My mothers' mother died giving birth to her. My mother's father died of TB when she was a young girl, after he had recently remarried the woman I knew as my grandmother, Helen. Helen was a beautiful young lady and she was madly in love with her new husband. But in less than a year, she was a widow and a single parent with a step-daughter, my mother, who had spent her short childhood moving from one personal trauma to another. Mom was entering the most challenging time in her young life.

Those were difficult times. Whatever family my mother had come into the world with, had either died or disappeared. America was in the depths of the Great Depression. Helen had to work hard to support herself and my mother. Never having had a child of her own and being thrown into this situation, it soon became apparent to my mother that Helen was keeping her more because she felt she "had to" than "wanted to." Whatever family my mother had come into the world with, had either died or disappeared Mom's life was hard. In addition to going to school, all the housework was her responsibility. It seemed that no matter how hard she tried, whatever she did was never good enough for Helen. The threat of being sent away to an orphanage was constantly hanging over her head.

There was a gift that G‑d was about to give my mother, one that would change her life, as well as mine. In came Helen's family to save the day. The cousins a little older than mom were Muriel and Blanch, and they would encourage Helen to ease up on Mom. They would have Mom over for weekends and holidays, and brought light into my mother's very dark world. Eventually Helen married Abe who adored my mom and also interceded on Mom's behalf. Throughout my grandmother and mother's lives, Blanch and especially Muriel remained important people to them.

As a little girl, all of our family holidays were spent with my moms "parents." The cousins were always there. I especially remember Murial's daughters, Leslie and Cindy… They were the big girls, and I always wanted to follow them around and be noticed. By the time I was thirteen, my grandmother had passed on. She had been ill for a long time so the family gatherings had ended long ago. The cousin's names were still often heard, phone calls, grown-up visits and I know that one of my grandmother's last requests was that my mother keep her connection with "the cousins."

Several years ago, as my mother was fading, she left me with the feeling that it was now my responsibility to keep in touch with "the cousins." By the time my mother passed on, the only cousin that was alive and lived nearby was Muriel's daughter Leslie. Leslie had four grown children who lived on their own. By then, I had two sons who were also off on their own. Leslie contacted me often trying to arrange a get-together, but somehow, I was always too busy for it, and I would promise to get in touch when things got quieter. Of course things never got quieter and despite my father's prompting, I never found time to make the call. In retrospect, I think that the "cousins" were so enmeshed in my mother's sad beginnings that I just couldn't go there.

Last spring, after a bout with breast cancer and a double mastectomy (see Gaining More than I Lost), my dad decided to email Leslie and tell her about my situation. Of course, Leslie called to find out how I was doing. Time went on and soon it was late summer and the phone rang again. It was Leslie. This time she was in tears. Lisa, her daughter had breast cancer. Could I help? Somehow, I knew this was destiny calling.

I never found time to make the callI flew into action; I called Lisa, and listened to her situation. I offered some medical advice, doctors, hospitals, and treatments. I met her for an appointment with my surgeon, who she liked very much and ended up using. I was there the day of the surgery trying to support her family, especially Leslie. One of the hardest things has to be watching your daughter go through this, knowing that she will have chemo and radiation ahead of her. Her family was amazing in the way they were there for her; I could just imagine how their relatives had been there for my mom. I have tried to keep in touch with Leslie and Lisa since the surgery just to let them know I'm here.

I know that things happen for a reason and G‑d's hand is in everything. As much as I tried to avoid the road that my mother and grandmother had laid out for me, G‑d was going to create a situation that would make it impossible for me not to do what I needed to accomplish. The appreciation that I received from "the cousins" was amazing. I know that my mother and grandmother's souls are resting more peacefully now that I am keeping the connection alive and fulfilling my destiny.