The Robin and the Rose


I never had a chance to say goodbye to my father before he died suddenly on January 8, 1975. He was scheduled to perform a concert in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with his close friend and colleague, the great baritone Robert Merrill, but that never happened due to his premature and sudden death hours before the performance.

His funeral on stage at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center attended by four thousand mourners was singular and a testament to his long and celebrated career as a leading tenor for over 30 years.  A front page obituary in the New York Times and major news reports shocked the world with the news of his untimely death. There was no time initially for me, nor my two brothers, and more importantly, for my mother, to mourn privately since this tragic announcement was so public.

But following the ritual of Shiva at my parent’s home in Great Neck, Long Island, I returned to my house in Cincinnati, Ohio, with my wife and four children on a frigid winter day. It was at my house that we experienced a “paranormal” event as we entered the front door. With freezing temperatures and snow and ice on the ground, I witnessed a dead robin lying at the door post and a fresh flowering red rose rising above a snowdrift just be behind this fallen bird. A red rose was always present backstage in my dad's dressing room; the robin was his favorite bird; and the color red was emblematic for his nickname, Ruby.

At that moment, when asked by my wife what this all meant, I could only respond that I “had no doubt that the robin and the rose were blessed reminders that my father would dwell in my house and in my heart forever.”