8 Over 80 Event Honors Seniors
into the celebration, my eyes filled with tears. I didn’t know any of them personally, so why was I crying?
It’s been just six months since my beloved grandmother, Sheila Schussler, passed away, and I realized as these wonderfully inspiring older adults marched into the event with proud smiles and bursts of applause, we never publicly nominated Grandma for all the wonderful accomplishments of her life.
Sure, we celebrated her every day — by calling, spending time together, giving her gifts and telling her we loved her. We celebrated who she was, her big heart, her kindness and generosity, all the days that she lived in small ways, between us and among family.
But there is something significant about announcing to the world how wonderful an everyday person is — finding the extraordinary in the ordinary — for we all have it inside us. And we all deserve to be noticed for it.
I’m surprised by how acutely I miss my grandmother. People die. It’s part of life. And when an elderly beloved relative turns 90 and 91, with declining health, we know it’s inevitably on the horizon.
In a way, it was a relief to know my grandmother was finally at peace. And yet, that doesn’t make it any easier to know that she will never be at the holiday or Shabbat table with us, she won’t see my new house, she won’t attend an orchestra concert for my daughter or a talent show at school ever again.
My grandmother was that special kind of grandmother who had infinite patience and a huge amount of love. She was calm and kind and listened well. Every day of her life, her makeup was perfect, her jewelry in place, her clothing refined, her nails manicured. She epitomized elegance. And she lived love.
On Sunday, May 4, more than 400 people attended the 21st annual 8 Over 80 celebration hosted by Jewish Senior Life at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills. The eight honorees — Sissi Lapides, Earl Remer, Ada Bandalene, Joanna Berger, William “Bill” Farber, Bernard Moray, Sidney Stone and Rolland Walt — were escorted in by their “partners,” 11th-graders who interviewed the them and wrote their bios for the event. Moving videos captured the spirit and style of each honoree, moving audience members to laughter and to tears in equal measure. The event attracted a record crowd and raised a record amount for Jewish Senior Life’s kosher meal program.
wouldn’t say wrong.
What I would say is that life is short and it goes by quickly, so we must make it a point to notice the meaningful moments in the mundane and celebrate the spectacular right under our noses.
When Gigi died last Thanksgiving weekend, I spoke at the funeral about how remarkable it was to have my grandmother in my life for 42 years. So it’s really no surprise that every day I have glimpses of her when I close my eyes, and I miss her deep in my chest. My eyes brim with tears frequently for missing her, even though I accept the cycle of life.
That long weekend, family flew in from all corners of the country. She died on a Wednesday and the funeral was Friday — we gathered at my parents’ house for Thanksgiving, and although we were stricken with grief, and in limbo waiting to lay her to rest beside my grandfather, it was the best Thanksgiving I’ve ever celebrated.
That’s because my entire family — generations of cousins, dozens and dozens of people, Grandma’s legacy — were gathered together in all our glory, beautifully connected. My children and my cousins’ children were immediate best friends. My cousins and I, and our parents, felt that familiar tug of family, of coming home. We were in the embrace of true gratitude, actually living this concept of thanksgiving, for the lives we have been gifted, thanks to the generations that came before us.
Jewish Senior Life is a client of my public relations business. This is the third 8 Over 80 that I’ve promoted to the public, but the first that struck me as so wonderfully incredible. The eight individuals honored for their contributions to society and community, their focus on family and meaning, truly deserve to be honored.
So do many, many more who weren’t on that stage. It should be one of our most delightful focuses of life to recognize the special qualities of each person that crosses our path, to find something significant and unique in every interaction. That’s the point of life as far as I’m concerned. ■
Lynne Meredith Golodner | Special to the Jewish News