The Final Years

Late one night In the fall of 1963, while driving home with Robin from a party, Lee's car was broadsided by a drunk driver. The other car struck the right side of Lee's car at full speed, penetrating the vehicle several feet. Lee was bruised, but not seriously hurt. Robin, however, took the brunt of the collision and suffered a broken femur and a severe head wound. It was miraculous that he survived the crash. He was hospitalized for several weeks and underwent several surgeries followed by an extensive period of rehab and recovery.

In the evening of Jan 10, 1964, Lee had an argument with Bob over his intense negativity, and said, "You're heading for it, so why don't you just have a stroke and get it over with!" She and Robin then fled the house. Gary stopped by sometime later looking for Lee only to find Bob, smoking a cigar, drinking a beer, and clearly in a state of extreme anger and hate. After a brief and bewilderingly hostile exchange, Gary hastily departed.

That night, at about 3:00 AM, at the age of 48, Bob Garb died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

Robin was still recovering from the auto accident when Bob died and afterwards, Lee and he lived in the house alone together with two cats. They both started intense Rational Emotive Therapy. Lee got over her lifelong fear of water and learned how to swim. She went for her first complete physical in many years to confront her hypochondria and, with the exception of being a smoker, got a reasonably good bill of health. She started walking and exercising. She learned how to functionally deal with her deep seated issues concerning her father. After 30 years of trying, she successfully quit smoking. She had an affair with her psychologist and felt truly good about herself for the first time in her life. She was happy and believed she, indeed, deserved all the good things that life had to offer. About a year later she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

She continued the new healthy and happy approach to living she had recently adopted, but at the same time, began radiation treatment and a campaign to beat the cancer. Several weeks of treatment produced good results and she felt well enough to go back to work in the advertising department at Pomeroy's Department Store in the Levittown Shopping Center. She worked for about three months when she started coughing.

Robin took her to the hospital for x-rays which revealed that the cancer had spread to her lung. Lee was in one room and he was in another. The doctor came in and told him the news and the prognosis that she had only about three months to live, and added that he had just told her the same. He took Robin to her room and left them alone.

Robin relates, "We embraced and cried for a long time without saying anything. Finally, she said that she wasn't sad about dying, but very sad that she won't have the opportunity to see what happens with us - curious to know how things will turn out for each of us.

"I asked her to muster up all of her method acting ability and visualize with all her heart and soul the child that Gary and Marcy would produce and raise, the kind of woman I would marry and the child that we would produce and raise, the pursuits of our ambitions, the successes and the happy family life we would enjoy. We held each other in silence as we both visualized the future. After several minutes we opened our eyes, tears were still streaming down her cheeks but she had a broad smile on her face. She thanked me and said, 'I'm so pleased and happy with what I have just seen.'"

It was at the height of the military buildup in Vietnam and Gary had been drafted into the army. He was in basic training and was unable to leave the base, so Robin became her only caregiver, on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She never had a doctor, nurse or social worker visit her at home. Once a week they went to the hospital for pain management. This went on for about two months. They listened to a lot of music and the Beatles' Rubber Soul album became the soundtrack of her last Christmas. Robin kept her at home as long as he could physically manage to care for her. She was admitted to the hospital and after a couple of days, he had to pretend to increase her oxygen each time she requested more, not letting her know that she had already reached her maximum. He stayed in the hospital and slept in a chair in her room. When she was awake she seemed content and quick to offer her hand and a reassuring smile. When she would lose consciousness she would talk about things like "look at all the beautiful Poinsettias" and occasionally even laugh about something. Increasingly, she spent more time unconscious than awake.

Lee was always a seeker of the "truth", a deeply spiritual person, even mystical, but never moralistic or dogmatic. She had a high moral code and simply believed there is some good in everyone. She didn't believe in the concept of heaven and hell or an afterlife per se, but had faith that there must be something afterwards, perhaps reincarnation. She believed that we have more than one chance at being mortal and that one of these lives we'll get it right and finally move on to a better more fulfilling spiritual dimension. She did not seem afraid of death and at times said she felt it would actually be somewhat of a relief.

One morning she told Robin that late the previous night, she woke up. She saw him sleeping in the chair but didn't want to disturb him. She described the "wonderful experience" she had watching an "especially beautiful full moon" move from one end of the sky to the other. Robin held her hand, gave her a kiss, she smiled and went to sleep.

Later that evening, on April 22, 1966, a month before her 46th birthday, Lee passed away.

Gary had completed basic training and was on a week's break before having to report to his next duty station. He led a beautiful, Quaker-style memorial service following her body's cremation. Gary read several of her poems and Lee's father recited the Kaddish. A large group of her friends and family came to share their memories of Lee and experiences they had shared with her. They especially remembered her wonderful, creative sense of humor which never failed her through her darkest hours. When the service was concluded, smiles and even laughter were her tribute.


When the house and its contents were disposed of, there was little of value or sentiment worth keeping. But among the old magazines and a lifetime of accumulated artifacts, Robin salvaged a single file folder, 3 inches thick, with yellowing sheets of newsprint and typing paper. In that folder were Lee's poetry and a few short stories, a family treasure beyond value.