Tag Archives: death

I Wanted to Write about my Dad on Father’s Day and Now it’s Too Late.


I wanted to write about my dad on Father’s Day and now it’s too late.  You’re probably thinking who cares about Father’s Day now?  But I do.  You see, my dad, Sanford Brown, died April 28th, barely two months ago, and I’m still grieving.

Me and my Dad only 2 years ago

It feels like I always will grieve, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been able write about him.  If it were any other topic, I’d just call it procrastination, but here, now, it’s more poignant.

I want to write about how close I was to my dad–tell you how I miss our telephone conversations about politics, books, current events, my work, and family, especially his grandchildren and great grandchildren.  At times, I find myself reaching for the phone to call, and then I realize that I will never hear his voice again.  Yes, it’s very sad.

My dad was 85, and one week before he died, I traveled to Cleveland to celebrate his 85th birthday and Passover with our family.  He was especially proud to witness his nine-year-old great grandson, Jacob, conduct the entire Seder not only in English but Hebrew, too.  It was truly a spectacular day.

His great-grandson Jacob wanted to see the company my dad founded

Days after I got home, my sister called to say Dad was in the hospital, and it didn’t look good.  Back I went, hoping it would all work out.  Like many of you with aging parents, I always knew that dreaded call would come one day, but somehow, I still wasn’t prepared.  Despite the fact that my dad was 85 and had lived a good long life, it still seems too short.  And, despite the fact that he was not really sick and lived in the same house for the last 56 years surrounded by family and friends, it’s still too short.

Dad and grandsons Alexander & Mason in DC

If anyone were to ask me what I learned from my dad, I would tell them: how to love unconditionally, the importance of family, loyalty, forgiveness, charity, to travel and see the world; maintain a strong work ethic, and make sure there is laughter in your life.

While I haven’t perfected all of these qualities, I am forever grateful to have my dad’s teachings to guide me through my life’s journey.

Dad's 83rd birthday with a rare glass of cognac

On the Passing of my Aunt Frances





On Feb. 17th, my dear Aunt Frances died at the age of 82.  She was the last aunt of the Brown sisters, leaving my father with no remaining siblings, and he is sad.  I understand that sadness because I know how sad I would be without my sisters and my brother.  When my dad called last week to tell me the news, he ended the conversation by saying, “Enjoy your life because it doesn’t last long enough.” And while my dad is more than 25 years older than I am, I feel the force of that statement.

For me, Aunt France’s death feels like the end of an era, an era of women who were “ladies,” and naturally so.  It’s not that ladies don’t exist today, but that term is almost never used to define anyone of our generation.  (I felt the same way when Jackie Kennedy died.)  An era has passed, and our generation is now the generation of mothers and aunts that will be defined by our daughters and nieces.  What will they say about us?

My Aunt Frances always took great care to look her best.  She was witty and knew what to say and when to say it.  She never wore white after Labor Day and was never without lipstick.  She always sent a card for significant birthdays, 18, 21, 30, 40, and 50.  Most importantly, my aunt was forever doing for others.  Her obituary said it right:  “She was passionate about contributing to the community, and rarely, if ever, said ‘no’ when asked to help individuals and organizations.  Hadassah, a women’s Jewish organization, was the one closest to her heart.”

In fact, when I got my first job in Washington, D.C., Aunt Frances paid for my membership in Hadassah for many years, which included a monthly magazine.  I was never interested in Hadassah and finally cancelled the subscription.  Aunt Frances accepted my decision without asking why.  As for me, I’m sure I would have pressured my niece to explain.  Continue reading On the Passing of my Aunt Frances

Losing My Father, Age 94



My father died three weeks ago.  He was 94 years old, and he had lived a good life.  He  was  a good man.  I’d like to write something funny for him because he loved a joke better than anyone I’ve ever known.  I’d like to make him laugh.  But I can’t do that right now.

Because he was 94, I thought, as a grown woman over fifty, I was prepared for his leaving.  He had, after all, become less of himself over the past few years.  His personality, which was once happy and somewhat mischievous, had dwindled.  He’d always been a cheerful and accommodating man; now he could be grumpy.  Although he still took enjoyment in things and people, it was on a smaller scale.  In earlier days,  he had loved to travel to distant places, eat strange new foods; now he was just as satisfied by field trips from his Assisted Living Facility to the local mall with its chain restaurants.

I had actually thought–because he was this diminished version of himself–that I would adjust fairly easily to his death, that I was even ready for it.  I had told myself it might make life easier, in some ways.  I wouldn’t have to worry about Daddy falling in his bathroom or being bed-ridden in a  dreaded nursing home.  I wouldn’t have to feel uneasy any more when I went to visit him and tried to think up topics of conversation that he would enjoy.  My oldest sister, the manager of his finances, wouldn’t have to worry about him ordering $900 worth of coins from a scam artist on television.  Things would be all nice and easy.  After all, he was 94 years old!

But when your father dies, your father dies.  It doesn’t matter how old he is or how diminished or sick he has been or that he may have had a massive stroke and does not even recognize you when you walk in his hospital room.  That person hooked up to wires is still your father,  or,  in my case, still the person who sang me out-of-tune, homemade lullubies, waited up for me after Saturday night dates in high school, and sent  me $25 checks in graduate school with just brief messages like, “A little something to keep the wolves from the door.  Love, Daddy.”

So, even if I may not have realized it by the hospital bed, I got it the instant he was gone.   After all the wires and machines and nurses had disappeared, that near-stranger became,  almost instantly, the father I knew and loved, the man who had raised me.

I wasn’t prepared  for that.  Any more than I was prepared for these weeks since then.

I miss my father on a gut level.  And grief comes in waves.  I’ll do fine, until I see something he would have enjoyed–a scratch-off lottery ticket, a comic strip, an amusing and informative obituary–and I’m gone.  Or I’ll be at work, trying to be normal and act as if nothing has happened, and someone will ask how I’m doing, and I’m gone again.  And, because my mother died five years ago and I am now officially an orphan, I am gone into a deep, dark place of childish fear and overwhelming sadness.  (It’s strange how my father’s death has made the wound of my mother’s death fresh again.)

All of this makes me remember a time in Berlin, Germany, when I was almost seven years old.  I was walking down a busy street, holding what I thought was my father’s hand, when I looked up to discover a stranger looking down at me.   The man was my father’s height, and, like my father, kind enough to let me go chattering along until I discovered my mistake naturally–but he was clearly not my father.  In an instant, before I turned and saw my father behind me, waiting patiently, afraid to scare me by interrupting my story, I was completely lost and terrified.  My story was gone from my head.  Berlin was no longer anything like a city I wanted to visit.

Just like my seven-year old self, I have been stopped, mid-sentence, to discover that my father is gone.  And all I want to do is what I did then:  plant my feet firmly on the ground, draw in a deep breath, and scream at the top of my lungs, perhaps even loud enough for him to hear me again: “Daddy!”