I was young when my mother Lisa died, and I unfortunately don’t have many memories of her. But I do have some. And in honor of my mother’s yahrtzeit (anniversary of her death), which was this past month, I’d like to share some thoughts about her.
During the last year or two of my mother’s life, my Shabbat morning included pushing my mother to and from shul (synagogue) in a wheelchair. At the time my family lived nearly a mile away from our shul, and my mother’s health had reached the point that she was no longer able to do the walk. I, a seven- or eight-year-old child at the time, didn’t do all of the pushing myself, but I did some. I can still picture myself pushing her as my family walked home.
At the time, I knew my mother was sick and I knew I could and wanted to help push her. I didn’t understand that the only reason I, a young child, was strong enough to push a woman in her thirties, was because she was just that sick (not that she was a large woman before she became ill, but she lost a lot of weight after). I didn’t understand the pain she must have been feeling. I also never thought for a moment about the decision my mother made to go to shul despite the pain she was in. To me, going to shul was just what we did.
Looking back, this memory is just one of the reasons I feel inspired by the way my mother lived. It couldn’t have been easy for her to go to shul when she was so weak and in so much pain. She could have prayed at home. She could have decided she was not feeling up to praying. For that matter, she could have let the fact that she was in the late stages of a deadly disease diminish her faith in God. Yet week after week, she went to shul. She chose to go to shul even though it was not easy.
My mother fought to keep living. For her, fighting to live went beyond fighting to survive or fighting not to die. She did struggle to keep breathing and keep surviving, but for her, living meant more. It meant getting the most she could out of life. It meant spending time with her family, spending time with her community, and spending time connecting to God. She knew she didn’t have much time left in this world, and she tried to use the time she had as well as she could, even when it wasn’t easy, or maybe especially when it wasn’t easy. That’s the reason my mother kept going to shul with us. She didn’t take her time for granted.
This is just a piece of who my mother was. It’s a piece of what she’s taught me, and a piece of what I hope to teach my son.
May her memory be for a blessing.