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His Wife of 70 Years Just Passed Away and He’s Hoping This Tribute to Her Goes Viral. Let’s Help Him Do It

His Wife of 70 Years Just Passed Away and He’s Hoping This Tribute to Her Goes Viral. Let’s Help Him Do It

By Myron Kandel
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My beloved wife of just about 70 years, Thelma Esan Kandel, died the other day at 91 after a relatively short bout of illness. She was a talented author, editor, and self-taught artist. We had a good ride together during those intervening years, rearing a daughter and son and enjoying four grandchildren.

I spent my entire working career as a print and broadcast journalist. She wrote magazine articles and two books and later became a quirky artist, designing jewelry and folded books and, for the last twenty years, filling boxes and collages with found objects. Despite frequent requests, she never sold any of them, preferring to gift them to favorite relatives and friends. They now have places of honor in homes around the globe, and I'm sure some will be in a museum someday.

Above all, Thelma cared for people. So, I was not surprised by the outpouring of affection and praise that followed the news of her death. It came from all quarters—family and close friends, of course, but also from casual acquaintances who admired her art or benefitted from her friendliness and generosity. 

But an epiphany occurred to me in the midst of my grief. Why do we wait until someone we care about passes on before we explicitly express our feelings for them? Why don't we instead express this while they are still with us? Deep down, those we care for must know how we feel. But why not tell them directly? It would be a priceless gift that would bring joy to both sides. 

At the same time, do we say thanks to those who helped us personally or professionally? Why not? The world would be a better place if we made a habit of reaching out to say so, perhaps even to people we're not in regular contact with. What a nice way to reconnect.

So, I am launching a new worldwide project titled "People Who Care." It costs nothing to join, only a determination to follow through regularly. But it will pay rich dividends—in the form of an inner glow of happiness and satisfaction. Come aboard!

When Covid struck, Thelma went through her telephone book and called more than 100 people in there to wish them well. Some of them were shocked to hear from her after many years. Sometimes, there were tears at both ends of the calls.        

Another time, she decided to divest some of her vast collection of odds and ends—beads and bangles, interesting shapes of rusted metal and weathered wood, vintage ads and old maps and pictures—and she offered them for free on a local website to crafters and other artists. A number of visitors came to our Manhattan apartment by appointment. One was a middle-aged woman in a worn dress who spent nearly two hours filling two large shopping bags. Suddenly, Thelma noticed the woman was weeping. "What's wrong?" she asked worriedly. The woman's answer, which resonated with Thelma ever since, was, "This is the Christmas I never had."

Thelma liked to say that we don't own our lives; we just rent them. And we don't know how long the lease is for. Saying you care is a priceless gift we can all own and share. So don't wait to do so. Reach out to someone right now and join the project.

In memory of Thelma Esan Kandel.

Myron Kandel had a long newspaper career as a reporter, editor, columnist and foreign correspondent. He then spent 25 years as the founding financial editor of CNN.

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