Today I attended the funeral of a woman I considered another grandmother.
I attended the funeral of her daughter earlier this week and while driving from that funeral to the afterfood/social gathering we got a phone call that her mother had passed.
It was beyond surreal.
Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz; 67 years ago today.
For many this is a reminder of horrible history, for Helen it marks her liberation as well as the day she was laid to rest.
(the connections were not lost on any of us)
We remember how she and two siblings were all that remained of her family of 8.
Her best friend was at the funeral; the woman she befriended in the camps and then walked the death marches next to, shared stolen food with, and
who married her surviving brother and became her sister-in-law.
Helen was an amazingly strong woman, and from a very early age I was told that she was a survivor. She never spoke of the camps openly, it was always something you had to ask about. She wore shirts that hid her number, and when she caught sight of it showing was quick to cover it again.
While visiting with her back in 1998, she was talking about how she was marched out of her home in 1942 and had never gone back.
She could never go back.
She was convinced that her home was destroyed when the Nazi's cleared the Częstochowa Ghetto
Hearing this and loving her as much as I do, I told her I would go to Poland and look for her home.
I carried a little piece of paper in my pocket that had her street name, and the correct spelling of her town and went to Europe in her place.
I found her street, I found her home, I sent her a postcard from her town and I brought her pictures I had taken.
When seeing the images, she cried and started telling stories about living in that home.
It prompted her grandchildren to go there a few years later and see the home themselves and asks neighbors if anyone remembered their grandmother.
She loved family, had a wicked sense of humor and was egged to be even more mischievous when she was in the company of either of my grandmothers.
When I turned 21, my Nana asked me to pick 5 people to celebrate with me.
I picked my "grandmothers", 4 women that were grandmothers to me and my bestest friend.
My Nana took us all to....Chippendale's!
Aside from the awkwardness of being in a strip club with my grandmothers, it quickly faded away when I saw these woman, laughing and squealing and flirting with the strippers.
That is what I remember about the night, not the oiled men, or what I saw them do, but instead these amazing women, being girls...being girls with me.
Ever since that night, every time I saw her she would kiss me, and while hugging me say in my ear
"when are we going to see the big men again?" raising her eyebrows and smirking.
This is how I will remember her, smiling, smirking and giggling.
I miss her terribly and she is only been gone for two days.
Here are your big men Helen: