Friday, June 25, 2010

What's In A Loss?

I didn't know Steven Lazarov particularly well, so it's odd to say I was a blood relative of his.  He was my mom's first cousin, the son of my grandfather's brother.  Our age differences precluded a more personal relationship at a young age, even though our visits to Memphis, Tennessee always included visits to Great Aunt Rozelle's and Great Uncle Sidney's for a day of swimming, good food and fun.  Steven was rarely there for those gatherings as he was 16 years my senior, so I got to know his younger sister Cheryl a little bit and hardly knew Jan and Ronald until recently.  I'm embarrassed to say that my initial note of condolence did not include Jan -- that's how distant we've become. 

So how did I know Steven Lazarov?  I knew that when our family needed him most, after the deaths of my grandmother and grandfather, he was there.  This is when I got to know him.  He didn't always seem to know what to say to make us feel better, but his presence was enough.  He felt for us and for our entire family's loss.  And he came multiple days to sit shiva with us and made it clear that family for him was of the utmost importance.

I know that in the last 10 years or so Steven's health was a constant battle, such that he had and survived a heart transplant.  It was no easy task, yet he fought through the recovery and got back on his feet again.  During that time, he took an even greater interest in his family, and began circulating an email meant to bring together our expansive family of distant uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews into a group again.  The Lazarov family was quite a prominent and large family in Memphis, and since the loss of the the original nine brothers and sisters, the kids have, well, let's just say time, many disparate interests, and an international economy does a number in spreading family all over the globe.  Steven worked diligently to put this email out monthly, letting us know of family simchas and goings on, and sadly, informing us with the not so easy news that someone was in the hospital, ill or had passed on.

At the same time, as I understand it, he had recovered his own life, and took to traveling as much as he could.  He had a lovely girlfriend, Jo Ann, who I had a chance to meet only once on their visit to Ojai.  He wasn't loud or showy, but a soft-spoken kind man who seemed to place family as a very high priority in a way few of us do these days.

His loss to our family will be felt by all, if for no other reason than he was our connector.  He was the link in an extensive chain that kept the Lazarov family together (and there are many branches of families from the Lazarovs - the Notowich's, Abraham's, and so many more.  He brought us all a little closer to relatives, some of which we didn't even know we had, and some whom we have still never seen in person.  Yet, we're connected because of his desire to make it so.

It is ironic in some ways that a person you knew sporadically, rarely had day-to-day thoughts of, can immediately impact your life the moment they are not there.  Steven may not have been present in my daily happenings, but now the question of who will take charge of keeping our family together becomes a big one indeed.  The truth is all people are connected, whether they want to acknowledge it or not.  We all affect each other, and Steven's loss will affect me and many others besides his immediate family.  I will miss him. 

To Jan, Cheryl, Ronald and of course Great Aunt Rozelle, my condolences.  I wish I could be there as Steve was for us, to stand with you during this difficult time.  My apologies that I can't be there physically, but know that I am thinking of you right now and with you in spirit.