My parents extended families are very different. Mother's is huge. Dad's is small.
Mom's mother's generation had a household with more than ten siblings in it, and most of them got out of Lithuania to the US ahead of the Holocaust.
Dad's family included a few who came to the US, but most of them never left Eastern Europe. I gather that after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, one of his distant relatives who was an officer in the Polish cavalry was captured, and the International Red Cross acknowledged that, but he didn't survive the war. Grandpa Jack had a sister who survived only because she was a good engineer, and she and her family were pulled out of Kiev with the equipment for a factory, and relocated east of the Urals.
Dad's mother had a brother in the US; his name was Jacob Epstein. That's not including the postscript...M.D. Uncle Moishe (his Yiddish name) served in the US Army Medical Corps during the war. His division was apparently one of those overrun by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge. His hospital pulled up stakes and just barely got out of the way of a panzer division, just in time. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't be writing this today.
Uncle Moishe was my father's mentor while he studied to be a doctor in Chicago; Moishe's practice was in Hyde Park. Once I was born, we'd often visit his home there; in fact his condominium was just around the corner from the later site of Edwardo's Pizza in Hyde Park.
Late in his career, he decided to slow down a bit, and he came to California. I gather that he had some sort of relationship with the UCI Medical School, though I never paid much attention to that. He finally retired, lost his long-loved wife, Fraida, remarried a good friend of the two of them, and lived for many years in Laguna Woods.
Saturday, I got an email from his daughter that he'd taken ill, and had been hospitalized. I never found out which hospital.
Sunday, he succumbed to his illness. Tomorrow we'll be going to the funeral.
My memories of Uncle Moishe included his penchant for cigars, his scratchy beard, the trophy items he gave me from the war (a very small-sized German field cap, and a lieutenant's field glasses, which I've used for many years), his willingness to listen to me (very kind of him), and one piece of medical information. He considered the H2-blockers (Tagamet, at that time) a miracle drug, because throughout his career, he'd struggled to deal with people's ulcers to no avail. Nowadays, they're comparatively rare, thank goodness.
Moishe's example affected the man my father was...and Dad's example was one to which I aspire. I can only hope that I can be to my patients the kind of physician that these men of my heritage were.
In his honor, I will be saying Kaddish.