An Act of Kindness
By Pete Eikenberry
Jerome Robinson is a “tennis buddy” with whom I play at Federal Bar Council conferences – including the most recent one in February in Costa Rica. In early March, as the news turned bad for my wife, Sue, in the Methodist Hospital in Park Slope Brooklyn, I thought of Jerome. I usually attend the church services he conducts as an ordained minister on Sundays during the winter conferences, including this year. In February, I chuckled with Jerome about singing “Jesus Loves Me” since I had not sung it since Sunday school when I was about six.
Though Sue and I are members of the Unitarian Church in Brooklyn Heights, we have never met the new minister there. So when I told Sue about Jerome, she nodded affirmatively from behind her oxygen mask. I called Jerome on a Monday evening at his home in White Plains where he resides with his wife, Kaye Scholer partner Sheila Boston. The next afternoon, as I was talking to Sue in her bed, I turned to find a large man inches behind me – Jerome! He said hello to Sue, whom he knew. He then pulled out his sheets of hymns and started singing Jesus Loves Me. During his and my singing of the first two or three hymns, we could hear Sue belting out the words from behind her oxygen mask. She was smiling, her eyes were gleaming and she was so happy that she, he, and I sang practically all of the 10 or 12 hymns he had with him.
The same night I was back at the hospital. Sue and I talked about the walk we had in the country when our grandson Henry was a young child through trees and bushes with him leading us in singing every verse of “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad.” In the hospital room, Sue and I and my daughter-in-law Lynn and our friend Tera then sang it. After that, we Googled the words to “Sentimental Journey,” “Anchors Away,” “Up in the Air Junior Birdman,” “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”; Sue smiled happily and sang them all with us.
The next day, Wednesday, her friends Laurel and Mary visited her and sang with her as well. The following day, Thursday, I asked my daughter Kris to bring our grandchildren from Brooklyn. They came and brought their guitar, flute, etc., and played for her and she clapped. On Friday, our friend Roberta Weisbrod, whom Sue and I had met at a Federal Bar Council conference decades ago, visited in the morning and, being well prompted, for over an hour sang “Workin’ on the Railroad,” “All the Pretty Horses,” “In the Still of the Night,” and the melodies she sang to her children when they were young to put them to sleep. Sue’s eyes were open and she was happy, but by that time she was too weak to sing.
Our son David then came with Sue’s sister and he played chants by Trappist Monks that Sue liked. On Friday night, March 7, Sue died with me and our three children David, Doug, and Kris around her that evening and Doug holding her hand. Jerome’s act of kindness helped us to bring joy to every one of the last four days of Sue’s life. After I told my family members about Sue and Jerome, my sister Ellen wrote from Colorado that she wanted to “go out” singing like Sue. Roberta Weisbrod said the same thing after hearing the full story as did my 45 year friend and crusty Vietnam veteran, Mike Carey.