As-Salamu Alaikum Jill

Gregg Hirshberg
2 min readNov 16, 2021


According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of anxiety is “apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill.”

Well, I’ve been anxiously dreading a call for probably 30+ years and that call finally came. The details are murky at best, but that’s how the details have been for the last 30+ years. But on November 11th my sister, Jill, finally found peace. I mean, that’s what I must tell myself. I hope, with every ounce of my being, that it’s accurate. Like I said, the details are murky. Last I heard from her, about a month ago, she had just recovered from COVID. So I don’t know if it was that, or horrible asthma or the demons she fought, played and plotted with since she was a teenager.

When I was first mulling over what to write about her and this, I was thinking of all her battles and battle scars. But I really just don’t want to get into that right now. I’d rather focus on the good times and happy memories but finding those is more difficult than it should be. There are really just two stories I can think of, right now, that make me feel a half of a tenth of a percent less sad.

My sister was gullible. Not with just a capital G, I mean all caps, gullible. Which could provide me with some entertainment. But nothing topped the time I told her that our uncle, our very Jewish Uncle Stewart, had converted to Islam and was now Uncle Muhammed. I’m not even a good liar, but for some reason, I sold it just right. And I really had her for a few minutes. I can still hear the ‘nah uhs!’ she kept repeating. It was right around the time that Spike Lee’s film, Malcolm X came out, and I told her that really moved him and he converted.

The last story is again about me tricking a family member. But she was in on it, and it’s the most I remember her ever laughing. Grandma was in town visiting, and the three of us were sitting in the kitchen when I came out of the closet to my grandma. Only she just didn’t want to accept the idea. Looking back, that should have been a larger issue. But telling her that she would just love me the same as before, nearly made my sister wet herself.

There’s a lot about my sister’s life that I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t want to know. But what I know for certain, she loved her kids completely. Had she only liked herself a little bit, maybe things would have been different for her. I hope she’s at peace and I hope my stomach no longer tightens up at unexpected phone calls.

I love you, Jill.