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A Tale of Two Sisters Blog

We support, celebrate, and teach writers.


I cherish this note that my beloved teacher wrote in my autograph book in elementary school.

I cherish this note that my beloved teacher wrote in my autograph book in elementary school.


I looked up Mrs. Gross, my third- and fourth-grade teacher, online. The first thing that popped up was her obituary.

I immediately thought of Elizabeth’s blog post from last September, “FAVORITE PROFESSOR’S DEATH IS A REMINDER TO SEIZE THE DAY - CARPE DIEM,” which has been one of the most-read posts on our website.

With good reason.

My first memory of Mrs. Gross was in second grade. Einstein Elementary in Oak Park, Michigan, was having an outdoor event where each class competed for the grand prize. My seven- and eight-year-old friends and I were bummed when Mrs. Gross’ fifth graders won.

“Mrs. Gross is gross,” I remember us boldly expressed.

When third grade came, I discovered I was in Mrs. Gross' class, and she was, in fact, not gross at all. She was the kindest, warmest, most supportive teacher, and I immediately forgave the fact that her class had won the school-wide outdoor competition. Now that I was in her class, I hoped Mrs. Gross’ class would win again because that would include me! I lucked out and had her again for fourth grade!

I have no recollection of how the relationship developed, but once Elizabeth and I left Einstein and Oak Park, our parents remained in touch with Mrs. Gross. We often visited her and her husband, Norm Gross, in their beautiful Huntington Woods home over the years. We even got to know their son, Andy. As years passed after our father died, we didn’t see them often, but we always held them in our hearts, knowing they were there.

Several years ago, I ran into Mr. and Mrs. Gross at a Detroit Symphony event, and I was so excited, I think I made a mild scene. If the room hadn’t been so crowded, I would’ve done a cartwheel!

Mrs. Gross had long-since retired, but seeing her brought back a flood of vivid memories of being in her class; of being at her house with my parents; and knowing she had a foundational impact on me as a student as well as a human being. She was the perfect balance of supportive sternness. How fortunate was I that two of my five years at Einstein were under her tutelage!

Fast-forward to these last few weeks. We’ve been compiling the guest list for our mother’s book-launch party. On one of our many three-way calls, we tried to determine if we had updated contact information for Mr. and Mrs. Gross.  

“I’ll google her,” I said to Elizabeth and our mother.

I entered her name and city in a google search.

“Oh, no,” I said.

They both gasped, “What?”

I read aloud the words from my computer screen: “‘BARBARA, Beloved wife of the late Norman Gross, passed away…’ She died in February.”

My heart sank. Then it rose, remembering that I had told her how important she was to me and how much I loved her. This, our father instilled in us when we were very young, was the meaning of life: to love and ensure those you loved knew you loved them.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Gross. And thank you for everything.

© 2017 Catherine M. Greenspan