Hope Wissel

Memories of My Buddy

I can hardly believe it has been 14 years since I heard your voice.  Fourteen years since I smelled snickerdoodles baking in the kitchen (I love to cook but am not a good baker). Fourteen years since we spent hours talking.  Elsie Marie Weston, my mom’s baby sister, lost her battle with breast cancer 14 years ago and will forever be known as one of the strongest women I had the pleasure of knowing.  

Elsie’s battle with lumps on her breast started when she was about 18 years old.  Always removed and always were not cancerous, then the diagnosis came – you have breast cancer.  She had her first mastectomy about 1990 while she was working in Atlantic City at the Claridge Casino.   Her second reconstructive surgery about 5 plus years later to replace a leaking implant, bone cancer and finally the loss of her eyesight.  She went through medication regimines, chemotherapy and physical therapy.  She continued to fight through it all.

Sure, Elsie was family – my Aunt but she was also my best friend.  Growing up, Elsie was privilege to some of my deepest secrets.  I may have been the pesty niece that she was forced to babysit when I was little but that changed.  She visited me in college.  We partied at the Headliner when we both worked for Neptune Township.  We both went to Atlantic City to open the Claridge Casino.  We were roomates – Tuckerton and Somers Point.  We weathered hurricanes, blizzards and life itself.    Elsie was there when Belinda Heldreth  was born – she even cut the cord before heading out to attend a wedding.

Elsie and Belinda were buddies.  From the time Belinda was born she was there to help.  When I was in detox and rehab, she made sure life remained as normal as possible.  I remember being in detox, not being able to have visitors – she helped Belinda make a sign and they stood outside the hospital window to show their support.  When I came home from rehab, Elsie took us in as we had been temporarily (3 months) evicted from our own home.

When Elsie left the Claridge and opened Small Wonders, a gift shop in Ocean Grove, Belinda and I traveled up on weekends to help out in the store.  Belinda spent many hours with Elsie and her sister, Edythe.  They traveled, taught Belinda to cook and bake while spending countless hours watching Disney videos.  As the cancer spread, life got a little tougher for Elsie.  She began to loose her eyesight but she was still determined to work every day in her store.  We all helped – Belinda even learned how to work the register and run credit cards at the ripe old age of 10 so that she could work in the store as Elsie was going blind.

Belinda put together one of her famous surprise parties for Elsie’s 50th birthday.  Elsie was mad at first but she never stayed mad at Belinda for long.  That would be her last birthday with us.  On May 23rd, Elsie was admitted into the hospital – she had lost 95% of her eyesight to cancer and had given up her will to live.  Seven days later she became another Weston Angel – joining her parents in heaven.

The imprint that she left on the world will long be remembered by all of us.  She was a fighter.  She was loving & kind.  She was Belinda’s Buddy!  A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about her.  As I was sitting in Jersey Shore with Rob this week, the last week with Elsie replayed in my head.  Memories flooded in but then a calm came over me and I knew that everything would be okay – see all my Weston angels were with me as I spent the night – Mom-mom, Pop-pop, Elsie and Edythe.  Thank you my angels for being with me this week as we sat in the same hospital during the same week 14 years ago…the blessing, Rob is home.

Elsie, I miss you and I am sure that I didn’t tell you enough how much I loved you. Belinda made this montage of pictures.  Elsie & Belinda (top); Belinda & I (middle) and Edythe & Belinda (bottom).  Cherish the moments today – the good, the bad and the ugly for life is precious.  Have a ThirtyOne-derful day.

3 thoughts on “Memories of My Buddy”

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