Ceil Bialek January 24, 1923 — August 4, 2017

When does a story begin?

When does a story end?

Does your story begin when you are born to those of little means?
Or does it begin when your father is captured and kept prisoner.
Does it begin with your very existence depending on this prisoner returning from Siberia after 5 years?

Does your story begin playing games with your twin sister in black and white.
Or does it begin when you hear your brother play the fiddle for the first time?

And when does your story end?

Does it end after kristallnacht wondering if your father will be free again as your temple smolders in Vienna.

Or maybe it begins with furniture.

Furniture! The $200 you saved from working in the factory sewing dresses, when the electric sewing machine ran away.
Maybe it was in Trinidad, where your escape plan becomes a reality.
Or maybe it begins on a note to your parents on the back of a photo that reads:

Do not forget about us.

Where does your story begin?
Maybe it begins when you sang Hatikvah on the boat when you hit international waters, refugees having escaped the purest of all evil.
Maybe it end the last time you remember that moment, and tell a stranger who cares for you why it meant so much.

Maybe your story begins when you learn how to care for others around you with intense selflessness.
Maybe it ends when those around you begin to emulate that selflessness, out of pure joy and a desire to truly care for you.
Maybe it begins with a little sprig of dill and a small beef bone that goes in the chicken soup you serve your family on a Friday night.

Your story may begin with daughters. Daughters and grandchildren. Grandchildren nieces and nephews. Cousins.
Maybe it begins in the new world you build for them. The world you gave to them.

Maybe your story begins in new cities. In Washington, D.C. or Tulsa or San Francisco or Boca. Maybe your story ends when you are at peace in a museum, as you walk quietly from exhibit to exhibit, regarding the beauty around you.

When does a story end?

Does your story end when you see your peers disappear or when you see new ones arrive? Does it end in twilight, laughing with your sister in full color — or does it end with a whisper to a nurse who goes home a little brighter, because it turns out you cared for her, too.

Does your story end with documents, symbols of your life, enshrined in those same museums you once stood in?

Maybe your story begins in a far off place, today, in the eyes of a young girl who decides against the tragedy and hardship around her, against war, and bigotry, and fear — against all that seeks to tear the world apart — maybe your story begins in the eyes of a young girl who decides to love and care for all those around her, such that these things are extinguished, if just for one small moment at a time.

Or does your story end every year, when your family gets together to talk about your bravery, your selflessness, your strength?

Your story begins at a table. A group of your kin — some of whom you never met — sits around this table and tells the story of a woman who survived.