I was young when we used to go visit my great-aunt Tante Goldy. But I remember her smile well. It lit up her face and made her eyes twinkle. Tanta Goldy’s smile had a way of making everyone feel comfortable.
The years went by. The family visits ended, and I saw Tanta Goldy mostly at family simchahs. Each time I saw her she would give me a great big smile; her eyes would twinkle, and her face would light up.
The years went by. I became busier and didn’t even make it to all the simchahs anymore. But whenever we spoke about Tanta Goldy, I would think of her smile.
Tanta Goldy became sick. I wasn’t sure what was going on with her. I heard little pieces of information but didn’t want to believe any of it. Tanta Goldy belongs greeting me at her front door with genuine warmth and happiness.
But when I heard that she is now living at her daughter’s house not too far from me, I knew I had to step out of my denial and go visit.
I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t really think about what to expect. But when I saw her lying in bed covered in sheets that made her look so thin and frail, I couldn’t believe it. I barely recognized her. I wanted to say, “See, this is a mistake. This isn’t Tanta Goldy. She doesn’t live here. She is at her house taking care of all that she has taken care of for many years. Don’t you get it? This is wrong. My great-aunt is fine.”
But instead I sat down next to her and said hello. I reminded her who I was, and she gave me a great big smile. Her whole face lit up, and the twinkle came back into her eyes. It was at that moment that I so clearly recognized her. That smile clearly defined her face.
I never realized what a smile can do. A genuine smile makes the person approachable. It sends out signals that a person is affable and friendly – which is exactly what Tanta Goldy is – warm, friendly, caring and approachable.
I read that a sincere smile uses seventeen muscles around the eyes and mouth. That is a lot of physical work going on to make us smile.
My Tanta Goldy is not well. I am sad about that. But she spent so many of her days, of the years she was well, smiling. Tanta Goldy spent time making people feel comfortable and cared about. Whatever yissurim she is going through now doesn’t change her inside. She may not physically be what she once was. But her smile is still there. She still has the ability to use all seventeen of those muscles, and when she smiles, she lights up the room— and when she smiles I know that she is still my Tanta Goldy.