Two goodbyes, entirely too soon.

There’s no easy loss, and there’s never a “good” time to say goodbye to a loved one. That said, this week we’re saying goodbye to two souls who were intricate parts of my sisters’ and my childhoods, and who each brought something special to their families, to their loved ones, and to everyone lucky enough to meet them:

They each created joy.

Steve Dennis was one of my Dad’s bandmates for many years, and a housemate/soul brother, at that. As kids, my sisters and I always loved when he and his family would visit; he told the funniest stories, built up to the greatest punchlines, and had the most contagious laugh.

He was a natural showman.

He left the term “natural showman” in the dust.


(How incredibly cool is this photo? My Uncle Steve and Auntie Sandy are on the far right. My Dad’s over there on the left.)

I remember Halloweens when he and his daughter Jess would become Daddy Warbucks and Little Orphan Annie, complete with his own shaved head. He and my Auntie Sandy would host Armenian parties (she of the lineage and he of the love of festivity) where line dances and food galore would ensure the celebrations lasted well into the night.

Maybe it was because he was so welcoming and so in tune with the people around him that he made a terrific performer of children’s music, too. He put out albums that were so gentle, so fun, and so inviting that you couldn’t help but smile and sing along. (Once, he performed at my elementary school for the whole assembly. He invited my sister Kate and me up to the microphones so we could perform a song with him. We. Felt. Famous. I have no doubt my Uncle Steve knew exactly how thrilling it would be for us.)

One of my favorite songs was about his own childhood spent on the lake with his family; I was on Lake Michigan with mine when I heard that he passed away unexpectedly.

And while he has many, many legacies (including the ones carried on by his beloved wife, daughter, and grandkids), I’ve always believed that the neatest legacy a performer can have is through his works.

So I sang that lake song for him- and for my kids.

(They loved it, too.)


Nancy was one of my mother’s dearest friends, a confidante and fellow mama on the family-raising journey. The joy she exuded was in her kindness; she was so unbelievably kind. She remembered- and celebrated– everybody’s everything. Not only that, but the next time you spoke, she’d ask about that event, this person, or if those future plans ended up solidifying. She not only listened, she heard.

If, for most, listening is an underused skill, in Nancy Waxman it was a finely honed superpower. (And that cape was billowing enough for you, your neighbor, the ex-boyfriend of yours she was fond of, and the stuffed monkey your daughter insisted on having her hold.)

She battled cancer for years. And she did a damn amazing job.

But even superheroes need to rest.

My heart is heavy in grieving for the future plans she so anticipated; far-flung travel with her husband, theatrical performances galore, life with her adored sons, and simply more time spent between her New York roots and the country home she tended and treasured.

As for us? She will be missed simply everywhere. At fancy Thanksgiving dinners that don’t have that specific array of elegant appetizers, at breezy summer barbecues that seem to be lacking one particular laugh, and any time a hug is exchanged that isn’t quite warm enough, full enough, or long enough.

So yes, everywhere.

Nancy, Nora, and Dad

(This photo makes me so happy: Nancy and my Dad and my firstborn. And so, so many snacks.)

Nancy was so classy, so wonderfully genuine- and so genuinely wonderful. She could not do enough for you. It makes me want (and need) to be better, do more, and listen harder. This shouldn’t be too surprising to me, after all.

She was always quietly inspiring like that.



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