Today is a sad day for me because my good friend, Grace Kaufman, is being buried today in New Jersey. I’m not sure how old she was but I know she was in her 80s and I was lucky to call her my friend.
We met on a cruise in 1999. I remember this because it was the first cruise I took that I really enjoyed and it was on the Carnival Triumph. We took a 10 day cruise in the southern Caribbean. Actually, I met Grace in the ship’s store while we were looking for some reading glasses for my husband who accidentally left his at home. We were so surprised to find out that we were seated at the same dinner table that night and would enjoy each other’s company for the next 10 days. Isn’t it amazing how you can meet someone and know instantly that you would be friends? That is how I felt about Grace. We instantly hit it off and even though there was an age difference, it didn’t matter.
When I told her that I was a teacher, she mentioned how she had taught some too but now she was a travel agent. Over the years, I sought her advice a lot about traveling around the world and even around the US. She willingly told us about things we should not miss and things we should be cautious about.
Her husband, Jerry and she were a wealth of knowledge and interesting stories about the whole world. We just enjoyed listening to them over the ten days and hated to see our trip end. In fact we took a shore excursion with them to Virgin Gorda and the Baths. Since the walk was hard for Grace to do, we stayed with them as we arrived and then Grace decided that she would sit in the store and read a book while the rest of us enjoyed exploring around the beach and rocks.
When we returned home from that cruise, we wanted to stay in touch with them so I emailed Grace and asked about a trip to China that we were planning. She was so wonderful and offered to set the whole trip up for us and I’m so glad she did because she took care of little details that we never thought of! Over time, she booked some more cruises for us and we stayed in touch on a weekly basis (if not more). I was able to share with her news about my family and she did too. When I was discouraged or irritated, she always knew the right words to make me feel better.
On our visits to see family in New York, we would always try to plan a visit to New Jersey to visit Grace and Jerry. They even invited us to stay with them for a few days which we really enjoyed. We were able to take the train into New York City and then back to their house. Luckily we were able to reciprocate the visit when one time they took Amtrak to Atlanta for a travel agent event. Then we picked them up and took them to Helen, GA for dinner before returning back to our home. The plan was for them to get on the train in Greenville to return home but the train was delayed for hours so they spent the night with us. They kept trying to tell us that they would stay at the train station (which was in a really scary part of our town) all night waiting for the train but we couldn’t let them do that so they stayed in our guest room for the night.
We were so lucky to be able to join Grace and Jerry on the Carnival Liberty in Italy in 2005. It was a magical trip and being with them made it even more special. There were special events that they were invited to and they made sure that we were included which they really didn’t have to do. When we arrived in Cannes, France, Grace had worked out for us to have a private driver to take us to Monaco. I think she always worried about us going off on our own and missing the ship (which we have never done and hope to never do!). Yet, it was kind of nice to have someone worrying about us like this.
Over time, Grace’s health declined and she was unable to use her computer anymore. When she fell one time, she had to go to a rehab place to get well and get physical therapy so I tried to send her a letter often so she would know we were thinking of her. When she returned home, I tried to write letters and call but now I wish I had done it more often. We had hoped that we would be able to sail with them again but her health didn’t let her do this so whenever we took a cruise, I called her from the ship the day we boarded and then again when we returned home. I think she really enjoyed hearing all the details about our trip.
When we went to visit my parents in West Palm Beach, Grace and Jerry would usually be celebrating the Jewish holidays in Miami with their daughter. One time, my parents came with us to visit them which was special because my parents had heard a lot about my special friends. Another time we joined their whole family on a trip to Parrot Jungle which was a lot of fun. It was fun to meet Grace’s children and grandchildren too.
I can’t begin to tell you how much she meant to us. She reminded me so much of my mother who passed away over 20 years ago so I guess I was able to tell her everything and anything. I’m so grateful to her family for sharing her with me. I am so thankful that her daughter was willing to let me know when Grace was hospitalized or in bad health. I can only imagine what they thought when I started barging in on their mother’s life but they graciously allowed me to be included.
I have some precious memories of Grace in our life and I will always miss her.
Goodbye Grace! We will miss you dearly!
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
(crossposted on The Life of Loonyhiker)