A Year Without Mom A”H

A Year Without Mom A”H

I’m surprised by the renewed gush of grief that’s filling me today, Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, like blood from a closed over wound unexpectedly unscabbed. A year ago this month, on the 18th of Cheshvan, my beloved mother passed away a few hours after suffering a major stroke in her sleep at the age of 77.
This whole year I’ve felt Mom’s absence. I remember the first time skyping with my father without Mom, his wife and constant companion of 54 years, at his side. It felt like visiting Mt. Rushmore but George Washington was missing.
I remember the first time something happened and I thought “I can’t wait to tell Mom about this!” only to realize a few seconds later that I no longer can.
Those phantom instincts actually wore off after a few months. I got used to skyping with Dad. Just Dad. I stopped getting the urge to “mention this to Mom!'” Though a few days ago, when I noticed Yoni had some strange scabs on his legs, I yearned for those years when I could just pick up the phone or send a photo to Mom the doctor (she was a pediatrician before she retrained to become a psychiatrist) for any concern, at any hour. And of course, I miss talking with Mom. Being with her. When Mom was at her best, there was nobody in the world I loved spending time with more than her.
Over the course of this year, there’s also been the constant reminders of the things I’m forbidden to do as a mourner. A year with no music. No birthday presents. No new dresses or hats before Pesach or Rosh Hashana. No new clothing or little gifts for myself at all. And also the monthly payment to mom’s dedicated “kaddish-sayer.”
That explains partially why, in some ways, I’ve been looking forward to this first Yahrzeit. I’m looking forward to listening to music again (I downloaded spotify earlier this year, and thus far have only been able to use it for podcasts). I’ve been looking forward to buying myself some new hats and clothing. Maybe even attending a live concert.
I’ve also been looking forward to going to Baltimore for the unveiling and seeing my father and siblings and their families whom, because of Covid concerns, I haven’t seen in person since Mom’s shiva.
But today, Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan, I realize that it’s not only relief I feel as I approach the end of these first 12 months. I’m also sad to reach the end of this first year. I don’t want to give up those little but constant reminders. The acts of mourning that still link me with mom and the fact that I no longer have her here with me.
Right before Yom Kippur I had a dream about Mom. I saw her in Heaven and she looked so happy! She looked 20 years younger. I asked her how the court case had gone when she’d stood before the Heavenly Court, and she told me: “Oh, the court case, it went fantastic! Really fantastic! But I have to get going…” And then she ran off. With somebody else?
I woke up feeling so relieved. Mom’s OK! She loves the Next World!
But I also felt a pinch of sadness. Like that day 20 years ago when I left my daughter crying at her first day of gan, and then rushed back so she wouldn’t have to wait for me only to find she was having a great time with her new friends.
Sorry for mixing metaphors. But here’s another which has been weighing heavily on my heart today.
Approaching this first yahrzeit, I feel a sadness similar to the sadness I feel at the end of Yom Kippur, during Neila. Yes, of course I want the fast to be over. But I don’t want that Gate to lock. I don’t want to be left alone again. I want the King to stay here in the field, with me.

 

12 comments

  1. Chana Jenny,
    I give you alot of credit for being so honest with everyone, and writing about this. we think our parents will be here forever, but it’s a transient world, really for all of us. when we are young, we don’t think about that. she will forever be your mother, you just can’t see her now.

  2. LOST

    “I lost my Mommy,”
    Was what I wanted to say
    To the woman I met in the supermarket.
    But I would have sounded like a four-year-old,
    Lost in a very scary place,
    Separated from the love that most wanted to protect me.
    And then the tears would have started.
    And I really didn’t want that.
    Not next to the smiling bananas. Or anyplace.
    So I just said, “My mother passed away.”

    But in truth,
    Missing the warmth,
    Of her lingering hugs,
    I am pushing a shopping cart,
    Passing the freezer section,
    Looking like an adult,
    But feeling, as I turn down each new aisle,
    I lost my Mommy.

  3. You have great talent in expressing emotions, we feel the pain along with you. You inspire us all so much to growth and expression.

    Your mother’s yahrzeit is very close to that of our mother Rachel Imeinu which is very soon on eleventh of Cheshvan. May your mother’s neshama reach great heights.

  4. Thank you for sharing your grief experience. I lost my Mom 8 years ago. I can’t just pick up the phone anymore and share my latest news with her. She has a grandson she has never met. He’s the first child in the family to have never known his Grandmother. It still takes some getting used to.

  5. Your accout and rich description of this last year hit me hard in the heart. First, i loved your Mom and I will never forget the speech she made at Hadassahs bat mitzvah about the importance of making mistakes. The objectively small amount of time we spent together was so precious. Also, the ability to stay connected to those who have transitioned and passed on through ritual is so implrtant. I will never forget the feeling that came over me when we had to remove the candle that burned in my house throught out the shiva for my Father zl’. It was devastating. It is 10 years later and the hole of my Fathers absence zl that i never thought i could live with is also a gift that I have been able to use to connect with the higher more integrated self that my Father planted within me when I could not turn to him for his love or wisdom in real time. I bless you to grow ever stronger by bringing your mom’s preciousness gifts and strengths more fully into your already beautiful self.

    • dear shoshana, how wonderful to hear from you after all these years! Thank you for this beautiful message. I also fondly remember your father A”H, his gentle nobility–and also your great dedication to him!

  6. Chana Jenny,
    This is one of the most beautiful posts you have ever written. The comparison/metaphor of longing for your mother/Hashem is one of the deepest feelings you can describe. It touches on the deepest of the deep. Thank you for putting into words what most of us cannot.
    Thank you.

  7. julie-ann miller

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your loss. We don’t hear often often how deeply painful it is to lose a mother.

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