There’s one glaring story I haven’t mentioned.
I’ve spoken a lot about my parent’s challenges, pain, and fear growing up with immigrant parents fleeing the violent pograms in Eastern Europe. Also the subsequent devastation of learning about the horrific Shoah. I’ve also wondered if my family had many more relatives that I didn’t know about lost in the Holocaust. NEVER was a word spoken about my maternal grandpa’s family or paternal grandma’s family. Not a single relative, a single name or a single story. Could they have had no brothers or sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and what about their parents? This heartbreaking suspicion would fill in some gaps as to the sadness and fear which lay as a foundation in my modern American family.
Yet, I realize I have not revealed the great light that happened. This, when my parents were in the last years of their life.
As a brief recap, my mother, though she had an amazing wild sense of humor and tremendous vivacity, also had tremendous fear that the world was a dangerous place with people (and G-d) out to get us. My father was tough and bold but very closed. He had a difficult time showing emotions and warmth. A master of no “bullsh-t”, he looked down on anything that was in any way touchy-feely. i.e. – therapy, self-help, any sensitivity group of any kind.
My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 73. She had surgeries, chemotherapy. and other treatments. Over the next six years, she went through the grieving process…denial, anger, sadness, bargaining and then came the great miracle. When she came to acceptance, a complete transformation took place. After a lifetime of fear, she astonishingly became radiant with trust, love and gratitude. As she went in and out of remission, health and relapse, she would talk consistently about how LUCKY she was, how so many people showered her with love, all the wonderful people in her life. From her children and the passing acquaintance, to her caregivers and the wide world in general. This from a woman who always in the past would talk about the “other shoe dropping.” We’d be in conversation and I’d tensely wait for her to turn fearful and….and…and… she didn’t. She’d end our conversations with the same love, warmth and positivity as she began. She did this as she was getting physically more and more ill. It was crazy AND wonderful.
My father for his part paralleled her in his own transformation. “Mr. No Bulls-t” dragged her to macrobiotic experts and my dad, who had only cooked once in their marriage and had set the kitchen on fire, began preparing complex macrobiotic meals for her. He initiated Kabbalah study and arranged for two different Rabbis to come visit with my mom at their home every week! He read books on healing and surrounded the house with signs he made for my mom saying, “I am getting better and better every day”. This no-nonsense and hard headed man took on mystical Judaism and more healing modalities than a New Age Guru. The icing was the acupuncture/tai chi instructor my mom went to, whom she “loved”, and whose name was? Yes, Dr. Love.
I got to witness first hand that anybody can grow and transform in the best ways at any age and in any condition. My mom’s health at the end mirrored Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS. She lost all ability to move, talk and feel. YET, her peaceful state and loving presence expanded palpably.
My mom passed away six years after her diagnosis when the doctors said she would live for two. While in remission, she travelled around the world, visited extensively with her three children and granddaughter, had the grace of becoming Bubbie to TWO more grandchildren, my sons Zack and Koby, and loved and was loved by so many. She left me with a model of grace, possibility, AND surprise!
Two Little Stories:
First…my mom loved a good hotdog. She would complain that my dad watched her like a hawk and didn’t let her enjoy her favorite foods. She’d say, “He drives me crazy! He won’t let me eat anything. When he’s not looking, I sneak around the corner and eat hotdogs!”
Second, this was one of her beloved “Kabbalah” stories.
…. What’s the difference between heaven and hell?
In hell there is a long scrumptious table overflowing with the most delicious foods you can imagine. The sights and smells are beyond this world. The problem is … you are required to use forks which are over SIX FEET LONG! People just have to drool, stare and starve, and cannot eat any of the spectacular banquet.
Nu? …. In heaven it is the same banquet, same table and same rules. What’s the difference? In heaven everyone picks up the six foot forks AND FEEDS THE PERSON ACROSS FROM THEM.
Is it any wonder the last two stories I remember from her are both about food! A Jewish mother’s love is not just spiritual and emotional, it’s tangible too!
Wishing a blessing for my mom and dad’s neshamas. And for all your loved ones too.
Sending my love,
Vivi 💖 ©
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