Only the Good…

March 29, 2023

Despite Billy Joel’s association with the adage “only the good die young,” it was not he who originated this sentimental truism. It was around long before Billy was but a twinkle in his parents’ eyes. It’s often used to memorialize an individual who has somehow been able to impact the world, local community, school, family, or maybe just one other human being. It can be global or local, large scale or simply a single act of grace. Regardless, what makes this person a person of substance, the common denominator is that he or she is young and sadly has left this world too soon and has left so much to be done in terms of the good that is still to be shared with others.

While I believe that “the good die young,” I am not a diehard proponent of the idea. In fact, I am writing this particular blog to argue the notion that it doesn’t matter what age a person is when he or she dies, if they are “good” they will be missed for their grace, contributions, empathy; whatever it is that made their lives on this planet impactful. The two special people in my life who died this month were as old as dirt, and I know each would laugh out loud at my description. They were also good people, which is such a simplistic description. Good, a four-letter word used for so many purposes: This dinner is good. Do I look good? Looking good! Go out and do good in the world. Be good for the babysitter. You get the picture.

My friend, Les, was a true Renaissance man. He died on March 17 at age 84. What a guy. He was short, a little round, bald, and from a distance, kind of nondescript. But once you met him and learned about his background and history, you knew you were in the presence of a wunderkind. More importantly you could not escape that smile, laughter, and generally jovial persona. He was one of a kind. First, his achievements set him apart. Born in Czechoslovakia during World War II, he had a variety of life experiences as a small child that would test the mettle of most strong adults. There is neither time nor space to list them all, but suffice it to say, Les endured and ultimately prospered. With his father’s advice of “whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability,” he did just that. With his innate intelligence and God-given talent on so many platforms, he achieved great things before he was barely out of puberty. He swam for the Hungarian Olympic Team He was an accomplished flautist under contract with the Hungarian Orchestra – at age 16. He ultimately settled in the United States, receiving a full music scholarship to Ithaca College, all without the ability to speak English. That didn’t last long. His English was impeccable albeit underscored with the most adorable accent. Fast forward to his life in his senior years. His significant other is a good friend of mine. They had so many adventures, sailing on his beloved sailboat, “The Harmony,” international travel, going on cruises, having cocktails, and dancing, dancing, dancing. Les was especially kind to my husband in his waning years. Despite the fact that he was five years older, he literally took care of him like the good friend that he was and I will never forget it. I mentioned his persona at the beginning. His happy approach to life, kindness to others, willingness to help, and genuine goodness. He is someone you don’t easily forget. I know I won’t–even though he was as OLD as dirt when he died. You were one in a million my friend.  Keep smiling.

My “Aunt” Regina, my Godmother, embodied class and dignity, but she was not afraid to laugh. She died on March 3 at age 99. She was a woman of means but never flaunted it. She was a woman of stunning beauty, but never seemed aware of its impact. She was generous to a fault and a devout woman of faith. She was GOOD. She was a modest woman, and my guess is that she didn’t want to burden her children with the requisite celebration to recognize her 100th birthday. So, she decided to exit quietly and with grace. Regina was my mother’s best friend from when their ages were in the single digits.  They had fun, adventures, shed tears together and were comforts to each other in the worst of times. Ironically, both suffered the losses of their young adult children, a pain like no other. They both had this unspoken ability to understand just how the other was feeling. She was often a source of solace to my mother over the years when life became difficult. Mom would pack up her little ones and drive to Aunt Regina’s for lunch and an afternoon of conversation and commiseration. Regina knew just what to say to make things a little better. She had this innate ability to feel what the other was feeling and to lend just the right amount of comfort. She had a heart as big as Texas. Regina was educated at Columbia University, worked as an NBC page, previously a man’s domain, but due to World War II, was “drafted”  as one of the first female pages at Rockefeller Center. She has said that NBC “condescended” to hire the “girls” (my fingers are angrily typing) while the MEN were sent overseas.  Word on the street is that she excelled at her duties. Throughout her life, Regina made an impression.

My Aunt Regina was the sister my mother never had. She was the maid of honor at my parents’ wedding and subsequently the godmother of their firstborn, yours truly. She has been in my life since Day One. And to show how classy a lady she was (and her awareness of the finer things in life) on the day I was born, she gifted me with a piece of sterling silver flatware, probably a teaspoon. She continued the practice on birthdays, Christmas, etc. Ultimately, I accumulated a complete collection of Gorham sterling flatware. What a thoughtful and forward-thinking gift this thoughtful and forward-thinking woman gave me. I have treasured it to this day.

Aunt Regina and I didn’t see much of each other in later years, but we always managed a phone call fairly frequently. AND she had a Facebook page! She was always interested in what was going on in my life and thrilled when I became a mother. She mourned my mother’s death deeply. She was family. Two years ago, I was in Florida with family members the day before we were to embark on a cruise. Aunt Regina lived a short distance away from the hotel. I told my people that while they were lounging by the pool drinking cocktails, that I was going to Uber over to Regina’s. I am SO GLAD I did. She was every bit as gorgeous as she was in her younger years, albeit a little frail, but oh so delighted to see me. She made me feel special and loved. That was her unique gift. Just ask anyone who’s met her. She was an important and pivotal part of my life. I love you, Aunt Regina. I hope you and Mom are up there drinking martinis. You may have been OLD, but honey, you were timeless.

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