For you, my Mother

Dear dear Mom,

I can’t believe that you are gone.  After all these many years I still can’t come to grips with the notion that you, my mother, are not here, sharing our lives.  In one strange sense it seems that you were here even today.  In another, I feel you have been gone for a very long time.

I remember well the day you died.  You were in the nursing care facility of Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.  You shared a room with about six other elderly women, each from a different part of the world, each speaking Hebrew better than you.  How lonely it must have been.  Yet, you never complained.

That summer, our granddaughter Adiel, your precious eldest great- granddaughter,  was staying with us in Herzliya.  She was adjusting to a life far different from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, going to gan, and then having outings with Sabba and me. Things were going well but we all could see that you were getting weaker day by day and that recovery would be probably impossible. Each day after gan, we would drive over to visit you.  Adiel could tell that her visits were the high point of your day.  And she loved being with you, bringing you treats and holding your hand at bedside.

July 15, 1999 was Adiel’s fifth birthday.  We were going to have a party.  Ilan, your loving grandson, even thought that somehow we could bring you to the party.  We would have a cake and all the trimmings to make a five year old girl, 6,000 miles away from her parents, brother and sister, enjoy her special day.  Your beloved Sam, husband of over 62 years, was there to celebrate with us.

That day we had changed our schedule and gone to see you before gan.  Adiel baked something delicious for you (corn bread I think) but you couldn’t eat so we left it at your bedside and Adiel gave you a wonderful hug before we left. I am sure that hug carried you on your journey, knowing that you were loved.

And so our family gathered for the party.  Pam and Matt with Liat, Janet and Zeev with Tali and Ilan.  Sam.  Adiel.  The two of us.  We were a festive little group, fighting the tears and battling to make a simcha joyous.  And just as we finished singing Yom Huledet Sameach, the phone rang.  Your battle had ended.  You were at peace.

I remember the anguish of telling Dad.  But he was a strong, and even heroic, man.  He knew and his dignity remained intact as it would throughout the burial and the shivah.

You were 85 years old.  You used to tell us that you felt so lucky because no one in your family had ever lived so long. Your mother, Peshka, died at age 62.  Your father, known as Pop, was 77.  And your two brothers, Dave and Charlie were 57 and 63.

We all knew that you could have and would have lived longer if not for the accident.  Crossing Rehov Sokolov was, and remains, a challenge.  It’s a busy street with too few zebras and lights.  And lots of traffic.  But you were always careful.  A lifetime as a pedestrian, never a driver, had trained you to look both ways when you crossed.  Look left.  Look right. Cross.  But, when the supermarket bicycle delivery boy was speeding down Sokolov on the wrong side of the street, he betrayed your caution.  You went down and, after surgery, were just never the same. An appointment in Samara on the macadam streets of Herzliya.

We, your family, lost so much.  And we waited too long for some things. I yearn for your meatballs, a Shabbat special. When I finally saw that you would not, and could not, be making them any more, I asked how you made them.  They cannot be described except to say that when you have a piece of challah and those meatballs, your hands become magnetic, dipping that challah into those succulunt juices, and just not being able to stop until all the meatballs are gone. How hard I’ve tried to get them just right.  No luck.  I asked how you made them.  Too late.  The answer was always you know.    Mom, I don’t know.  I just don’t.  My grandchildren think my meatballs are delicious but they just don’t know or don’t remember yours.  Maybe, somewhere in olam ha ba the meatballs are getting ready for Shabbat. But my imagination cannot conjure up the right recipe.  I will keep trying!

Dad used to say that you worried on his behalf so that he wouldn’t have to. So your worrying ingrained habits in us. We worked hard to be responsible so you wouldn’t worry.   You had to know when we came home, no matter where we were.  School. A friend’s.  A date. First thing was always to let you know we’re home.  To this day, as a great-grandmother of 77 years, when I come home I feel compelled to dash to the phone and let you know I’m home. You knew how to let us fly like birds but we had to tell you when we landed. Mom, I still want to do that.  I’ve had lots of landings since you left.  And so many things to share with you.  I hope, when we visit you and Dad in the Herzliya Cemetery, and we share what’s been happening, that you are listening.

I think about you as the essence of a Renaissance woman.  You were always reading or listening to opera or going to the theater or working endlessly for Hadassah or the shul.  You wrote your stories and inspired us to do the same.  Your influence is everywhere.  Let me say now what I wish I had been saying throughout our time together:  You are a wonderful mother.  I love you very very much.  May you rest in peace.

About the Author
Rosanne Skopp is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of fourteen, and great-grandmother of two. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and travels back and forth between homes in New Jersey and Israel. She is currently writing a family history.
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