At first I felt I couldn't possibly donate anything. Everything still felt like him. I could look at the last package of Wrigley’s spearmint gum that was still in the house when we lost him. I could smell the spearmint even thought it was tucked away with other things of his. I'd smile remembering that it always had to be spearmint because he said the taste lasted longer. So many little things held him to us. It was all we had. How could I give any of these away?
The more I thought about it the more I smiled at so many memories. So many things we shared. I never wanted Howard to be just a number, a name etched in granite or bronze. We always wanted to bear witness for him. I thought of our children and grandchildren; the children of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Those who might know of Howard but who would never know him. He was a real human being. He laughed and he cried. He worked hard. He was smart and he was funny. He loved and he was loved. I thought of the things that meant so much to him. Those things he loved his entire life.
I knew that whatever I donated had to reflect his immense wonder in and joy of studying the universe so I decided to donate his telescope. The lens brought him closest to his universe. It was through the lens that he was out late at night and early in the morning looking skyward. It was through the lens that he shared with others the infinite celestial beauty.
It gives me a feeling of connectedness to know some real part of Howard is in the museum. Other family members have told me the same thing. Having written and recorded the memories surrounding the why and wherefore of the telescope lens donation makes me feel warm and at peace no matter how bittersweet the experience.
The telescope lens and the recordings, whether recorded by me or family members and friends, bring Howard near to me once more if only for a moment.
Granvilette Kestenbaum is the widow of Howard Kestenbaum who was killed on 9/11. She donated to the museum Howard’s prized telescope which is currently on view in the "In Memoriam" gallery. Howard’s birthday is today, December 30.