Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Mel Goldstein bid farewell his way

 

August 17, 2018

Penny Goldstein D'Agostino (standing) with her parents, Mel and Lynn Goldstein.

He loved. He loved to sing. An accomplished vocalist before his teens, he sang his whole life. He loved his Sigma Rho brothers at Miami High School. He loved his fellow congregants at the Lindenhurst Hebrew Congregation where he served several presidential terms. He loved the Lindenhurst Fire Department where he served several terms as captain of the Rescue Company.

But mostly, he loved his friends-all of you! He loved his daughter, Penny; and son, Walter; daughter-in-law, Helene; son-in-law, David; and his grandson, Bradley; and most of all he loved his wife, Lynn. They would have been married 60 years on Oct. 15. And because of him, we had someone to love back. He will be remembered and missed, because he loved.

His name was Mel (Not Mr. Goldstein-he would say that was his father's name), and he was much more than just another man who wandered in and out of so many lives, leaving so many hearts touched with smiles and joy. He was my father, and those are the words I spoke at his funeral following his passing this week.

My father truly was a great man. He had a way of being intimate with everyone he befriended. He was a big man, but he was also a large presence touching thousands of lives. He saved lives, delivered babies, mentored people, helped them thru difficult times and loved them all.

Understand my family is Jewish and traditional, but often we are much more than the conventional definition of those words. The reason for it was my father, and his infectious zeal for life.

The man would simply never miss a party. Tell him there was a get together of friends and family, or even if he heard about one, he was right there. If there wasn't one coming up, he'd create one to fit the mood. He loved to cook, eat, entertain, and have people and music around him.

In the end, it was music that gave us what will always remain some of the most cherished and memorable moments of our life with him.

On Friday, July 20, we were told that there was nothing that could be done to prolong his life. Doctors weren't even sure how or why he was still conscious. As a family, we were prepared for news of this nature, as this wasn't the first time he'd been told that he had limited time. He was given 6 months to live some 17 years ago, but he was stubborn, strong and resilient enough to answer back every time with a "not me, and not this time because I still have things to do and life to live."

What made him so unique in the medical world was his status as one of few men who fought diabetes, structural issues, infection and breast cancer and won, time and time again. In 2017, he was in a nursing-center for 7 months, and few of us believed he would ever see his beloved home again. Even then, he proved us wrong and wrung his fist at fate. Three weeks after he went home from the facility, he performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved a woman's life in a restaurant. That's the man he was.

However, in 2018, things would be different. In our world, he was everything. He was indestructible, the Superman who could, and would, defeat this foe every time. Although, even those with superhuman traits must reach the end, and we prepared for his final battle.

The traditional Jewish mourning period is known as Shiva. In this generation, it is usually observed after the funeral for 3-7 days. We were all prepared to sit Shiva, but we missed something.

This was Superman. He wasn't about to fly away so quickly.

When doctors told us he needed hospice immediately, we called in VITAS. They are an amazing team of individuals, who provided palliative care in the most respectful of ways. My father's oncologist said to call my brother and at least get him on the phone with my father. This despite she didn't believe he would even be able to recognize his family at this stage. It was out of our hands, and we had no idea if he would last a day, two days, or perhaps much less.

Yep. Superman had something else in mind.

He wanted to go home. "OK," we said, "let's go home." We set up a hospital bed in the living room so he would be right where he wanted to be.

He wanted friends and family around. Within minutes, there were 30 people bustling in and out of my parents' small villa.

He wasn't done, and had one more surprise in store.

He said, "You have no idea what I'd give for my children to sing to me."

My brother wasted no time. He broke out his computer, attached it, and the thousands of songs he had stored to perform in elder-care facilities, to the TV in the living room so that we could see the words to sing along, and the music started to flow. We sang for the next 5 hours. We only slept when our eyelids became too heavy and we had to grab a few hours to rejuvenate.

On Saturday, he awoke and flatly stated "Today is not the day. What time does the concert start?"

Again, in and out paraded friends and family, each wanting a moment to personally say to him how much they loved him, and hear him tell them the same.

The music started at 7 p.m. and went nonstop for another five hours before we had to rest.

Sunday, he opened his eyes and proclaimed, "Today is not the day. Who's coming and are we starting music at 7?" We gladly struck up the band yet again.

Monday started the same. The cousins drove in. The neighbors came by. We could see he was getting weaker, but there was still plenty of fight remaining.

We were singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" from "Carousel." He was dozing on and off, but when it came to the high note at the end, he wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to be part of the show.

Then Tuesday dawned. We all knew something was different. My brother Walter and his wife Helene had to return to Orlando and fulfill numerous obligations. They reluctantly said their farewells, and hit the road.

Mel was waiting for them to go.

By Tuesday evening, he no longer had the strength for music, or much else. He was fading. By Wednesday, he was becoming agitated, mostly sleeping, and didn't say much. The incredible hospice nurses helped keep him calm and out of pain. By Thursday he woke with a rally, saying he wanted to ride his motorcycle (a street-legal, medicare power rider he used to get to the therapeutic pool down the block). He said he felt good.

Sadly, that lasted only about 45 minutes, and he was rarely lucid at all after that. Friday, we all said our final farewells.

On July 28, 2018, Superman returned to Krypton around 6 a.m., quietly, comfortably and in no pain. My mother was with him. Undoubtedly when he arrived, he took a chair set out for him and started playing poker with his family. We're sure he's sharing plenty of smiles and plenty of tales that were his hallmark.

For many people, all they sadly have are memories of a loved one bidding farewell in a somber and quiet manner. For our family and friends, we experienced the love and joy of a man who simply wasn't ready to go, and wasn't ready to leave behind anything but smiles.

This was his week. This was his way of bidding farewell. He got to be at his own Shiva. We spent a week telling stories, remembering him, surrounded by food, love and an outpouring of emotional support.

Mel never missed a party. He certainly didn't miss this final one.

We, and he, did this his way.

Please make memorial tribute donations to The Jewish Pavilion. http://www.jewishpavilion.org/donate.

Aug. 29, 2018 would have been his 79th birthday. We are honoring him with a memorial concert from 2 p.m.-3 p.m. at Brookdale Lake Orienta in the Garden Room. Penny Goldstein D'Agostino and Walter Goldstein (Sky Walters) will be performing. The address is 217 Boston Ave. Altamonte Springs, FL 32714. For more information please contact The Jewish Pavilion at 407-678-9363. This is a free event open to the public.

 
 

Reader Comments
(4)

Tony writes:

Mel was a giant of a man with an equally giant heart. I only had the pleasure to know the Goldsteins for about 12 or 13 years when they moved to Delray villas. But the one thing that set Mel apart from everyone else was his love for music. His Legacy in this community was not only his love but the music he left behind with the Delray village Guys and Dolls chorus. We were a wild mix of people from Delray villas and surrounding communities. Some of us and well some of us just made joyful

Tony writes:

Mel was a giant of a man with an equally giant heart. I only had the pleasure to know the Goldsteins for about 12 or 13 years when they moved to Delray villas. But the one thing that set Mel apart from everyone else was his love for music. His Legacy in this community was not only his love but the music he left behind with the Delray village Guys and Dolls chorus. We were a wild mix of people from Delray villas and surrounding communities. Some of us and well some of us just made joyful

frannie writes:

Penny, your tribute to your father is beautiful.The way you tell his story is so loving, heartfelt & moving. I have to agree, your father was a very special man & definitely one in a trillion billion!! It meant so much to me to be there with Mel as “he did it his way” in his own home surrounded by his family & friends who he loved& adored& his treasured music. Thank you for including me. I truly believe that music is Mel’s legacy & the precious &priceless gift he left to you and Walter....

pauljeser writes:

A VERY moving and inspirational memory. Thank you!

 
 
 

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