Lillian Sarter and Her Sister Eleanor, Uncovering a Lifetime of Photos

lillian_babyThe featured photos are of: (1) Lillian Sarter in a beautiful colorized photo as a baby, (2) Lillian and Mom, Eleanor, with their great grandmother on the Sarter side, (3) Mom, Eleanor and Lillian with their great grandmother years later on the same stoop in Brooklyn

This past weekend, I spent my Sunday cleaning out a closet…a huge closet in my bedroom. Aside from the obvious things stored in a bedroom closet, like clothes, there are all the family photos and documents that I had inherited from my grandmother that dates way back, which I find invaluable for our Sarter family history. I like to keep them upstairs rather than the damp and dank basement, if only in hopes of preserving them as best I can. Also, I still have a lot of looking through to do because I am sure that I have things that I haven’t yet realized. Some people spend a lifetime of hours trying to find a history of their family tree. This one was given to me and hopefully I can do good by it.

So, in cleaning the closet, I came across the above beautiful photo of my Aunt Lillian, Mom’s sister, as a very little girl. It was professionally taken and obviously colorized, since back then they didn’t have color film. It was beautifully done so this photo was a real find. After finding it, I remember that my mother had sent it to me years before she came to join my in NY. In the box, with the framed photo of Aunt Lillian, were (2) 78 speed records that Lillian had recorded with her singing voice so many years before. I know there is a written story somewhere about these recordings and I know exactly I have been told the verbal story as well at some point, but it was so long ago, that I don’t recall. I do know that their Aunt Emily Sarter aspired to be an opera singer and also made recordings until she had gone deaf, which seems to run in the family from their father’s side of the family. Her inspiration to sing could have come from her Aunt Emily. Every time that I find something like this in the archive of my history, it sends me on a winding journey through deep thought for the rest of the day.

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About 9 years ago, I came across the Birkenhoerdt Project, which includes a family tree of the Sarters, dating way back in history. It shows a very detailed tree of the Sarters from Germany and their spouses, children, births, deaths. I thought it was the most interesting thing that I have ever seen relating to our family history from the Sarter side. I started with my grandfather’s name and went on from there…it’s amazing. You can find it at:

I would love to find an old photo of my mother like that, but I suspect it wasn’t done for the second child…as it usually happens. If there was one taken, maybe I will find it in the box of old papers and documents that I have from my grandparents that I still, to this day I have not finished going though….not for a lack of desire, but from lack of time. This going to work thing doesn’t seem to allow for personal interests, but since I need a roof over my head and food on the table, I do it which keeps me away from the house for 12 hours a day…not to mention getting up at 5 am in the morning….long day! Eventually, something has got to give…but till then, it will be… hi-ho, hiho, it’s off to work I go, only to work on my interests with stolen time!

Aunt Lillian was a very interesting person. From what my mother had told me, they were very close as children. I often wonder if Lilian wasn’t taken by leukemia so early on…would she have been afflicted with dementia like her father and sister? Maybe she would have been one of the lucky ones? She was the first to leave us and my mother the last, both with such different lives…goals…hopes and dreams. If my beliefs are correct, they left this earth because they had accomplished what they were here to do…Lillian, to create 4 beautiful children, Michael, David, Maggi and Sam, Eleanor, my Mom, bringing me into the world, working out her fears and disorders and having a successful career in NYC.

If my beliefs are correct, they left this earth because they had accomplished what they were here to do…Lillian, to create 4 beautiful children, Michael, David, Maggi and Sam, Eleanor, my Mom, bringing me into the world, working out her fears and disorders and having a successful career in NYC.

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Feeling Like an Adult Orphan After the Last Living Parent is Gone, What Now?

As the days and weeks are passing by after my mother’s death, I have been feeling more and more like an adult orphan. I keep thinking about all that’s happened with Mom and how her absence has affected the household and those of us within it. I know that all of us feel it…and I know that even Tonya the dog feels it, as she is left alone everyday while we are at work and appears to be depressed. With me, I find myself thinking about it over and over, just running through things in my head, re-playing it in my head like a video, hoping that I did everything right by her. I sometimes get stuck on the times when I didn’t have enough patience, but then I think that nobody on the planet could have had patience all the time in those intense situations with a dementia patient when they are at their worst and in the middle of an attack, so I am probably just normal. Then on the other hand, her life was so much better than it would have been if she were in a nursing home, and thinking about that makes me happy and proud. I really do feel, that aside from her obvious problems, that she was happy living in my home and feeling secure that she was surrounded by people who loved her, even in her worst dementia moments. Really, in the end, that’s all any of us want. I was glad that I was able to do that for her. But now what is my status in life…an adult who finds herself an adult orphan after her last living parent is gone.

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The photos above are: (1) Top row, Dad’s friend, Raymond Corso, Mom’s mother and father, Marion Corso, second row, Dad’s friend’s wife, Dad..Edward Brophy, Baby Lynn and Mom…Eleanor Brophy, (2) a young Mom and sister Lillian Sarter, (3) below: Mom, Eleanor Van Meter holding me, with her whole life ahead of her.

Mom-babymeI’ve been reading a recommended book named “The Orphaned Adult” by Alexander Levy, which I am finding very interesting, relating to the very thing that I am going through right now since Mom’s death. I had never really given it any thought before, but that’s exactly how I am feeling, like an orphaned adult. Might sound silly to some, but don’t knock it until you’ve experienced it…think about it. It’s very real and almost everyone will go through it at one time or another, unless of course they die before their parents. Just think about it, this is the first time in your whole entire life that you are here on this planet without absolutely knowing that your creator is here on the planet with you…the one or two people that will always have your best interest at heart. The person or people who have worried about you since the day you were born…unconditionally. I don’t care if you had a good relationship or not, that’s not the point. It’s the knowing that there are only 2 people in the world that can hold that position in your life and somehow, whether you are in touch or not, close or not, living near each other or not, only they can fill that role…and now, suddenly, they are gone. You are here on the planet by yourself and deep down you just know, that you will never be able to count on anyone in the same way that you did your parents. When the last one is gone, it hits home big time, which is where I find myself right now. It’s a lot to think about..huge. It’s also a time where you realize that all the elders in your family are gone and you are the next in line. This is huge…a heavy weight and I feel that anyone that hasn’t gone through it, couldn’t possibly understand the feelings that come with it until they are in this same, very scary place.

I am at the beginning of this new and winding road…journey, not exactly sure where it’s taking me or the feelings that will surface as I travel my own unchartered path, but since it’s all new territory, I am hoping that I will learn from it, love and enjoy looking towards the future along the way.

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