My Sister Esther


She was human. She could be mad, grumpy, take offense. But, she was my champion, my hero. The oldest of three girls, when we were young she was our comforter in chief, soothing us when our parents fought—which was often.

She left home when she was sixteen to attend college at UC Berkeley. We lived a short distance away and I used to cherish spending weekends with her—in the world of adults. Through her I was introduced, at the age of nine to Mad Magazine, National Lampoon, Zap Comix and the work of Robert Crumb. I didn’t understand much of what I read, but it left an impression on me. I helped silkscreen t-shirts for a student protest, shopped at a flea market on Telegraph Avenue, attended college classes, ate at Greasy spoons, listened to music at Rasputin records. It was a magical time and I relished it. It didn’t last.

When I was twelve we moved to Philadelphia and Esther stayed behind to finish college. Shortly after that she dropped out of college and, in 1974, when she was twenty-one, she went to Israel for a visit. She met a man, got married and remained there until her death. I only saw her sporadically after that—no more than once every two or three years. And, in the years before international calls became less expensive most of our communication was via letter. I didn’t really know her, this sister I had idealized. Then, in 1992 I spent three months in Israel doing fieldwork for my Master’s degree in anthropology. That summer Esther and I came to know each other, not just as sisters but as friends, as whole adults. I cherish that summer.

I cherish the memories I have of my beautiful, sweet, gentle sister. I miss her every day. I love her. Her death was unexpected. There were hints, symptoms, but she didn’t get them checked out. By the time she went to the doctor, she was close to death and she died thirty days after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.

We never know how long we have on this earth. We never know how long others have. We only have this now moment. Life is but a string of now moments. When you are tempted to fret, to worry about what might come or second guess what has already happened, stop and think. Ask yourself, “If this were my last moment on earth how would I spend it?” I say this often, but it’s worth repeating—tell those you love that you love them—often. Appreciate the world around you. Say thank you. Be kind. Give freely. Eat dessert first.

Take nothing for granted.

Life is for living so live it.

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