Sometimes When it Rains it Pours. On a bright sunny day, I do pretty well keeping my attitude positive and balancing the “cancer” treatment needs and side effects with my regular activities. Then, last Saturday afternoon, September 6, 2014 my Mother, Beverly Stein Goldstein died unexpectedly in Florida. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/timesu nion/obituary.aspx?n=beverly-stein-gold stein&pid=172392276
A few hours later, Mark and I left for Jacksonville. Later, when I spoke to Mom’s dear Rabbi Lubliner after the Sabbath ended, he asked whether my doctors approved my travel. I replied, I didn’t ask them. I’ll be as careful as I can to avoid infection and illness, but I’m coming.
Mom’s health had been declining over the 6 years after my Dad died. Her biggest problem came from back and hip and knee pain from osteoporosis and previous fractures. The pain impacted her mobility to the effect that during the past year, Mom could no longer walk. In the past couple of months, transferring her from her bed to chairs to get up or go out had become an ordeal requiring at least 2 helpers. She was unhappy. When I called, I would ask her how she was, and she would say, “my back hurts. My back always hurts.” The goal: to keep her as comfortable as possible had not changed, but as the medications required to do this increased her lucidity declined. On Saturday when Mom died, Lynn & a caregiver was with her. They had helped her into her comfy chair. And they watched her take her last breath. Mom was blessed with a quick and easy death, and her daughter was there to reassure us all that this is how she passed.
This is a long entry. Please understand that I am including the details, photos and text of our talks about Mom primarily for our family in Thailand. Jewish burials occur quickly and Noah, Sumalai and Terran could not possibly have gotten here from Bangkok before the service. I encouraged them to wait and come when we can enjoy their company, perhaps over the winter holidays. Feel free to share this entry link with other far away family and friends.
The funeral was on Monday afternoon at Mom’s synagogue followed by the graveside service and burial. She and Daddy both would have been very proud of the handsome family they created. Blessed with four children, 10 grandchildren, and 1 great grandchild, it is the natural order of things for us to bury our parents (and not the other way around.)
At the synagogue service, after Rabbi Lubliner’s meaningful words about Mom, my sisters and I read our own eulogy:
Our Mother didn’t do old age so well. She embraced the challenges of her pain and mobility issues courageously, but those last few years do not tell the story of who Mom was. In her younger decades, our Mom lived with enthusiasm. Her professional and personal activities touched many and blessed our family with interesting intellect and wonderful friends.
Born in Baltimore the beloved only child of Ira & Faye Stein, Mom moved with her parents to Jacksonville before primary school. The story I’ve heard is that just as Prohibition ended my Poppa Ira joined Uncle Joe and his brothers for their new business, Southern Wine & Spirits. Mom would tell us, quoting her father, “Alcohol is for selling, not drinking.” The young Stein family embraced their new home city and quickly became involved in the Jacksonville Jewish Community.
Bevy thrived living first in Riverside and later on Lakewood Road, in the “new Southside.” As her parents both came from large families, Mom had many first cousins, and was close with all of them throughout her life, turning them into her surrogate siblings.
Mom loved animals and her own horse, named Buddy, a cocker spaniel named Peachy, and bunny rabbits. As an adored only child, whatever Bevy wanted Bevy had. The love of animals stayed with her, and at one time she had as many as eight dogs. In more recent years, she got her beloved poodle Mazel certified as a Therapy dog so she could bring him along with her to volunteer at River Garden and at the Baptist Hospital Healing Library.
When I went through my own horse phase, I said, but you had Buddy, why can’t I have a horse? I never got the horse, but all of her grandchildren enjoyed riding a large rocking horse that she bought for them. It sat prominently in the living room, and was named, of course, Buddy.
From the time Mom was 7 years old until she married my father, she spent every summer at Camp Louise, a Jewish girls camp in the Cacoctin Mountains near Baltimore. When she was away from home she wrote her parents newsy letters about her life, often. Every one of them was signed, Your devoted daughter, Beverly. She made forever friends easily and when I was 10 years old, Mom’s camp friends, Gloria & Ethel would drive us up to camp, singing songs they wrote as counselors about the cute Camp Airy boys & Fort Ritchie soldiers of their summers past.
In high school Mom persuaded her parents to send her off to school so that her school year would be more like “camp.” She excelled at Highland Manor, a private high school in New Jersey, and matriculated to Goucher College near her many Baltimore aunts uncles and cousins.
She was at Goucher when her closest Jacksonville girlfriend Grace Kramer (later Leitman) wrote her “Bevy you must come join me at University of Florida.” UF had just admitted women and Grace was in its first class. “There are so many smart and handsome guys down here.” So Mom decided to do her “junior year abroad” at UF. She joined with Grace and her new lifelong friend Joyce Glicksberg as a founding member of the UF AEPhi Jewish Sorority Chapter. Mom was a smart cookie. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in the first UF class of women, no easy feat, and she met my father!
Billy Goldstein was a Jacksonville boy. He was a little older than Mom as he attended UF on the GI bill after serving in Europe & North Africa in World War II. Mom was smitten by the smart, tall, dark and handsome man, and they were married in 1950. Daddy, a newly minted lawyer joined Uncle Maury forming Goldstein & Goldstein and they settled in Southside comfortably near both sets of parents.
We grew up on Waterman Road, conveniently right next door to the Fleet family, who we called Aunt Margaret and Uncle Joel. Joel was our pediatrician that made house calls. With four lively Goldstein children, he had to come a lot, but he didn’t have to come far.
At Hendricks Avenue elementary Mom was the “go to’ volunteer. Room mother, field trips, Patrol Boys, Teachers of Tomorrow, she led them all. Her stints at Mervyn’s long dance recitals lasted years. She always told her tall and sometimes clumsy daughters how wonderful we were. Birthdays were always a big production, with signs and elaborate birthday cakes and parties that included all our neighborhood friends.
We spent much of our summers at Beauclerc County Club, on the site where the JCA now stands. Just like Lynn, Mom taught all of the children of her day to swim. Summertime also meant beach time. My parents often rented an apartment in Neptune Beach for a week or so, where Mom would enjoy the surf and sand with us. The love of the beach remained with her all of her life, and after we were grown, she and Dad realized their dream of having a small apartment at the beach for summer weekends. I don’t think she counted on having quite so many children and grandchildren come to crash their vacation getaway, but she gamely cooked breakfast for everyone. We knew not to argue with her about hats and sunscreen, and no one went out on the beach without them. I don’t think we dare stop now.
Mom was a liberal thinker who believed in equality for all. She drew a great deal of satisfaction from her work, helping underprivileged students get a foothold in the working world. We are proud that after the 1960’s race riots in Jacksonville, Mayor Hans Tanzler appointed our Mother to his hand-picked Community Relations Commission to address the challenges of integration and repairing race relations in our then fractured city.
It may surprise you to know that that open-mindedness stayed with her, even during the last few years. A few years ago, mom and her dear friend, Sylvia Lubliner, started treating me to a member's subscription for Players by the Sea at the beach where they also had a subscription. I would drive, and the three of us would enjoy the play, and then a vegetarian dinner together at our favorite Thai restaurant.
Players by the Sea is a small community theatre known for pushing the limits and producing plays that that promote cooperation, openness, and inclusiveness. The plays are usually a little avant-garde—especially for Jacksonville. I wasn't always sure how mom would react, but nothing fazed her, and our dinner conversations after the play were always enlightening.
In the fall of 2010, the first play of the season was 'The Full Monty'. I always made arrangements for mom and Sylvia to sit in the front row so they wouldn't have to climb the stairs. During the last scene of the play, Mom and Sylvia were less than 20 feet from the front of the stage when the four male actors completely removed their clothes and stood proudly naked in their full glory. Later, at dinner, I asked mom if she was uncomfortable with the ending of the play, and she replied, "Why would I be? Nothing I haven't seen!"
When we saw Reefer Madness the following season, Mom and Sylvia spoke about some of the challenges of raising children in the 60's and 70's. Don't worry, Rabbi - I won't give away any secrets I've learned from your mom about your teenage years. Mom asked some questions, I shared some stories, and mom eventually said - "I guess maybe all that stuff that ya'll did was just part of the times. I still don't know why you needed it, because the music was fun, even without any reefer."
Sylvia, I know we will miss having mom with us this season at Players by the Sea, but you and I will still have our Sunday matinee dates. We'll dedicate this 5th season of plays together to Mom, and at dinner, after we toast with our wine "that was made for selling, and not for drinking," we'll be sure and toast mom again at the end of the meal with a decadent desert - probably chocolate - mom's favorite.
When I first mentioned adopting a child, mom wasn't sure it was smart for her single daughter to become a mom, and of course she reacted with all her anxieties of "what if...what if... what if?". What would others think? Oh My!
But, when she listened and realized I was serious, and passionate, she opened her eyes and heart to rethinking her stance. As soon as Mom saw the first photo of Ilan, she quickly changed her mind and embraced her youngest grandchild and loved the idea of having another baby to hold.
Even though Mom stayed here in Jacksonville while I traveled to Russia to get Ilan, we both felt that she had made the journey with me. Mom was always such an amazingly supportive grandma and loved all the kids, each in their own special way.
As Rabbi said, Mom was a whirlwind of parental activity and remember, - there were four of us and only one of her – and we were not able to clone her. The only way that she was able to be the amazing mom that she was is because of our other mother, Berrie. For all of our growing up years, Berrie was the one who left her family at home alone for long hours each day, so she could be with us, and thus mom was able to do all the volunteering, working full-time, and be the super-mom she tried to be. We cannot mourn for mom, without mourning for our other mother, Berrie, who we miss each and every day.
We all know that it was Lynn who organized and cared for Mom’s every need during her final years. Lynn, as these last years got harder, we all know how your full-time job with Mom became more difficult too. There is no doubt that Mom knew how much you loved her and did everything and anything to make these last few years less painful and lonely for her since Daddy died.
Being the baby, Mom always teased that the reason I was here was because my dad had to prove himself one more time after he had major surgery. Mom always referred to her kids as 'my son and my three girls'. I was the third daughter but she wanted a second son. Looking back over the last few years, I guess she was lucky that she had me.
For those of you who knew my mom, you knew she had a good heart, and reached out to people. She always enjoyed being with her friends, whether playing mahjong or volunteering. Just last week she had a dinner gathering with a group of friends who she didn't get to see that often.
She loved to help others achieve their goals, just like she did during her time as a career counselor. She formed a deep connection with her caregiver, Ruby, who moved in over six years ago. Even though Ruby spoke very little English when she met Mom, she had a great deal of empathy and understood Mom and her needs. Mom prided herself in teaching Ruby English, and so they finally had that ability to communicate as well, although their bond went beyond words.
She always pushed everyone to be the best that they can be. I have inherited that trait from her, and during her final years, I pushed her ***********tinue to work at her physical therapy, even though it was often difficult for her and her mood wasn’t always the best. Just last week she told me that if I so wanted to be a physical therapist she'd send me back to school, which showed she was always encouraging me to reach new goals. However, she added, until I really knew what I was doing she was through exercising with me.
We are grateful to the wonderful loving caregivers who helped her so tenderly. She wasn't always the easiest to care for, and her caregivers did an amazing job. Thank you to Ruby, and to Luz, Lili, Luz and Bridget and everyone else who helped care for mom during her hardest times. She was fortunate to have so many people who loved her so much.
All of us here think their mom is the best mom and I am no different. Mom instilled in me by her actions and examples my love for children, my love for teaching in and out of the pool, my love for caring for others, and of course my love for animals. Her memory will stay with us forever.
Ellen, spoke beautifully representing the grandchildren:
As you have heard, Beverly was an only child and considered her many cousins to be her extended family. I am here today to represent her ten grandchildren to share our united message of love and memory.
Beverly never explicitly dictated the role we would play in one another’s lives, but now I see her hand in the family that we are: our cousins are like our siblings, our aunts and uncles like extra parents. Nobody’s a stranger in the Goldstein clan, for better or for worse.
We have grown into this group, each of us touched by her love and support individually. When we think of her, we will all remember Grandma at Jacksonville Beach. There was no way she could have lived a land-locked existence, and she and Pop-Pop taught us all the importance of making time to escape to the ocean. (And the sand, and that deck on the lawn that always left me with splinters in my knees….) It wasn’t usually a quiet escape, because beach days were usually family affairs. But then, sometimes it was quiet. Those of us older grandchildren will remember spending nights or even weeks at “Camp Grandma”, sleeping on the blue fold out bed, waking up with the sunrise, exploring her old books and pictures, walks and swimming, private time with Grandma.
For those of us in Jacksonville, whatever we did, wherever we were, she was a part of it. Honor roll on a report card was rewarded with dinner out with Grandma and Pop-Pop. In a speech to me at my Bat Mitzvah, she professed to cherish all the day school bubby/zaide Shabbats, Chanukah programs, and model seders. Elana says that when Grandma attended her last model seder, she was given a special commendation for having attended model seders continuously for 20 years. Even with all of those years of all of us kids learning Pesach songs, though, still none of us were able to help her figure out that “chasal siddur pesach” melody she always just almost could recall from her childhood and always tried to sing at the end of seder.
Grandma loved perpetuating our family’s traditions by involving us in making food for holiday celebrations. All of us have fond memories of mashing nuts for charosets for Passover, folding hamentaschen for purim, or making kosher-for-passover strawberry ice cream. She could almost always be counted on to bring dessert for shabbos dinner, and if you got a rum cake, you knew you were special.
We didn’t just go to Grandma’s house, she made sure that we were out engaging with the community, especially the arts. She loved to take her grandchildren to the theater, and we all have different memories of various plays, unified by a theme: these were never just ordinary days. She continued to love the theater; just this past summer, Grandma saw a sign for the coming season at Players by the Sea and wryly remarked, “I can’t believe it—I lived through another season.”
If we may have sometimes felt that Grandma was too opinionated, with some perspective we see that she just wanted to share her wisdom. She spent a lot of energy trying to strengthen her granddaughters’ bones so they wouldn’t suffer the way she did in later years. She always told me never to marry a man just because he was good looking, although she tried to relax that rule as I got closer to 30.
She thought it was never too late to improve yourself. She took a calligraphy class in her 60s because she was embarrassed by her poor handwriting. As one of her class projects, she made a picture and framed it for me. The legend she inscribed was, Choose to Be Happy.
It’s important, those four words. It says that we have choices, no matter what life deals us, and that we can choose to approach things positively, not negatively.
So I will try to remember that in the next days and weeks, and be glad that I had this grandmother, and this family that she created.
Rabbi Lubliner's eulogy was also very beautiful and meaningful. If I am able to get the text from him, I will add it later.
How did we get this together in such a short time? Thank you Doris! We could not have done it without you. Jeff and Doris were in Europe for a meeting and trip, when they got the news about Mom. They quickly flew home. With little sleep and (a bad cold preventing me from hugging her,) we all sent Doris our rambling words and as Janet says, she “worked her magic” to order our memories into a flowing talk. Here is your virtual hug. We love you and thank you, our “outlaw” sister Doris.:)
This Shiva week has been a whirlwind of emotions and of memories shared by and family, friends and friends of Mom's. The grandkids came to Mom's apartment and picked out things they each liked. I saved a few things for Sumalai. As we begin to go through and pack up Mom's apartment, we laugh a lot, and sometimes cry. We lovingly remember our Mom; the Mom before the "elder Mom," the bright, dynamic, loving, helping person that she was. Beverly enriched the lives of so many around her and Mom, we miss you dearly.