Remembering Pauline Bronstein
A honey crisp apple scented candle burns in Brooklyn reminding me of the autumns I wished Pauline a happy Rosh Hashanah, dipping apples in honey for a sweet New Year. Today, it is my goyishe memorial candle. I am not Jewish but my friend was, though not religious.
The news she’d made an appointment to end her earthly life yesterday – October 31st – which came through a neighbour on messenger without warning was gutting.
Our own brush with the grim reaper was Saturday night when we rode the NYC subway to the Lomachenko Ortiz fight with Halloween revellers. Screams rang out for everyone to get off the train. My pulse quickened and we mounted the stairs rapidly to escape whatever it was: A shooter? A bomb? I couldn’t breathe from fear. The thought speeding through my mind was that if this was to be our end, what a rotten way to go without farewell and love expressed. Life is fleeting.
Mega yachts, multi-million dollar villas, skyscrapers, palaces, cosmetic surgery, hair transplants, and botox resulting in hopeful vampirism will not change the truth.
We all die.
When my son Dominic was old enough to walk home from school, he would sometimes forget his key, landing on Pauline’s couch. So, for the 15 years we were McCauley neighbours, Pauline kept one for our house.
A professional violinist in the ESO, Pauline was instrumental in our adoption of Koco, our late chocolate lab, and referred to him as puppy, a gross understatement since he weighed in at 54 kilograms on a svelte day. When Pauline was diagnosed with Parkinson’s a decade or so ago, she was already planning a future date in Switzerland where medically-assisted death was legal. In the end she would not have to leave her house to go by her own choosing.
Quietly courageous and full of humour, with the infectious giggle of a six-year-old, she gleefully recounted when a “drive-thru fix car” was parked daily at the same time on our street for a week. She’d walked up to the driver’s window and politely asked him to leave.
“Where should we go?”
“I don’t mind, but please don’t park here.” And they didn’t.
When we moved, Pauline did not come to say goodbye. She knew we’d longed to return to New York and that our days on 106A were numbered, like hers, and we were in denial. No more turkey dinners, fire pits, birthday or holiday celebrations would be shared in that house, and COVID had been a contributor. How vain of us to suggest that we were of such importance to her, since the reality is that Pauline was of great importance to us and a part of our family. I feel sad, cheated, and guilty. In our final telephone call, Pauline said that in the past year she would look at our house and long to see us walk out of it. Since she refused to mark her passage and the lives she touched with an event, I asked, “How should we honour your memory?”“Go out and enjoy yourselves.”
The human soul is a light from God. May it be Your will that the soul of Pauline Bronstein enjoy eternal life, along with the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah; and the rest of the righteous that are in Gan Eden. Amen.
Darcia Parada is a former McCauley resident who now lives in Brooklyn, New York.