In Honor of my mother; Myra on Mother’s Day; grab some tissues and take a seat!
It was November 3, 1993. I was 21 years old and a senior in college. I had the whole world ahead of me. All I cared about was hanging out and having fun. I was walking up the stairs in the castle at College of New Rochelle. It was 11:15 am. I felt a strong feeling in my chest and I grabbed my friend. She said, “you look like you saw a ghost”. I told her I didn’t feel right. But, I went about my day.
I left after class and grabbed a cake. It was my dad’s 48th birthday and we were going to celebrate. I walked into my apartment and the phone was ringing. I missed it and it rang again. I picked up and my uncle was on the other end. The next four words he said to me profoundly and instantly ripped at my soul and changed my life as I knew it forever. It has shaped everything in my world from that day forward, “Your mother passed away”. I asked him when, and he said around 11 am. I believe to this day I felt it physically when she died.
I then had to tell my sister that our mother had died. I will never forget her screams. I felt my ears ringing, I couldn’t breathe and I can’t even tell you anything that transpired after that. I became numb. I have to tell you I didn’t think I would ever want to tell this story again.
My mom was 46 years old! I turned 46 just a couple of days ago. I don’t think it is any small coincidence that this spring I was asked to be part of this blog. Because this year I have to tell you, it is going to be a hard one. I am not going to lie, I am terrified of dying young and not being here for my family.
In January, I went through a series of tests. Long story short, I was diagnosed with undifferentiated connective tissue disease; amongst a host of other crap (that’s for another article). In a nutshell, I have a form of the illness my mom died of and it’s scaring the crap out of me.
Losing a parent at a young age affects your whole being; you worry about your own mortality. I measured these last few months by all of the things my mom did not get to do, or get to experience. I thought about how I am just getting to know myself better, and how my mom lost her life at this age. I am just beginning to experience so many new things and step into a new part of life. So over the next year, I will already ask you to please excuse me. I always dreaded this age marker and feel like “phew, if I can get through 46 we are all good”!
There is nothing in the world that can prepare you for the loss of a woman who I saw as a hero and an idol. She was one of the fiercest, fearless and most phenomenal woman I have ever been blessed to know! You would never have known how sick my mom was because every day she got up and showed up! She got her nails and her hair done every week! She LIVED life! She would never let you know how much pain she was in, or that she was scared.
My mom taught me absolutely everything I know, yet she never prepared me for what life would be like without her – and to this day I do not know how to do it!
People always see me smile but at the oddest times, I cry… A LOT! As much as I feel bad there are times I am resentful, not against anything in particular, I am hurt my mom never got to see me graduate, have kids, marry, etc. It hits you sometimes out of nowhere! I missed my college and graduate school ceremonies because I did not want to attend without her there. Weddings and other significant events did not hold as much meaning, because I had too much anger when I was younger. The events I should have looked forward to sharing with her, I couldn’t, and I did not want to celebrate those things without her presence. I have a strong faith in God and I am a deeply spiritual person. But, I am not going to lie here, I was so angry at G-d and sometimes I still am!
The stages of grief are not fluid. It doesn’t happen in succession! It’s an empty hole that can’t be replaced. With that said, grief does have some passage with time. Maybe I don’t cry every day. But, when I think of my mother my heart aches in a way that’s unimaginable. I still fight back tears when I go to call our old phone number (835-5304) and realize no one there will answer.
As I am getting older I am starting to forget the sound of her voice or things she said. I always feared that would happen. Time passes. I always try to keep her alive through pictures and stories. I have made sure since my kids were born that they “knew” her. You forget the nuances as time passes.
I try to hold on to some of the memories:
• The smell of her perfume –Shalimar
• Her love of orange circus peanuts.
• Baby oil and iodine
• Making rugelach
• The way she would defend us to a fault, and then come home and yell at us.
• How she would laugh and say how glad she was that Pam and I didn’t treat her like she was dying. We would act out so much, and she would just talk to us.
• Traveling the world
• Her contagious laugh and giggling
• Her huge smile
• The way she made you feel as if you were the most important person in the world
• Her gift-giving (she gave the most epic gifts, ask anyone)
• How she was always class mom and threw the best parties
• How giving she was. No matter what we wanted my mom would always say “don’t worry ill make it happen”, and she ALWAYS did
Eventually, you figure out the world owes you nothing…your friends and family care but the world not so much. You think life is unfair, you worry tons about the future yet; you tend not to plan ahead!
People will try to say the right thing but in truth, nothing makes it better. They will try to make it better by minimizing your feelings or the event. But, one day out of nowhere you start to live again, and sometimes might even feel guilty for enjoying life. Death is a part of life and we don’t like to talk about it because; let’s face it – it’s painful!
I am fortunate to live in the town where I grew up, and many of my childhood friends are still some of my very best friends who knew my mom back then. It is comforting to have that shared memory. It’s also a blessing to run into people who knew my mom and tell me how much I am like her. If I could be even a fraction of who she was, that makes me feel BLESSED!
It is cathartic for me to get these words out on to paper. The journey, which has been almost 25 years, still brings me immense emotion in ways I did not think possible.
One of my fondest memories of my mom is her baking rugelach. So, in honor of my mom who loved to bake and cook (she was good at making reservations too!), I am sharing her recipe with you today. It is in her own handwriting (a gem I found in the basement). I remember her getting this recipe over the phone from my Great Aunt Anita. It was the day before Rosh Hashanah, I remember her sitting on the phone and laughing as she wrote the recipe which my great aunt was trying to explain:
MY BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS:
Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by Hope Edelman
How to go on living when someone you love dies by Therese A. Rando PhD
QUOTES I RELATE TO:
“When a mother dies, a daughter grieves. And then her life moves on. She does, thankfully, feel happiness again. But the missing her, the wanting her, the wishing she were still here – I will not lie to you, although you probably already know. That part never ends.” -Hope Edelman
“The death of a mother is the first time you cry without her… ”
– Author Unknown
OTHER THINGS THAT HAVE HELPED ME:
Take notes; talk to family; have them tell you old stories and record them
Live Life NOW, BIG, AND WITH PASSION; don’t wait for tomorrow, enough money OR the right time