Today marks the second anniversary of my mother’s passing, and though she is deeply missed, her family honors her each day by living busy, meaningful lives. It is all she ever wanted for herself and for us. In honor or this day, I wanted to re-post my blog from last year about what it means to go on without a mother. Perhaps it will resonate with you as well.
In the past, anniversaries were milestone events that bookmarked the most meaningful chapters in my life. They were celebrated with parties and gifts and in good times, memorable vacations. But since my dad died in November, 2012 at the age of 88, and my mom followed a year ago today at the age of 91, the word anniversary has taken on a different meaning. Less celebratory, more a nod to the cycles of life.
Of course, this day deserves respect and recognition, and yet the sobering impact of loss seems less clear cut. How best to commemorate the death of your mother without being maudlin?
First, I am mindful of the ancient Kaddish prayer that Jews recite during the mourning period and any time thereafter when a group of ten congregants (a minyon) convenes. Though identified as the mourner’s prayer, the word death or dying never appears. Instead the beautiful passages reaffirm life, faith in God and hope that peace descends on all the world.
I think it best to take a cue from the wisdom of my heritage.
Though I feel wistful about no longer being able to call my parents with family news, I appreciate the lifetime of conversations we enjoyed. Both parents were blessed with good health and longevity. Were active, vibrant and sharp until the end… Were committed to each other.
And truth be told, there were just as many conversations that scared and annoyed me. Ugh! They could be so damn stubborn, never once admitting that my advice on how to handle their challenges was right. And heaven forbid I should suggest something radical, like hiring a driver or home aid, stand back for the screaming, further amplified by their special hearing/loss phone.
And yet, I miss those calls, too, because my parents still had the fight in them. They would not give an inch on losing their freedom and independence, not even when it was truly in their best interest.
I think about that now. How fiercely they believed in their right to call the shots. It wasn’t so much about losing the upper hand, it was about not wanting to burden us with their problems. About wanting to make decisions that didn’t impact our already busy lives. About wanting to prove that though they were smaller, frailer, and very hard of hearing, they still could earn our respect.
Which brings me to today, the first anniversary of not having a mother. I could dwell on my memory of the frantic days leading up her death. The calls from my sister, Mira, the talks with the hospice care workers, the notes I wrote down about her labored breathing and long stretches of sleep. But instead I will reflect more on her steady, sensible, hard fought life.
My mother was a doer. From the minute she woke to the time she fell asleep with the TV on full blast, she never stopped going. Not a day went by without an agenda filled with tennis, swimming, working, food shopping, cooking, baking, meeting friends for dinner, and on Shabbat, going to Synagogue to give thanks for it all.
My mother’s art gallery was her walls filled with family photos. Her limousine was her trusty Buick Regal with a glove compartment that needed to be shut closed with electrical tape. Her favorite fashion designers were anything on sale at Dillards. And dining out need not be fancy. It just needed a coupon.
As for her greatest joy? Her three children and their spouses, eight beloved grandchildren and their spouses, and four great grandchildren- the mega bonus. How lucky she felt to have this big, noisy family who would descend on Sarasota to soak up the sun, the beach and her legendary chocolate chip cookies.
Mira and I returned there to celebrate my birthday in January, but mostly to reconnect with our cherished history. Three decades of visiting our parents and each time, feeling blessed to be sharing our journey with two people, two fine examples, of living a life that mattered.
Mom, we remember you today as we have every day, and know that your spirit and zest for life lives on in all of us. That is the only legacy one could possibly ask for.