Remembrance. A beautiful word to help you cope with grief.
My grandparents Maria Theresa Laviano and Egidio Gresio came to America for economic freedom.
My friend's parents came to America for true freedom. They were survivor's of the Holocaust.
In 2005, I wrote a play about my friend "Lanie" titled By Candlelight. Lessons learned from her enthusiastic embracing of life. Lessons learned about the Holocaust. Lessons learned about terror and the ability to still cherish all that is good.
Months after 9/11, the City was a gentler place. Scarred but standing, the talk was of rebuilding and renewal.
"In the deserts of the heart, let the healing fountain start." - Auden
Cope. Heal. And remember. And then - renew.
My friend and I "visited" each others religion. I was welcome to seders at her home, fasted on Yom Kippur and she spent Christmas with me. I attended her services. She attended my mass.
Below is a scene from the first production of Candlelight. The scene is from the Christmas Eve spent together. Before we found different lives. Before we grew apart. Portrayed by the loveliest of young performers. Whose lifes are now intertwined with mine.
In 2008, after By Candlelight was published, my friend's brother found me. We shared memories, photos, thoughts. Exchanged news of our families. News of my friend's children and how they were coping with the loss of their mother. My friend. His sister and best friend.
I sent him the play which he would give to his mother. It is autobiographical based on my remembrances of our childhood friendship. Based on the years our names were so intertwined - they were one. Written too late - written in remembrance years after 9/11.
And so finally - they knew. My friend never knew the goodness she added to my life. The luminesence. I never did get to tell her. But her mother and brother finally knew.
Last year on September 10, "Lanie's" brother called me. With him was his mother - whom I had not spoken to in decades. September days are hard for her. "Hello." And there it was. The gentle Romanian accent, the emotion, the knowledge that many years have passed. Welling with tears, speaking as if I had been at their home yesterday, I was able to finally tell my friend's mother things I didn't know when I was young. That their family changed my life forever and for good. That empathy is necessary. Compassion must be a piece of the pie. And I thanked her for being part of my life. I took so many things for granted.
At age 9, I thought sharing our religion and different cultural life was something everyone did. I was an adult before I found out that I was given a blessing - a mitzvah.