Kerry and her family                                            Kerry and family

Most of you never knew Kerry. She was a woman — a mother, a wife, a friend, a confident — who was the ultimate caregiver, taking care of my mother in the last years of her life, and later doing the same for my father.

My mother, Esty, herself had been a caretaker almost all her life, beginning at a very early age when she was a companion to her own grandmother. So I knew one when I saw one. When Esty needed care herself at age 87, Kerry came into our lives to give comfort and care far beyond what we ever expected. Not long before Esty died, she asked Kerry to promise to take care of Sam. Kerry promised to do so.

Initially, after Esty’s death, Sam didn’t need much physical assistance, but Kerry attended to him and provided stability. As he began to have difficulties of his own, Kerry let us know how much he missed us and needed us. (He would never let us know that directly.) With her encouragement, we eventually were able to convince Sam to come to Washington. Kerry, even though it meant she was then out of a job, was most delighted. She flew with him to DC as he had broken his arm two days before he was due to come to us and couldn’t travel by himself. She stayed a week to be sure he was settled and she could trust us to provide what he needed. She said she’d come back to DC at a moment’s notice if or when we needed her.

That need came a couple of years later when my father became largely immobile and could not live alone, even in his assisted-living apartment. Despite having three teenage daughters and a husband in Florida, she moved into his apartment in DC and fulfilled her promise to Esty and to us to assist in the final year of Sam’s life.

When the end was near for Sam, she was once again helpful in urging us to listen to him and to understand what he needed: to go peacefully in his own apartment, with no more medical interventions. She was right, of course. Soon she was out of a job.

But what a job she had done. She provided more than one could ever ask for to both Esty and Sam and for the rest of us during those difficult times.

Kerry returned to Florida and to her family after Sam’s death to complete a nursing degree while continuing to care for others. She shepherded her husband through a serious illness and continued to provided for her three daughters, all of whom completed high school and moved on to college.

Sadly, and despite much urging, the one thing she did not do well was take care of her own health. She always put others ahead of herself, and her life came to an end far too soon.

Still, in her almost 48 years, Kerry gave more than a lifetime of service to others, starting with her own family, moving on to her friends, and also to the many individuals she cared for who faced issues of aging and dying.

I suspect Kerry is not the only caregiver in this country whose gifts and service are only known to a very few. She and they provide so much to those of us who are fortunate enough to have them in our lives.

It is hard to accept that Kerry is gone. It’s wonderful to have known her and to have had her with our family.

We grieve for her family, and for her — a woman who gave so much to others.