Today was a sad day in our house, because it was the funeral of my mom’s close friend from her college days, Leslie Rabinovitz Fischer. We heard about Leslie often from my mom, and we knew that Leslie had been battling pancreatic cancer for a few years.
She died last Thursday. She lived in California and we live in New York, so we didn’t get to see her and her family often, but we always knew from when we were young that she was a close friend of my mom’s. Last spring break, our family went out to California to see her family. Although Leslie was cheerful and happy, our mom told us she was very sick. Her husband Geoff spent like a whole day cooking us a gourmet meal. We also got to know their daughter Emily who is Jack’s age and their son Alex who is a few years older than us. Alex writes and sells online comics with a friend, if you are interested. Check out his website at this link.
We asked our mom if there was something we could do help cheer her up, and she said there really wasn’t anything, except appreciate all the blessings in our life. We asked if there was a random act of kindness we could do for our mom, so she said we could start by putting away the groceries.
We did that, of course, but we knew that putting away groceries wasn’t enough to show our love and respect for the friendship she had with Leslie.
Mom brought out some of her old photos, and sharing them seemed to cheer her up. We read some of her text and email exchanges with Leslie. Then we asked our Mom if she wanted to go grab lunch and take a walk on the waterfront. We said we could talk about Leslie and do some acts of kindness along the way.
We started at our favorite lunch spot. Jack asked Mom her favorite memory with Leslie (having her come to our grandparents’ home in Bethesda, MD). We asked if she went to Leslie’s wedding? (Yes, it was at Shutters in Malibu, on a beautiful day). The funniest moment they shared together? (Leslie seeing a raccoon in my grandparents’ backyard and freaking out). What will she remember most about Leslie? (Her smile and sense of humor, her positive energy, love of art). Did my mom know Leslie was going to die this past week? (No, but Leslie did have to cancel a trip to Portugal, so maybe she knew?) Why did she die so young? (Some things in life are not explainable).
We had pretty much cleaned the parking lot, and plenty of people were curious about our efforts. Some people seemed suspicious. We decided to move on to the waterfront nearby. It’s very beautiful, and we could tell our mom was kind of sad. We continued to walk and pick up trash. We talked about how Leslie had influenced my mom (got her going to the gym regularly, leading a healthy life). Whether Leslie had any quirky habits? (stockpiling Diet Coke under her bed during her college years). We liked hearing about the kind things Leslie did for our mom, like always inviting her for the holidays during college and including my Grandma and Grandpa when they were in town. Leslie’s mom always drove my mom to airport when the school semester was done.
It was weird to take a photo with a trash can, but we wanted to show you what a beautiful day it was. It’s the kind of day that should be cheerful, and spent enjoying life. But for my family and the people who knew Leslie, it was not a happy day at all. We know it was tough for my mom– and her eyes were all red today. But we think doing some small good deeds in honor of her friend and talking about her memories with Leslie cheered her up a small bit. My mom agreed and told us that sometimes it is not the act itself (picking up trash) that is the most important part of a good deed, but the impact it has on others. In our case, it was an excuse to spend the day honoring someone special to my mom who died way too young.
—-Jack and Andrew
FULL DISCLOSURE: We asked our mom to proofread this blog for accuracy and provide some copy editing. We hope Leslie’s family will read this blog and take some comfort in knowing how big an impact Leslie had on our family.