“Whenever someone who knows you disappears, you lose one version of yourself. Yourself as you were seen, as you were judged to be. Lover or enemy, mother or friend, those who know us construct us, and their several knowings slant the different facets of our characters like diamond-cutter's tools. Each such loss is a step leading to the grave, where all versions blend and end.” -Salman Rushdie
For Physical Education in 5th grade at Sinai Temple, they used to make us run laps around the entire school. My best friend Sarina lived right across the street, and when I felt faint around the 3rd lap, her mother Leah Rubin, would come outside and sneak me a water bottle so I wouldn’t collapse. This was the type of person she was.
Every year for Sarina’s birthday, Leah would bring ice cream cones from Baskin Robbins for our entire grade. She always accompanied our class on field trips, and did the same for her son Danny. It felt like she was the “school mom,” if such a position ever existed.
During my college years, I would spend many of my weekends with Sarina and her family. Dinners with the Rubin family felt like dinner with my own family, because Irv and Leah Rubin were like a second set of parents. I opened up to them and sought advice from them often. I even confided in them, and I never left without feeling a bit wiser.
Leah Rubin was not just a mother, she was a teacher, a mentor, a wife, a cook, a housekeeper, a confidant, a best friend, but most importantly, she was a guide for her children.
A few months ago, Leah passed away due to a sudden stroke. I don’t think anybody saw it coming—I certainly didn’t. At the time I had no words—just tears.
Irv and Sarina came to my grandmother’s funeral just two weeks later. They extended sympathy and remained strong in the presence of my family. And all I kept wondering was: how? How could they keep it together to the extent that they were able to comfort and attend to other mourners?
And then I remembered a quote I had read before. “Love is stronger than death even though it can't stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries, it can't separate people from love. It can't take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death.”
Leah’s words and the way she made people feel will never be forgotten. In fact, her presence was so strong that if ever a problem were to arise, I think her immediate family would be able to think up what she would have replied.
In honor of Leah Rubin’s life, and in her memory, some words from friends:
I'll miss her wicked sense of humor and her brilliant insight about people and relationships. I'll miss her belly laugh and the way her eyes literally sparkled when she spoke about her family. She was her children's strongest advocate and greatest fan and she loved them unconditionally. She constantly opened up her home to guests and genuinely enjoyed their company.
When my diabetic daughter asked if she could spend the night at Leah’s house while in elementary school, I tried to discourage her because I was worried about a low blood sugar episode. Leah’s response was "show me how to test her blood sugar...it's no problem," and she did in fact wake up in the middle of the night to test her and put our fears to rest. She was the one to offer help, no matter what the task and always put others needs ahead of her own.
-Loretta Helfant, friend of Leah Rubin
Leah helped me with whatever I needed. She always put others before herself and I am so lucky to have had her as a role model, support system, mentor and the list goes on. "Mother Dearest" was a second mother to all of Danny & Sarina’s friends, and in taking on this role, she helped shape the people we all are today.
-Marc Becker, friend of Danny Rubin, and “second son” to Leah
Leah was an amazing friend—she was someone that could always be depended on—always there to lend a helping hand. Her children were her #1 priority. She was a phenomenal mother and friend. If you needed anything, she would go out of her way to help you. I miss her beautiful smile, sense of humor, twinkling piercing eyes, and brilliant mind—I miss my friend.
-Michelle Halimi, friend of Leah Rubin
When I was little, my mom and I scheduled weekly dates for just the two of us. We would get dinner and go to the clay club where we would paint together and just talk about life. It is something I am never going to forget.
-Sarina Rubin, daughter of Leah Rubin
Although we are all still grieving in our own ways, we carry her love and her memories with us.
And to Irv, Sarina, and Danny: you will always be my second family.