We’re here today to mourn the passing but also to cherish the life of Carol Scharf. Carol faced death the way she faced life, with courage. Those of us who care about her and have watched her struggle understood her choice, respected it, and supported her. But now…. now that she’s gone, we feel overwhelming sadness. So let’s not concentrate on her passing but on her life.
She grew up with her loving parents Rose and Nelson and her beloved sister Elaine. Carol loved and respected her sister and Elaine, all the way from California, somehow always felt very involved and nearby, always connected, and they have always been very close, right to the very end.
She grew up in Jamaica, Queens and went to high school with Simon and Garfunkle.
She married Eric on Nov. 1, 1959 at the age of 19.
They had met at a party when he was 16 and she was 14. She never went out with anyone else in her life. Talk about childhood sweethearts.
Gary was born in 65 and Ed in 69. Gary and Ed had really good childhoods. Their house was filled with lots of love. Gary talks about learning about love from them and how to be a good parent. Carol and Eric joined this shul in 1973. That’s 46 years. A lot of friends who have always been friends despite time and distance. There are wonderful memories of the Paradise Country Club. Good friends and wonderful times.
At one point she got very sick and Dr. Evan Ginsberg saved her life. By the way, Dr. Ginsberg tells the story more modestly, but the truth is that he found a problem and got her into the hospital to find that she had a very unusual problem that was then rectified. When he later asked her to work for him as his office manager, she agreed as long as he would continue to be her doctor. She was very good at her job; she was his Medical office manager for 20 years. She worked hard and had high expectations of others. She was devoted to Dr. Ginsberg and all the good he was doing and she was fiercely protective of him and office standards.
There was another story involved with that time she got so sick. She missed Gary’s high school graduation because she was so ill. If you know Carol, you know that she had to be close to death not to be there. So when Gary graduated college, he gave her his green Hamden High School Cap.
What a perfect moment.
She was so proud of Gary and Jennifer and Edward and Amy, of their families and homes.
We mourn today with her beloved grandchildren Madeline, Nadia, Julian and Margo. Going to Nadia’s Bat Mitzvah ceremony was an act of pure love. I remember seven or eight calls from her about whether she could go or not. When she did go, it was, in terms of her life, nothing short of heroic. But she did it, and she wouldn’t have traded that trip for the world. When Julian came recently and said, “I love you Grandma” when he left, she told me that this was why she had stayed alive.
I want to thank her sister-in-law Deanna for everything she has been. It feels weird saying “sister-in-law.” They were really sisters. We’d have Community Seders and Carol and Deanna would be checking people in. And I also want to thank her cousin Ann Tilow for all of her help. Ann and Carol re-connected when we had a group Bat Mitzvah ceremony a number of years ago, and it was wonderful for both of thm.
When Eric passed away, she was living by herself for the first time. She had never lived by herself because she had gone from her bedroom at home to her bedroom with Eric.
An example of her courage is the way she went on without Eric after 45 years of marriage. There were so many things that he had handled, and now she had to handle them. The amazing thing is that she did go on and create a new life for herself. She bought the unit on Washington Ave and figured things out. She needed to learn how to drive with one eye, and she did. Gary calls that part of her life “Carol 2.0.” There were many special friends during Carol 1.0 and special friends in 2.0, special new relationships.
Since Carol started going with Eric when she was 14, she never went with out with anyone else in her life. A few years ago, there was a man who wanted to take her out and she called me and said, “I don’t know how to do this.” By the way, I told her some things about the guy and she told him no.
April would have been 10 years that she was on dialysis. How did she cope? The answer is: She was a junkie. You might not know that Carol was a junkie, but she was a CNN junkie. When you would talk to her about politics, she was up on everything, every day. And she had opinions on every topic. She had it all going around in her head and she was very happy to talk about current events.
Another example of her courage was the way she pushed herself. Going out to lunch might not seem like bravery, but when you’re not in great shape, it takes enormous effort. As much as she could, she did it, and she was always grateful.
She was proud and independent but she was very happy to be with others. When we would invite her to our house for family Seders, she came some years and said “no” other years, but again, she was always grateful.
So here’s Carol on her deathbed. Her eyes are basically closed. Gary is sitting by her bedside. And I say, “Carol,.” And she says “Hi Rabbi. How are the kids? How’s Danny?” referring to one of my children who she always asked about. And I said, “That’s not the question. How are you?”
But in a way, by not answering her, I wasn’t letting Carol be Carol. She always wanted to know about you rather than talk about herself.
I got a text about Carol the other day from someone in the community. He wrote: “She was one of the great ones.” I can’t say it any better than that.
To Gary and Ed and Elaine and Deanna and her dear friends, we wish you G-d’s comfort at this sad time. She was a righteous woman. May she rest in peace. Let us say Amen.