Author: Yonina Andrea Foster, Ph.D.
Last September my husband of 27 years died. Glioblastoma, brain cancer, three months after diagnosis. Steve was 62. To say it was horrific hardly describes the shock, disbelief, or altered state that took over allowing me to live.
To say–or sing–”I lost the sunshine and roses. I lost the heavens of blue. I lost the beautiful rainbow,” would be true. At historic Forest Lawn Cemetery I purposely wander for a second visit to the gravesite of Dorothy Goetz, who was the wife of composer Irving Berlin. I notice she is near her family, she a young woman of 20, whose ancestor was likely Joseph Goetz of Getzville. I’m only supposing that as I stand before Dorothy’s grave and consider her life story – being in love, young, and just married, on her honeymoon in Cuba, where there is a typhoid outbreak. She becomes ill, returns home and dies soon after. While Irving Berlin is not buried at Forest Lawn, the “Berlin” name is inscribed on an even larger headstone that almost overshadows Dorothy’s grave. The thought is that the larger headstone is the umbrella “family marker”, and that Berlin might have assumed that his undying love for Dorothy would someday lead him back to this exact spot, to be buried himself.
Berlin. Irving Berlin, who wrote of his heartbreak at the death of his new bride continuing his song, “When I Lost You,” with, “I lost the morning dew, I lost the angel who gave me Summer, the whole winter through, I lost the gladness that turned to sadness when I lost you.” Berlin, broken hearted, rarely wrote so blue, as “God Bless America,” “Cheek to Cheek,” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” come to mind instead.
Grief knows no bounds as it comes in waves reaching up the sands of my life and receding, reaching up, and receding. For 14 years Berlin had flowers sent to his young bride’s grave, until the love of another regained his heart and life. He wrote for her, “Always,” and gave her the royalties as a wedding gift.
Always is a long time. My love’s grave is elsewhere. Recently a friend went there for me, saying prayers, and placing his cell phone on the tombstone so I could be with him for a while. The only other “stone” there are the ones I or others bring, as did my friend, placing it on the grave to say, “I love you.” “I remember.” “I was here.” The stones on the grave represent that someone has visited the gravesite. As the stone in my heart softens I expect to waltz again, and, the roses will bloom, the sun shine. Birds do sing, the world smiles.
Irving Berlin, “When I Lost You,” by Waterson, Berlin & Snyder Co., 1912. Dorothy Goetz, Forest Lawn Cemetery, Section 9.