Missing our Matriarch, Poem on Grief

We can’t avoid the saddest part of our humanity and though we know we’ll have to deal with it, as my husband’s Aunt Pauline said, “It never gets easier.”

I haven’t posted in awhile because Cecile Gruer, my 86 year-old mother-in-law and matriarch of our family, passed away last week. There’s so much to say about her decline, measures that were taken to try to restore her health, and the month she spent under hospice care. The last time she celebrated a happy occasion with the family was her granddaughter’s wedding in September 2021. Even then, she wasn’t truly herself.

There’s much more to say about Cecile, who as a young girl in Poland, ran with her parents and siblings from the Nazi’s during WWII. She spent years in Siberia, freezing and starving. After the war ended, she was a teenager in an Austrian displaced persons camp. Her immediate family eventually moved to America, first to St. Louis and then to New York. She met Morris, another Holocaust survivor, in Brooklyn, NY and they married and built a home and family. So much to say…

The outpouring of sympathy from family and friends illustrates the importance of community. It may sound cliche, but it’s crucial to support each other when a life starts and when it ends.

Hubby and I are exhausted from the many months of Cecile’s decline, reeling from witnessing her personality change, saddened by her loss of communication, and grieving her passing. A tribute post will have to wait. Though Cecile didn’t die young, Jon Pineda’s poem on grief strikes a chord.

My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task was published in The New York Times Magazine January 16, 2022 with commentary by Victoria Chang. She said, “I first read this poem on Twitter, and even though it’s a simple poem about grief, it stayed with me. I’m fascinated by the way that it discloses so much in its title, showing how a title can get important information out of the way so that the poem can breathe on its own. Yet the reader doesn’t know what the ‘task’ is until the third stanza. The poem is an example of how abundant emotions can be conveyed by stripping language down to the bone.”

My Sister, Who Died Young, Takes Up the Task

A basket of apples brown in our kitchen,

their warm scent is the scent of ripening,

and my sister, entering the room quietly,

takes a seat at the table, takes up the task

of peeling slowly away the blemished skins,

even half-rotten ones are salvaged carefully.

She makes sure to carve out the mealy flesh.

For this, I am grateful. I explain, this elegy

would love to save everything. She smiles at me,

and before long, the empty bowl she uses fills,

domed with thin slices she brushes into

the mouth of a steaming pot on the stove.

What can I do? I ask finally. Nothing,

she says, let me finish this one thing alone.


Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay, New York

I like every season for different reasons. One of my favorite things about spring and summer is the abundance of gorgeous gardens. I’ve been stopping to smell the roses…and the lilacs and lilies and hyacinths and hydrangeas. This past Mother’s Day was spent at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, New York which is on Long Island. After that, we stopped at a nursery to buy flowers. Outside on a sunny day absorbing vivid colors and sweet scents? Lovely!

Patterns at the Met

"Fractal.MGX" table 2007. Gernot Oberfell, Jan Wertel, Matthias Bar, German
“Fractal.MGX” table 2007, Gernot Oberfell, Jan Wertel, Matthias Bar, German, 2007, epoxy resin, polyurethane

One of my teenagers and I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan recently. We finished viewing the Matisse exhibit and came across an exhibit of contemporary furniture and design.  I was taken by the patterns and textures.  Hon, hope you are, too.

"Peacock" chair 2009, Dror Ben Shetrit, Israeli, felt with powdwer varnished metal base
“Peacock” chair, 2009, Dror Ben Shetrit, Israeli, felt with powder varnished metal base

"Alquimia XIII" wall hanging 1984, Olga De Amoral, Columbian, linen, rice paper, gesso, indigo red and gold leaf
“Alquimia XIII” wall hanging, 1984, Olga De Amaral, Columbian, linen, rice paper, gesso, indigo red and gold leaf

"Carlton" room divider 1981, Ettore Sottsass, Italian, wood, plastic laminate
“Carlton” room divider, 1981, Ettore Sottsass, Italian, wood, plastic laminate

Carriage Horses

Bolton's Landing, NY
Bolton Landing, NY


Central Park, NY
Central Park, NY

I spotted the horses and carriage at The Sagamore in Bolton Landing, New York and had to grab my camera. I’ve posted the photo of the Central Park hansom cab before (see Weekly Photo Challenge–Circles) but, hey (hay?) the photo goes with the “Carriage Horses” post.  (And I still think it’s romantic!)

Weekly Photo Challenge-Circles

Chandelier and circular staircase at Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Center, NY
Chandelier and circular staircase at Top of the Rock, Rockefeller Center, NY

The Weekly Travel Photo Challenge on the blog Where’s My Backpack is Circles. Thanks to Michael Lai, Retireediary (all the way from Hong Kong), for sharing his photos with me. Here are my additions to the challenge.

Waiting to take the elevator up to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center, NY I stood directly under the massive chandelier and circular staircase. I love that it looks like it’s raining crystals.

Hansom Cab, Central Park, NY
Hansom Cab, Central Park, NY

Hansom Cabs in Central Park conjure romance.  The clip-clop of a horse’s hooves reminds us of days gone by.

Universal Studios, Los Angeles, CA
Universal Studios, Los Angeles, CA

Patterns that contrast manmade materials with nature intrigue me.

Indoor play space, Imagine That, NJ
Indoor play space, Imagine That, NJ

Hon, the bright yellow circular entrance to the tunnel was so inviting I would have followed right behind if I could fit!

"New York Lights", acrylics, 30" x 30.5"
“New York Lights”, acrylics, 30″ x 30.5″

One of my triplets is an extremely talented artist. (Hon, she’s my daughter and this is my blog so I’m allowed to crow.)  She painted this when she attended a summer program at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Art.  I love the vibrant colors and varied texture of her painting. The swirling hair creates movement while balancing the girl’s face.