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In Honor of Stephanie (a guest blog)


Dear Readers:

My dear friend, Stephanie, is one of the most empathic, talented, and wonderful people I have ever met. She is the author of several books and numerous essays. She is terminally ill. Below is the last essay she wrote. It is in the current issue of The Sun. XXXX Nancy

AFTER MY FATHER DIED, my step-mother, Rose, asked me to dinner. I was surprised by the invitation and equally amazed to find that I was glad to be there. We sat on her stone terrace over­ looking Manhattan and talked about our jobs as teachers. We didn't discuss the history of tension between us. I'd been sixteen when Rose and my father had married, and from the start we'd disliked each other. To my friends I made fun of her slight lisp, her mannish haircut, and her terrible flute playing. My mother had taught me to admire glamour and sophis­tication, and Rose fell short on both counts. Influenced by my father's opinions, Rose echoed his criticisms of me. My father accused me of being spoiled, selfish, and materialistic, like my mother and her lawyer husband, with whom I lived in Brooklyn.

Then my father developed a rare blood disease and lay bleeding inter­nally in a Boston hospital. The day I came to visit, the room was thick with hostility. I was eighteen. "It's about time you got here," my father murmured.

Rose, his staunch protector, wagged a finger at me. "You're a self-centered, rotten girl," she said, and she raised a hand to slap my face. I stormed out of the hospital, determined never to see them again. In time we reconciled. My father and I found common ground, and Rose and I learned to be cordial. Twelve years later, when my father died in his sleep, she called me, and I went We waited together for the ambulance to arrive, sitting shoulder to shoulder on her sofa.

After he died and we had dinner on her terrace, she and I began spend­ing time together. I found Rose to be forthright and intelligent. I liked her white linen dresses and broad smile. I could sense she had come to like me, too

She talked about growing up in a white house with green shutters and a front lawn where she and her sister had played like tomboys. She told me she'd been the first woman inspector in the glove-making industry in Albany, New York. She spoke of her passion for travel, which had taken her to Asia and Africa, and recalled a time when flying over India, the pilot had invited her into the cockpit and let her steer the plane. I was in awe of her sense of adventure. I told her about my challenges at work and in love. Her advice was pragmatic: "Be yourself. Some people will like you, and some people won't."

Her lung-cancer diagnosis came suddenly. I sat next to her hospital bed, looking into her blue eyes and stroking. her thin cheek. One day she introduced me to the nurse as her daughter, and tears came to my eyes. I was there when her breath stopped. Love was in the room, although we never called it that.

Stephanie Hart

New York, New York c



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