure in my childhood and a very special person throughout my life.

My family moved across the street from the Cruz family around 1970. One day, my mother attended a Tupperware party at a neighbor’s house and that’s when she met Irene. They became fast friends and that was the beginning of what would become a close bond between two families and a lot of shared history. Our families have since shared countless everyday moments, celebrations, tragedies, joys, and sorrows and everything in between. In those early days of the young families, there was only Irene’s daughter Kelly, and my older sister Lorrie, both very little at the time. Keith and I were born nine months apart. We grew up like siblings sharing car rides to and from school, summers playing outside, and all that comes with having mothers who were the best of friends. When Kevin was born, we had another member added to our family.

When I think of what it is that makes Irene so special to me, the thing that stands out the most is her dropping everything to be there when someone needed her. The way that she would offer comfort came so naturally and with such ease, where most others would be at a loss in the same circumstances. Her style of comfort, actually comforted, and gave the recipient a feeling of calm and trust, as well as an abundance of love. Perhaps my greatest experience of this was one morning when we were getting ready to leave for school. I was about 6 and my mother was still grieving over the death of my sister. She was having a particularly difficult morning and was so grief-stricken that it scared me. I ran across the street to Irene and when I walked in the house she greeted me in her usual sweet way. I tried to smile back but I burst into tears trying to explain incoherently about my mom. Irene, still in her nightgown, threw on her coat and ran across the street to my mom with Keith and I in tow. I remember her talking quietly to my mom and reassuring her that she would take us kids to school and be back for her. On the way to school, Irene assured me that she would stay with my mom all day and take good care of her. I don’t know what happened that day while I was at school but I remember Irene picking me up and bringing Keith and I to my house. Irene assured me that my mom was okay and she was resting. I remember her reading T’was The Night Before Christmas to me and Keith and I remember feeling very safe and glad that she was there with us. Safe. That was the best feeling in the world to me at that moment. She was my mom when my mom couldn’t be and I knew that when she was around everything would be alright. That book has always been a favorite of mine since then.

I could go on for days with memories like these. This is why I’ve always referred to Irene as my second mom. For years I thought that I had the privilege of being the only kid lucky enough to have Irene as that person in my life. When I got much older I would stumble upon stories posted on Irene’s Facebook page from friends of her kids referring to her and Danny in much the same way. I realized then that it wasn’t just me. Irene and the Cruz family have always had a very special gift. It is the gift to give of themselves so freely, so unselfishly, so generously, without judgement, without hesitation, to care for others and make them family. Their children have all followed in their footsteps and continued this family legacy of being kind, generous, loving people. For these reasons, I have a great love and devotion to Irene, Danny, and the entire Cruz family. Irene was my mother’s closest, most dear friend. Definitely her BFF but more like a sister. She was my second mom, and she will ALWAYS hold a very special place in my heart.

A Man with a Heart

Story aboutRobert "Bobby" McCoskey

Our dear Bobby had a habit of calling family members, beginning the conversation with: “Hey, don’t tell mom, but I took her phone. I wanted to call you.” That was how those conversations would always start. And we deeply treasured those calls from him.

That’s the kind of man Robert McCoskey was. Kind, thoughtful, and always a little bit goofy. To say he could light up a room doesn’t do him justice. No cliche could. Robert, or Bobby as he was affectionately known, brought joy with him everywhere he went. The life of every party, he took time to make everyone smile.

Bobby chose to spend his life giving back to the world. Spending his winters volunteering, Bobby rang the Salvation Army bell outside stores since he was a kid, consistently bringing in the most donations with his warmth and holiday cheer. He helped out in food and toy drives too, wearing his Santa Claus outfit. That’s how we’d like to the world to remember Bobby, the real life Santa Claus, because he carried joy in his heart and his heart on his sleeve.

His good deeds didn’t stop there though, in fact they didn’t seem to stop anywhere. He volunteered at church drives and yard sales where he was known to give the shirt off his back, literally. Bobby also made a name for himself in the scouts. The Boy Scouts of America have recognized Robert “Bobby” McCoskey with achievements and honors such as Life Scout, Order of The Arrow, and Assistant Scout Master. He happily spent his time camping and teaching other scouts sign language, a skill he also brought home to teach his little sister.

Not many people knew that Bobby also became a world class bowler. Bowling was one of life’s greatest gifts to Bobby and one he was passionate about. That passion paid off when he competed and was awarded the silver medal in the Special Olympics.

The loss of our Bobby is a loss for the world. He loved to travel and meet new people. With a nose for adventure and a kind heart, Bobby had no shortage of friends. Always a man for funny hats and good times, you can mention his name across the country, and someone will pipe up to ask how he’s been. Then they’ll tell you a story from some beach or party many years ago. Always helping. Always lending a hand. It may have been while ringing a bell, riding his bike, or wiping the floor with you at the bowling alley … Bobby was always the sweetest, kindest and funniest man.

While he’s left a hole in our hearts and in our lives, such a kind man will have a good seat in the kingdom of heaven. He was a wonderful son, an amazing brother, and the most loving uncle his many nieces and nephews could have asked for. Robert McCoskey leaves us, his grieving family, behind: his mother Roberta, brothers Brian,Tim, Kent Jr., George, and his sister Debra. Rest in peace Bobby, and may heaven have a lane waiting for you. In our hearts, we will always be waiting for your phone call. We will keep your secret, and we won’t tell mom.

Any Pie is Good Pie

Story aboutRamona Gordon

My mother’s pies were more than just dessert. In my family, they were considered the pinnacle of culinary perfection; the standard by which all other desserts would forever be measured. The secret was the crust, which was always a flaky, golden brown masterpiece — just the right vehicle to hold the delectable fruity filling within. I have never tasted anything else that even comes close.

Mom’s talent for pie making was truly a gift from above. Her mother’s pies never quite measured up. And when Mom tried to teach me this baking skill, I proved to be sorely lacking the pie-baking gene. Part of me suspected that Mom was happy to wear this crown in our family, and for years we all looked forward to the pies we would enjoy during every visit to my parents’ house.

But this January, when my sister and I went to see Mom one week before she passed away, pie couldn’t have been further from my mind. The doctor had called us to say my mother was deteriorating; we were given permission to visit for one hour. We donned PPE since there were several COVID positive residents in her area, and we got to spend some time with her. We were grateful to be able to see her, but Alzheimer’s had robbed her of so much. Our hearts were breaking.

Mom was frantic when we arrived, and my sister and I didn’t know what to do. Our efforts to comfort her weren’t working. We tried singing show tunes to help her relax. We sang “The Wells Fargo Wagon” from The Music Man, which was her favorite musical. We prayed. We tried to reminisce. Sadly, Mom wasn’t really able to follow the conversation, her responses revealing the devastating disease. But when it was nearly time for Mom’s lunch, my sister started talking about pie.

“It is almost lunchtime, Mom. Do you think they will have pie?” my sister said, trying to fill the gaps of conversation. “What kind of pie do you like, Mom? What is your favorite?”

Mom looked up at us and with a clear voice she answered, “Any pie is good pie.”

Mom was back, even if just for a second, and we were connected again. That was the last “real” thing she said to me. I will savor the flavor of that moment for the rest of my days.

Live Like Pop: The Penny Project

Story aboutTommy Sizemore

I’ve begun a project called “Live Like Pop” in honor of my Dad, aka Pop, who was the best man I’ve ever known and helped others selflessly every day without expecting anything in return. The project is in honor of my father, but also all those we’ve lost to Covid-19. As a nurse practitioner, I am sadly immersed in these losses everyday, both personally and professionally. And, my life will be forever affected by this.

The penny represents my Dad because he owned his own coin operated laundry business since he was 16 years old and he would always find coins in the dryer that he would give to me. One day when I was about 6, he found about ten shrunken pennies in the dryer. I remember his hands as he got down on his knee and handed them to me. I saved all of our coins we found over the years. So what may look like a penny to some, when I look, I see my Dad.

My Pop cared for everyone, including all pets. He used to carry around extra dog and cat food in the back of his truck, and would feed every stray he saw. He loved his life, lived it to the fullest, laughed often, gave his wife and 6 kids the best life anyone could ever dream of.

One of my many favorite childhood memories: after working all day, he would come have tea parties with me outside in the wooden playhouse he built for me. He was so tall that when he sat in my playhouse as I prepared the tea (fruit juice, sprite, kool aid), his head touched the roof. Still, he smiled and drank my very creative teas. Then, he would come to my playroom where I set up a grocery store. He would push my little yellow buggy around and pick out fake groceries and let me scan them. Then he would pay me with my fake money. Even then, the seeds of my penny project were being sown.

My project is still being put together. It’s a work in progress, which seems appropriate, given how we’ve lived our lives since the pandemic began. To hear more about what I’m doing, visit my website: livelikepop.org. Send me a penny with your thoughts. Let’s all remember together.

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