One Mother’s Last Day Alive

One Mother’s Last Day Alive

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

This now famous quotation from Steve Jobs has been haunting me ever since I heard it on the day he died last month.

And I was reminded of it yet again when I read about the days leading up to the death of my friend, 44-year-old JewishMOM Rivka Matitya of Coffee and Chemo last year.

Rachel Bachrach wrote for Mishpacha Magazine this past week, “Last October, Mrs. Matitya was hospitalized in Shaare Zedek Medical Center in severe pain. She asked to speak to each of her children individually because she saw her condition was deteriorating rapidly.

“Mr. Matitya first brought their oldest daughter. When they came into the room, Mrs. Matitya, who wasn’t really able to sit anymore, gathered her strength and pulled herself up for the conversation. For more than an hour, she spoke to her 16-year-old daughter, who listened and cried.

“All the things she had in mind to say to her daughter, not just for now, but for the coming years, it was all compressed into that hour,’ remembers Mr. Matitya, who sat on the side, watching his wife saying goodbye.

“The conversation was so important to Mrs. Matitya that she didn’t want any distractions. Her husband noticed that even though she had been pressing the morphine button every 15 seconds prior to the conversation, she didn’t touch it while she was talking, despite the excruciating pain.

“The next day, Mrs. Matitya spoke to her 14-year-old son. The day after that, Mrs. Matitya brough their 12-year-old into the room. Mrs. Matitya was slipping in and out of lucidity, and as the hours passed, it became clear she wouldn’t be able to converse. Their daughter turned to her father and said, “Abba, Ima is never going to talk to me again, is she?”

“Over the next few days, Mrs. Matitya deteriorated to the point that she couldn’t communicate, but that weekend, she came out of it. A friend immediately took their youngest daughter out of class and brought her to the hospital, where Mrs. Matitya spoke to her privately for the last time.

“A few days later, at the age of 44, Mrs. Matitya passed away.”
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Last night I took my 9-year-old daughter Maayan out all on her own to buy some burekas and eat them while watching the new sputtering Davidka fountain.

I had so many things I wanted to ask Maayan and discuss with her, And Maayan talked and talked, so pleased to suddenly have her eema’s attention ALL to herself.

As we sat there, thoroughly enjoying ourselves, I realized that I could not remember the last time I had granted Maayan my total undistracted, undivided attention…

And it surprised me, scared me even, to see how quickly my child could become a stranger, if I didn’t make the effort to reach out and listen to her.

On our way home, I asked myself the question I’ve been asking myself so often recently, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am doing today?”

And with Maayan’s hand squeezed into mine, I knew the answer.

Image courtesy of Flickr.com user Pyrat Wesly

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9 comments

  1. Beautifully written! Thanks for the important reminder.

  2. I need to read this every day.
    I need to forget about the paperwork and laundry and just sit down on the carpet with my children and enjoy their company.
    I too need to take time to be one-on-one with each of them.
    Getting to know them all over again for they grow and change every minute.
    Family is the only importing thing.
    Your article moved me to tears.
    Thank you.

  3. a very important wake up call. thank you for writing this!

  4. that one got me sniffing away at the computer
    thanks for everything you do for jewish moms!

  5. this beautifully written text made me cry.
    thank you so much!

  6. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  7. what a beautiful story… she must’ve been a strong woman and you for telling her story so beautifully…

  8. I was privileged to have met Rivka a few times over the years that she was battling her last illness. She was so inspiring just to be around, she was SO full of life! Like many great people, her legacy lives on and continues to gain momentum and grow exponentially in her death. Thank you for reminding me of her greatness and of how valuable each moment of life and mommyhood really, truly is.

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