Stories: Who We Have Lost

Birthday

Story aboutToni Woods

I’ve never enjoyed celebrating my birthday, but was convinced to go to dinner this year. I walked out from the restaurant, and looked up to see the hospital where you passed away. Alone. Isolated in a room at the beginning of the pandemic. Three years later, society has forgotten, but I have not.

A New Year

Story aboutMichael Mantell

A new year, a new variant, and does anyone even care anymore?

It’s been almost three years since my husband passed from Covid and this virus still rages on. Will we ever find peace from this nightmare? My small peace has been the Covid spouses friends that I found on Facebook. They've become my new family.

I wish Mike could have met them.

New Year

Story aboutMichael Mantell

As 2023 approaches, I think of all us who lost someone to Covid. So many like me will be going into our third year without our loved ones beside us. We survived the holidays with a hole in our hearts and a sadness they will never go away. But I want to wish all peace for the new year.

Holiday Traditions

Story aboutTim Mulcahy

Tim was Catholic, I am Jewish. I never celebrated Christmas or even decorated a tree until I met Tim. Once we started living together we would have my mom and sister over for Christmas, so it was the 4 of us and Tim's brother who lived with us. We'd combine traditions by having Christmas ham and my mom would make latkes. One of my favorite holiday pictures is of the lit menorah with the Christmas tree in the background.

Tim was in charge of making the Christmas ham and it was always so good. But the best part was using the leftover ham for split pea soup for New Year's. I was never a fan of split pea soup, but Tim made the BEST split pea soup.

Without Tim I'm back to "Jewish Christmas" which is Chinese food and movies on Christmas day, but I do miss our combined traditions.

Hanukkah

Story aboutBenjamin Schaeffer

First Night

That first Hanukkah Ben and I were together, he took me on one of the New York Transit Museum’s Holiday Nostaliga Rides – in this case, a vintage bus known as the Jackie Gleason Bus which Ralph Kramden drove in The Honeymooners. On this and every other Nostalgia Ride we rode, he was constantly greeting a group of railfans with their network of camera equipment.

Second Night

From my Facebook memories: “wonders what to do with a guy who won't eat latkes or sufganiyot. How else do you get into the spirit of Hanukkah? Bathe in baby oil for eight nights?”

Third Night

Ben and I would hold hands on New Jersey Transit en route to an old train station he wanted to show me. I could not tell you whether he wore winter gloves like I did, but the warmth seared through our fingers.

Fourth Night

I am passionate about wrapping gifts. Ben never gave it a thought. The mezuzah over his doorpost held no decoration but a clear cylinder that encased the parchment.

When he opened the cashmere black scarf, he smiled and said, “I don’t wear scarves.” Scarves were a choking hazard. But he brought the scarf to his parents’ home to show them. The next year, when the “Bloomberg Blizzard” shut down many subway lines and he had to walk two miles to get to his job at the subway terminal, he admitted to wearing the scarf I gave him. I can say I kept him warm at night.

Fifth Night

I still had my flip phone when Ben took me to Philadelphia. At the Museum of American Jewish History, he gave our tour guide a copy of the article about his fight to wear a yarmulke on the job as a New York subway conductor. We took photos of each other with my flip. On that freezing December morning, we had the Liberty Bell to ourselves but no way to take a selfie that included both of us. Would it now be inauthentic if I combined the two grainy photos and put us together in the image with the cracked bell, as we were that day?

Sixth Night

The Hanukkah presents to Ben after the scarf were usually kosher candy. His presents to me were experiences. A hotel room when I was still living out of town and insisted on staying in a hostel (“No more hostile hostels,” he said. ) New Haven and Yale University. A personal in-the-know tour of the acoustics at Grand Central Terminal, back when they still had the sound and light show on the celestial ceiling. And a trip to Grand Central was never complete without a stop at the New York Transit Museum gift shop with the holiday train looping its way behind the glass. I offered to buy him the famous New York Transit Museum subway line boxer shorts. He refused to wear them. I bought them and wore them myself.

Seventh Night

Back when Ben and I met at a synagogue, I was already going through the process of converting to Orthodox Judaism. The Christmas thing was always the most excruciatingly difficult part of it. I used to host Christmas gatherings for my family, and when I stopped celebrating Christmas, the family stopped getting together. To be honest, I still had my mother over when I lived in my hometown. But when I moved to Ben's city, there was no reason to do anything on December 24. If Hanukkah happened to have come and gone that year, there was nothing to distract myself from the void (and Hanukkah has nothing to do with Christmas, anyway.)

Ben called me after a long day of work one Christmas Eve and I couldn't hide that I was crying. After listening to me bawling, he insisted that I go to midnight Mass. (Mind you, my family isn't Catholic, but as a New York Jew, that's what Ben associated with the Christmas holiday.

I didn't go, but I'm happy that he said that. We passed the time that night arguing about it. Tonight, even the void is emptier now.

Eighth Night

A photo from that Holiday Nostalgia ride shows me in front of the Honeymooners bus, Ben behind the camera. Every posting of this pic includes his byline...Photo credit: Benjamin W. Schaeffer.

Always absent now, yet perpetually present.

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