In a ten-year career tragically cut short by Leukemia, Kate Wolf wrote and performed over 200 songs. Her music is poignant, straightforward, honest, and beautiful. She performed at venues throughout her native state of California. Since her passing in 1986 at the age of 44, Kate’s audience has grown steadily as people like me discover her music. “September Song” (recorded on Kate’s 1979 album “Safe at Anchor”) is one of my favorites.
The song is replete with images. I particularly like the image conjured in the second verse illustrated below:
“The ghost of a frontier lady walks through the tall rooms/Of an old Ontario farmhouse under the full moon.”
My mother-in-law, Muriel Erens, was a simple woman. She died last week at the age of ninety-three.
We called her Merel.
Merel was special in her unassuming, fun-loving way. She never complained. She laughed easily. She never asked for anything. She lived independently with a positive attitude for thirty years after her husband, Marvin (Sonny Erens) died. She listened patiently to everything I had to tell her. She sincerely cared for her family and few friends. She thought of others before herself.
Merel joined us on every holiday and special occasion we celebrated as long as I knew her. In the last few years, I took her to the racetrack to split two-dollar bets on thoroughbred horse races at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Florida. We always had a good time, even when we lost, which was often. And Merel was a sore loser, but we laughed about it. I have decades of memories of the warmth, love, and laughter we shared. Merel was the best mother-in-law any man could ask for. The night before she died, I told her she was like a second mother to me.
Merel endured the loss of her husband, her son, and her daughter-in-law before she herself passed away. Her husband (Sonny) died suddenly of a heart attack shortly after my daughter, Danielle, was born. I think God timed it that way to reduce the blow my wife (Bonnie) and Merel suffered.
Merel carried the burden of these losses without complaining or souring on life. She kept on. She kept on smiling. She became a phenomenal grandmother to Danielle.
In a sense, Merel was the last remaining spoke in the wheel of an older generation, including my mother and father and aunts and uncles. Now, all of the elders of our tribe are gone. It can be a desolate feeling.
My wife and I plus a few long-distance in-laws are the elders now.
I am blessed with a wonderful wife, daughter, in-laws and friends, yet it remains a difficult transition to live in the world without the sense of security, guidance, and light the older generation provided. I will have to find a way to carry on with a smile, just like Merel did.
Merel Erens will never be famous, but she leaves an indelible imprint on those of us who knew her. We will remember her strength, her laughter, her light and her wisdom. Merel’s sudden death was a blessing because it spared her more suffering. I pray that my dear mother-in-law is enjoying peace and love in the world beyond this one. God knows she deserves it.