I’m home again after spending a few days in Pittsburgh, my hometown, a place I always love to visit. But I don’t always love the reason for the visit: this time, it was to bury an uncle, the last of many, and acknowledge the ending of a family generation as well as his long and loving life.
Irwin, age 96, was the youngest of my mother’s 11 siblings. His seven sisters and four brothers all preceded him in death. On many of my earlier trips “home,” I’d gone to the cemetery with him to visit the graves of those and many other family members, where he would show me the place he’d already reserved for himself, at the end of a long row of the long-buried. But this time was so very different…
I wrote Uncle Irv’s obituary, enumerating all who had passed before him, and all who survive him. The lists were very long. So was the lineup of family members who came from many states outside of Pennsylvania to pay final tribute to this “survivor” who knew and loved us all.
How to keep loved ones alive
I sensed an unspoken reason for the crowd: We had not only loved this man back, but we realized that a part of our history would be forever buried with him. He was the last of the generation that birthed his “real” nieces and nephews, but those of us who followed – his “greats,” and “great-greats,” and even two little “great-great-grands,” all adored Uncle Irv and will forever miss him.
And those littlest ones won’t forget him, because we – the parents and grandparents and great-grandparents of our newer generations – won’t let them. We’ll tell the stories of his love, and remind them that they knew it, too, although they were too young to appreciate it as we “elders” do. Because that’s the way – the only way – that great men live on forever! I know Uncle Irv rests in peace now, because I’m confident he knew that, too…
A proud native of Pittsburgh, PA, Harriet P. Gross began her journalism career in 1955 at a local paper. She moved to Chicago 2 years later where she worked as a full-time journalist until moving to Dallas in 1980. Here,Harriet began freelancing, doing special projects such as the text for Dallas Section, National Council of Women’s soon-to-be-published history book in addition to writing for a variety of publications.
Harriet also wrote “In My Mind’s I”, a weekly column in the Texas Jewish Post for years. She has won writing awards from the Press Club of Dallas, American Jewish Press Association, National Federation of Press Women, Illinois Woman’s Press Association and Press Women of Texas, and has been listed in five Who’s Who publications. In her community, Harriet currently is a book reviewer, discussion leader, and program presenter for clubs, senior living facilities, and Jewish institutions including the JCC’s Senior Program.