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When your mom dies

Yahrzeit candle
Yahrzeit candle

When your mom dies, you are an orphan.

When your mom dies, there is nobody to yell down the block (in earshot of your friends) at 7 p.m., “Time to come home and go to bed.”

When your mom dies, who will pick you up from school?

When your mom dies, your clothes always seem to be wrinkled and full of stains.

When your mom dies, you don’t know who will take on all the bullies on your block.

When your mom dies, it’s difficult to find someone who will convince your school principal you really are the best kid ever.

When your mom dies, the first eshet chayil – woman of valour – you ever knew is gone.

When your mom dies, it’s hard to find that kind of love that is silky and follows you into every foxhole of life.

When your mom dies, you miss the type of compliments only she can pay. 

When your mom dies, there is nobody around to spot you a twenty when your cash is low.

When your mom dies, you need to find a babysitter who gets paid.

When your mom dies, nobody sends over brisket for supper anymore.

When your mom dies, nobody knows you are perfect anymore.

When your mom dies, there is nobody to watch old movies with.

When your mom dies, the hecklers in the crowd when you speak go unchecked.

When your mom dies, Kaddish brings tears to your eyes.

When your mom dies, it becomes nearly impossible to close that huge gaping hole in your soul. And that firm ground you used to walk on is no longer there.

When your mom dies, so does a big piece of you. When your mom dies…

Gitel Rosensweig left our earth early in the morning on Dec. 8. She left behind a village of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and community kids who loved her dearly and called her Bubbie.

Many years ago, after my father died, we flew to Israel to bury him in a cemetery in the beautiful Jerusalem hills. When our El Al plane landed, my mother, a young widow, hurried to her feet and asked an old Russian Jewish woman who had arrived in Israel to make it her home (during Operation Exodus, the campaign to rescue former Soviet Jews) if she could help her down the stairs. The woman thanked her and took her arm. I watched them walk hand-in-hand down the aisle and then descend the stairs onto the tarmac, shmoozing in Yiddish as they went.

I thought at the time how magnificent it was that my mom who had just lost the apple of her eye, my father, had the wherewithal to help an elderly woman in need. I have often told this story in public as a way to express thanks for my tikkun olam (repairing the world) roots, naches in my mom and appreciation for being her boy.

We all experience loss, and it is sometimes tragic, but losing your mom is somehow a kick in the gut unlike any other, and you’re left feeling so alone, like a kid waiting and waiting as the sun goes down, in the cold of winter, to be picked up and snuggled and loved.   

Rest in peace, Mom. Thank you. Job well done! 

In memory of Gitel Rosensweig, 1930-2015

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