My grandfather, Hy Schiffman, died in a VA Hospital in Florida. In his later years Hy was your typical jolly fat man and I can't picture him without a smile beneath his thin pencil mustache. As a young man, Hy was very handsome and the lovingly restored black and white wedding photo of him and Nana Tillie made them both look like movie stars. Hy was not an educated man, first laboring at 13 years old to help his family and then drafted into the war, Hy never had formal schooling past the 8th grade but he was always sharp as a tack.
I wasn't there at the end but I was there just a few weeks before. A lifelong smoker, Hy had just had his voicebox removed, but there are other ways to communicate and we went about our usual routine of games, puzzles, and cooperative group thinking. Three hours later Hy wheezed, leaned forward and touched his fingers to his lips in the sign language way to say "thank you". He hugged me, cried a few tears, and I whispered in his good ear, "You're welcome Pop."