When Joel Goldstein, 73, of Glenmont, New York, woke up after a family wedding in Buffalo in December 2022, he felt a nagging worry about his 37-year-old son, Bart Groudine-Goldstein. When he called Bart’s cell phone, it went directly to voicemail.
After the reception the night before, the family had returned to their hotel, and Bart wanted to check whether the wedding party was continuing at the bar. Joel tried to tell Bart that he’d had enough to drink, but Bart was determined to stay up. So Joel and his wife, Dayle Groudine, 68, turned in for the night. A giant snowstorm had just dropped 6 feet of snow on the Buffalo area, and while the storm was now over, the snow was piled high everywhere.
The night of the wedding would be the last time they’d see Bart alive.
From what the police could piece together, Bart had wandered outside. He was found in a snowdrift the next morning.
“We were told that he’d probably been unconscious when he died and had passed without pain,” Joel says. “But the first couple of weeks after a loss like that, your mind keeps replaying the tape. While it’s not something you ever completely work through, you keep taking baby steps forward.”
Bart’s friends held a memorial party, and when Joel and Dayle attended, they were amazed at the impact their son’s life had had on so many people they’d never met. They understood that his extroverted and infectious personality was a magnet for people, but when they saw the 65 friends in attendance, and others being turned away at the door due to capacity, they were stunned.
A life-changing injury
Bart’s life had many challenges. A traumatic brain injury as a teenager had circumscribed many of Joel and Dayle’s hopes and dreams for him, but it also taught them something about compassion, caregiving and unconditional love. At the memorial, strangers shared stories of Bart comforting them with his motto, “Never give up, never surrender.” Whether Bart was talking to someone experiencing seizures, or the mother of a child with spina bifida, the stories kept coming.
“He had the gift of being able to see and share the humor and humanity in ordinary things,” Joel says. “And it was incredibly comforting to learn how much he had shared.