Tools for Elul: Stephanie Rex

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Over the years, my Grandma Dorothy Rex and I developed and maintained an amazing friendship that grew and blossomed over the course of her life. My cousins and I would always joke with grandma about who her favorite grandchild happened to be, and even though we all knew she didn't exactly have a favorite, she would always say, "Stephie is special because she was my first grandchild."

As I grew up and left my hometown of Erie to go to college in Pittsburgh (where my parents grew up), my first apartment was just up the street from grandma's house in Crafton. There were many weekends spent together drinking coffee at her kitchen table, swimming in her pool, watching Lifetime movies, and catching up on life. Whether she was supporting my career choices, teaching me how to make her amazing crab cakes recipe, or personally throwing me the most epic 25th birthday party of all time, grandma was truly my best friend. Her house had been my safe place since I was little.

A few years ago, my grandma experienced several setbacks, and dementia took hold. The fiery, spirited woman who had guided me during every step of my life's journey was beginning to fade. I continued to visit her, making sure to bring her favorite cookies from Oakmont Bakery each time. The visits began to feel more and more painful for me as I realized my grandmother was dying. It was a goodbye that would last for three years, but I always kept going - If Not Now, When? During her last emergency visit to the hospital, I sat with her, holding her hand, and if she happened to open her eyes, I told her that I loved her. Even in the silence, I knew that my presence mattered. She passed away in April, but I know she lives on in the love she left behind.

My grandma taught me how to be there for other people, how to pick up the phone and call the people I love, and most importantly - how to show up for them. I am always striving to improve upon her legacy of love, and I continue to try harder every day. If Not Now, When?

Rodef Shalom