Tag Archives: death


Such a strange place for a family reunion


And his wife, my Aunt Flo

Last seen apart,

But together again for our reunion

And there, my Uncle Marty, 

Quiet now as he always was

Testament to the quiet heroes 

Sent to fight Hitler and rescue Europe

Home now, here in New Jersey 

Waiting for his bride, my Aunt Rita

Who finally, after 50 long years

Is ready to rejoin her lost love 

And take her place in our fallen family 

Rita, whose passing has called us all,

The survivors and the caretakers

To gather in solemn reunion

On this hill in New Jersey

Amongst our family of Stones


For a family reunion,

This bare windy Hill 

In Northern New Jersey

A Jewish cemetery filled to its heights

With loved ones and familiar names

Who populated my childhood 

With smiles, laughter 

And loving embraces

A childhood where each was a god

As adults will seem in a child’s world 

But gods no more, here on this hill

Gone, and some only hazily recalled

Resting now and waiting, 

All of them fallen under the weight

Of well- or poorly-lived lives  

Patiently they wait beneath their stones

For the next generation

My cousins and I, to join them

Here amongst the Stones.


Staring down at the graves

Of my father and mother

Both gone long enough 

That I forget the sadness

That once blinded my eyes 

And filled my lungs

I place stones on their stones

To let them know

My love holds fast and true

Even if memory dims

Some of my treasured images

Old as I am or will become

I will always be their son

Even on this hill in New Jersey

Here amongst the Stones

The silent Stones.

I will always be their son

Sobbing On The Subway

He sits there alone on the subway seat, his body shaking from huge inconsolable sobs. A moment ago he was just sitting there quietly, seemingly lost in his own thoughts. A man in his late sixties, his Boston Red Sox cap its own promise of spring, of better days ahead. Then the crying erupted from his body in an instant, like lava spewed from a testy volcano. We are mostly alone on this Red Line subway car, he and I, at 7:45 on a Wednesday morning. I stare at his reflection in the darkened window while he continues to sob so hard I can almost feel his body shaking.

As the train glides into Harvard Square, the questions run through my mind like a fevered catechism.

Kenyatta Braithwaite. Always in our hearts!

Kenyatta Braithwaite. Always in our hearts!

Why, why why? Why did he have to die? He was so young; why him, why now? And what‘s ahead for his wife and young son?

Why indeed! I know this was my son-in-law, Kenyatta’s, journey, this early death of his, but still I have to ask “Why?” as if someone could ever explain such a cruel and unfair act of Fate. So cruel it seems malicious!

Keny was just 44, maybe 45, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is how young Keny was when he left us, how much greatness he still had left to discover; how many laughs left to share; how much of his warmth and loving presence (“Give me some sugar, baby!”) and hugs we’ll no longer enjoy. You can’t quantify the damage done; our family has been greatly diminished by my son-in-law’s loss and none of us can figure out what hit us or why?

I have seen this man sobbing elsewhere in the last 24 hours. On an elevator, in my local supermarket, sitting in the dark of his office, bathed in the glow of his computer screen. I have seen him break into tears and great, gushing sobs at a moment’s notice. It happened in the shower this morning. His sobs broke through my reverie. Whisking me from one second’s stillness into the next second’s frenzy of cries and wailing.

Was it the suddenness of Keny’s crisis, the tidal wave of ever-rising disaster that resulted from the simplest of surgical operations going awry; all of it mushrooming within a day into Keny fighting for his life? Was it the unexpectedness of finding someone we love fighting for his life when a moment before, we thought he was safe and getting care? Was there anything we could have done to help prevent Keny’s death?

Sadly, in the end we were all left to sob. Whenever the sorrow, pain and the damn injustice of the thing becomes too much to bear, those who loved Keny—those of us in the noisy front row of mourners— find we must release an eruption of uncontainable sobs. I can’t help myself. That’s just how it works. Anytime, anywhere, the sobs just flow, as if they are the physical manifestation of this grief that inhabits me and cannot be held back. Like this fellow’s obvious pain here on the subway at 7:55AM on Wednesday morning.

Such a sorrowful character. Wonder if he’s getting off at Porter Square?

Neither of us moves as the car empties further. Looking straight into the glass, I stare directly at myself, no longer pretending to stare at a stranger. No longer pretending to be a curiosity observed on a train. Looking across, at the reflection in the window, I see myself in a blue Red Sox cap taking deep breaths while wiping away the tracks of tears that ran beneath my eyes.

So hard to believe. No more Keny. It seems as if he’s been stolen from us. Death is not usually this perverse or insistent; so that only someone in his mid-40’s, someone who was both brilliant of mind and vibrant of life force, would prove acceptable. Either way, Keny fought the good fight; struggled to stay alive for his wife and son, but the poison in his body had already done its worst. And so I find myself the next day sobbing on subway trains. On elevators. In the supermarket…

It was so unfair, so heartrending. So sad…! There is no more Keny. No more blustery personality or charming smile. No more high-energy activity or comfortable presence. No more Kenyatta Braithwaite. So proud to have him as a respectful and loving son. So sad to lose him so young.

“It’s so sad!” I repeat as I wipe away tears from this latest wave of sobbing.

How else can one react? Fate came in and snatched away Kenyatta Braithwaite from the embrace of his friends and family. There was no warning. There was no way to fight this decision. No one to complain to! What choices were we given?

And now, what else can we do?

Except say goodbye…and sob.


Keny’s wake is to be held at the McDonald Keohane Funeral Home – 809 Main St. South Weymouth, MA (across the street from South Shore Hospital), Monday, April 6th, 3pm-7pm. Funeral to be held Tuesday, April 7, at St. Francis Xavier Parish – 234 Pleasant St. South Weymouth, MA, 9:30am.


Eulogy For My Mother

For My Mom, Gertrude Stone Rubin

Her name was Gertrude Rubin. Most people called her Gert, a few called her Gertrude, her mother, my grandmother Sarah, called her “Gertie!” but to me she was always Mom. In her later years I would greet her with ‘Hello the Mama!’ don’t ask me why. And she would offer back happily, “Hello the Tata!”

Mom with her "Treasure Island," my brother Bob.

Mom with her “Treasure Island,” my brother Bob.

Those who knew my Mom, loved my Mom. Many of you know why. She cared, she listened, she was all heart and steadfastly true to herself. She never lied. She never jumped to make judgments or spread malicious gossip. Mom was little Switzerland, at war with no one, at peace with the world. She was always ready to dance, even if she happened to be in a wheelchair. You could pin Mom’s body to earth, but never her spirit. Especially if you played the song “Y.M.C.A.,” and whisked her back to memories of her disco days. And oh those hot pants! Mom, please!

Mom was a hot ticket, always eager to laugh, sometimes surprisingly witty on her own. One time I was on the phone with Mom who was then in her late 70’s, kind of creaky and near blind. I was berating her for crossing Atlantic Avenue by foot, a dangerous 8-10 lane thoroughfare, especially after specifically telling her a number of times not to cross that dangerous and accident-prone road. Not even for a corned beef sandwich. “Why would you do that?” I questioned angrily. “It’s so dangerous. We’ve talked about this before. Why would you do it?” I pursued. “Can you tell me why?”

To which my mother answered sheepishly, “To get to the other side…?”

My mother was the one who stood up for the ugly ducklings and social outcasts. Immensely popular herself, down in her Florida retirement community, she would refuse to attend a movie, a girls’ night out or a mah jong game unless her friends, some of whom were social outcasts, were also included. “If Lillian’s not invited, then I don’t think I can go!” she’d insist. If Gert was your friend, Gert was your friend.

These last few days I’ve heard over and over that Mom was someone who listened. But listened with care and interest. My best friend Davey remembers Mom sitting with him as an eight year old when he was alone at his father’s funeral. It’s the little things we hold onto. Mom buying me presents when I was sick. Mom racing frantically to make it onto a subway train before it pulled out with me already on board. Mom also rescuing me, at age two or three, when my leg got stuck in a hot radiator. Mom always laughing when I clowned around. Mom painting my half-painted bedroom during my college days, the room left shabbily incomplete because I had lost interest in the project. Mom in her 40’s learning to cook, developing world class rigatoni that all of us still hungrily crave, not to mention a killer pot roast.

But first and foremost, Gertrude Rubin was a mother. In her final weeks, when she was mostly babbling to herself and to God, I heard her pleading with the Almighty to “keep an eye on me, her younger son, and to help me be successful…finally!”

Well maybe not in those exact words, but you get the idea.

Years ago, we three siblings, Bob, Mona and I, were talking about who was Mom’s favorite. And each of us thought we were the one Mom favored over the others. Well, she might have favored us equally, but I was the one Mom worried about. I was the one, in her eyes, most at risk. Perhaps because I was the one who, as a young boy, regularly stood up to my autocratic father; perhaps because I was the one whose marriage broke up; for whatever reason, Mom could not stop worrying about me. Was I keeping my job? Was I earning enough? And what was it I did, anyway?

The only reason Mom had been able to stop smoking years ago was because she made a pact with God about my finding a job. She would stop smoking, she firmly negotiated with God-in-Heaven, “if He would help her son Paul, her weak and most vulnerable child, find himself a job.”

Then, of course, I found a job. And suddenly Mom was trapped! Trapped between her cravings to smoke again and her fear of jeopardizing my new job. Obviously God wouldn’t stand by his end of the bargain if she abandoned hers.

And so I kept my job, and my dear mother stopped smoking.

Time for me to say, “Thanks” to my dear, sweet mother, who will always be with me. And “Thanks” to whatever cosmic forces helped make this wonderful lady my Mom. If it’s true, as I’ve been told, we actually get to pick our parents before we’re born, then you have to admit I did a damn good job.

Godspeed Mom! I love you! Thanks for everything!

And stop worrying about me. I’ll be fine.


The above eulogy was written for my mother Gertrude Stone Rubin and read at her funeral at Mt. Moriah Cemetery, on February 5th of this year.














Fathers and Sons

“It’s complicated,” I say, in describing my feelings for my father who passed away some 45 years ago. But then Fathers and Sons always have complicated relationships for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they inevitably find themselves competing for the affections of the same woman. 45 years ago, when I first learned my father had pancreatic cancer and wouldn’t live to see his next birthday my miasmic feelings of anxiety, abandonment and sorrow quickly bubbled to the surface. And expressed themselves in the following poem…


There Stood A Tree

There stood a tree

thought stronger than the rest

maybe you remember

it fell some season past

its limbs would climb up to the heavens

while the trunk stayed firm to earth

and all the forest praised its beauty

thanking nature for its birth.


Yes, once there stood a tree

and for miles all had shade

and but for the gift

of one fragile leaf

a wiser world was made

and for the love of a forest

a legacy was sown

the fruit of which we won’t see now

least till the sapling’s grown.


Now the forest is a little darker

and the leaves fall just like tears

they remember that there stood a tree

that helped erase the fears

they recall how the tree would block the wind

and the sun’s harsh morning glare

they remember that there stood a tree

that is no longer there.


No, the wind can’t rustle its branches now

nor the rain wet any leaves

and where once there stood a tree

now lies a solemn grave

yet, still the stump stands proud

in the sun or autumn’s frost

and even winter’s snow can’t hide

just what the forest lost.


There stood a tree

and the tree didn’t die

It’s only less visible now

to the naked human eye

but if you cut beneath the earth

you’ll find the roots alive

there stands a tree

and only in that belief

can the forest survive.


Paul Steven Stone