Victim of the Surfside Condo Collapse
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
Itty kept a book of quotes by her bedside. I have one, too. The quote that I opened to depicts Itty perfectly (well, almost perfectly, because I remember everything she told me).
She made you feel special; you would think you were her best friend. Itty gave something that is a rare commodity today: time. In a world where we are constantly rushing and running, her world was an oasis of calm and charm, wit and wisdom, seashells and sunsets—family, friends and fantastic conversations. She invigorated, intoxicated, energized and pacified you with her presence.
She was a dreamer, but also a realist, always with a positive spin.
Every conversation was filled with depth and frankness. Yes, sometimes she was brutally honest, and I would tell her so. There were also lots of laughs, sprinkled with love, spirituality and practical advice on life.
She was fun and funny, interesting and interested, smart and sassy. She loved boots and bags, and lived life more deeply than anyone I have ever met.
I’m not sure how I met Itty; she always told me I stole her friends. I think that we both loved similar souls. I met her when my life was quite chaotic. I can’t remember much about that time, but I vividly remember sitting on her bed talking and crying. She ran an empire called “Itty’s Fan Club” from her humble bed. The phone would not stop ringing. “Take a number and wait your turn!” I joked.
When she spoke to you, she gave you her full attention. “Tzvi the Tzaddik” (my name for her dedicated husband) would peek in every hour or two to check up on her and bring us some water. He would crack a joke, which Itty found hysterical. I never understood his jokes (which made them laugh even more). I say “Tzvi the Tzaddik” because I don’t know any man who would give up hours of his wife’s attention for other people so willingly and kindly.
I would describe her room as Gan Eden (Garden of Eden): white linen and super-clean with beautiful pictures on the wall. She had impeccable taste (maybe that was the influence of her daughter Chana). Everything had a place and a box with a label on it. Her boots were neatly stacked, and her clothing folded like it just came from the store.
She loved beautiful things and displayed them well. Neutral colors were her thing: white, gray, beige, denim and for extra jazz, leopard print—and, of course, anything black. If you complimented or really loved something, she would happily give it to you.
She was a rare combination of loving the physical world, yet she could part with it just as easily. Sometimes, instead of meeting her in her house/bed, we would go to the beach. A trip to the beach was such a delight; she basked in the sunlight and anticipated every bit of G‑d’s wonderful world. It was intoxicating to be in her presence. Itty loved the sun on her face, the sound of the ocean and the blue sky. And we both loved collecting seashells.
Every experience with Itty was savored. From the words of Maya Angelou: “This is a beautiful day, I’ve never seen this one before!” It could have easily been Itty’s quote.
My life has, thank G‑d, been good, sprinkled with some drama. Sometimes no one can solve your problems, but just be a listening ear. Itty cared, listened and gave wise counsel.
She was my confidante. Whatever I told her, I knew it would never go further. She never, ever, spoke lashon hara. In my last night conversation with her, the night before she passed away, I told her about a book I had read about a friend of hers. Not a peep about the person. She could have said, “Oh yeah, I know her very well,” but Itty was a vault.
As my kids got married, there were lots of fun times and stresses. On each twist and turn, I asked Itty for advice. How to be a mother-in-law, how to deal with married children, what to do, what not to do (basically, she told me to shut my mouth and give whenever and whatever help I could).
I argued with her advice sometimes, and she replied: “I know you’re not going to like to hear this but trust me!”
Her advice was given with love, compassion and a deep depth of understanding of human emotions. She could have been a therapist, a doctor (she knew every ailment and medication), a comedian (she knew how to laugh at every situation), and she would have been a wonderful home declutter and cleaner.
I was very lucky that Itty came to my daughter’s wedding. She loved a party and would have partied all day and night if her health had been better. We danced and laughed ourselves silly that night. For years afterwards, she would tell me, “Remember Chayale’s wedding!” How could I forget?
I was scrolling through my WhatsApp messages with Itty, and here are some of her best.
“Having kids is always tough, and as they get older and married and have kids, it certainly doesn’t get easier, just more complicated! Just text … and let it go!”
“As you know, for me relationships are the most important thing in my life!”
“Came for sunrise with Chana at 6:30 a.m., and have been here since on a lounge chair, listening to blasting music. Would love to live in a hut on the beach!”
“Thank G‑d, Yom Tov was hectic, and I’m trying to unpack slowly, great for my OCD, to live with boxes, suitcases and mess!
“Learning to just ignore it for now, until things calm down—a lesson in everything in life!”
To conclude, I would like to share “10 commandments” I learned from Itty.
- Fill your tank first.
- Give everyone a smile and a kind word. It’s free and can change someone’s life.
- Savor and delight in G‑d’s wonderful world.
- Thank G‑d with passion for every day that you are alive.
- Invest in your relationships; they will bring you real joy.
- A clean house is a clear head.
- Get rid of anything extra; declutter often so you don’t accumulate rubbish.
- Invest in a great jacket and boots, and you will always look well-dressed.
- Be happy with what you have.
- Be yourself. “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” (Maya Angelou).
May Itty and Tzvi take their rightful spots in Gan Eden and intercede before G‑d to bring Moshiach.
Always in my heart, I will miss you dearly,
️ Sori Block