There it was, bright and visible in the late afternoon, as big as I’ve seen it in some time. With at least an hour to go before sundown, shining bright against a pale blue sky, almost a perfect circle…almost, just the tiniest piece missing, and with good reason, it wasn’t time, not just yet.
From the day we arrive on the planet,
and blinking step into the sun.
There’s more to be seen than can ever be seen,
more to do than can ever be done.
– Elton John, The Circle of Life
Born September 1923, Sylvia Gross came into the world with a purpose, to live. In her 90 years on this planet she did just that, filling her circle in a way that only those who create a life fulfilled truly can, with family, friends and so much love given and received that mere words can barely do it justice.
I will try my best.
Her best is what Sylvia put on display for all the world to see. She lived life with gusto and she gave the love of her life, her husband Sam, the best years she had within her. A relationship her grandchildren describe as a fairytale, almost as if it was make-believe. After all it was, because the lesson you learn in life is you make what you believe. Sylvia and Sam believed in making it together, in handling whatever life brought their way, in union, for 68 wonderful years.
All are agreed as they join the stampede,
you should never take more than you give.
Sylvia Gross, who became Sylvia Grosshandler when she married her soul mate Sammy, was a giver. Shortly after they wed, Sylvia gave the world three children, Lynn, Barry and Robert. These were children by birth, but as Sylvia would let you know, she and Sam really had six children, three others through marriage, Stan, Eileen and Terry, whom Sam and Sylvia welcomed into their lives with open arms and open hearts. It paid off. Because her children gave the love right back by giving Sam and Sylvia six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Sylvia and Sam became Nana & Pop-pop and their hearts grew even bigger.
Her children would describe Sylvia as quiet and easy. And she was, but she would also tell it like it is. I was lucky enough to hear her tell the stories of her childhood, and of her best friend she met at 8 years old, a woman I’m sorry I never got to meet, my grandmother-in-law, Bernice. Those stories, some too incredible to seem true, (and barely fit to print), made you laugh, and made Sylvia laugh… and this woman loved to laugh. She also loved to feed you. I still remember sitting at Sylvia & Sam’s home at the beach in Ocean City, trying to figure out how I was going to get up from my chair because my stomach hurt so much…from laughter and from the ton of delicious food I was “mildly encouraged” to devour. Life doesn’t get much better.
In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
We spin this wheel of life and hope for the best. When you devote the best part of your life to raising your children, watching them grow and prosper and then seeing the fruits of that labor multiply into a large and loving family, it truly is what life is all about. That’s what Sylvia lived for. Her life had deep meaning because she meant what she said and she said what she meant and she let you know that, in both words and in heart. Family was the center of Sylvia’s world and she was the center of theirs. A matriarch who lived with gusto and who few could match.
Some of us fall by the wayside,
and some of us soar to the stars,
Some of us sail through our troubles,
and some have to live with the scars.
Life is not perfect. In a perfect world, Sylvia would not have outlived her beloved Sammy. Though Sylvia put on a brave face, a tough exterior, a sometimes stoic manner, I could see it in her eyes and I could feel it in my heart whenever I saw her, I knew it wouldn’t be long. Sam and Sylvia were simply meant to be together and now they are.
There aren’t enough words, or enough blogs to tell a life’s story which encompassed 90 years. A lot of stuff happens over nine decades. But the takeaway from the beautiful eulogy her grandchildren gave about Sylvia’s life is that she believed “stuff is just stuff.” Shortly after Sam passed away, her granddaughter Cindy said she spent many hours helping her Nana clean out the basement. Sylvia made Cindy throw out 99% of everything that was hers. “Cindy it’s just stuff, Sylvia would say, “stuff doesn’t mean anything. It’s the memories that are special.”
There’s far too much to take in here,
more to find than can ever be found.
But the sun rolling high, through the sapphire sky,
keeps great and small on the endless round.
It’s the circle of life. If you’re lucky and Sylvia was, that circle gets filled up with so much love it is bursting at the seams. You make more memories than you can ever recount. Sylvia liked to keep her memories on film, taking tons and tons and tons of photographs. Most of those pictures were of the ones she loved, her family. Posted on this blog today, we give that love right back, with pictures of Sylvia. I was lucky enough to be just one of her great-nephews, by marriage, but in Sylvia’s eyes, I was just another member of her family. That whole marriage thing is just stuff…remember stuff is just stuff.
Love is what matters.
It was just hours after we learned of Sylvia’s last breath that the moon became visible in the late, afternoon sky. A moon about as big as I’ve ever seen. But there was still the tiniest piece missing. That piece was reserved for the next day. The day we laid Sylvia to rest. On the drive to the funeral home, almost as if by magic, Elton John’s song came on the radio. You couldn’t ignore the coincidence, or the significance.
Now it was time, the moon was full. The circle of life, complete.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Author, It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
#1 Amazon Best-Seller