Strange celebrations

It is 1 am, so it’s technically tomorrow here. Here, where we do not celebrate most of the American “Hallmark Holidays” that used to be such a big deal before we made aliyah. And yet, with family still in the US for these ten years, we (more or less) at least called to say “Happy Mother’s Day”, or “Happy Father’s Day.” But today (tomorrow) will be my second Mother’s Day without my mother, and along with a few days that have passed this year, I feel melancholy and not too much like celebrating (so I guess it’s good we don’t really). I must mention here that my mother-in-law is wonderful, as is my father-in-law, and I feel blessed to have them both in my life. We have a very special relationship, which I do not often talk about so that my friends don’t get jealous. Yet I know that she will understand what I am saying here, as she also lost her mother not too long ago.

I don’t remember much about last year’s Mother’s Day, or the other days that should have meant phone calls and love exchanged—I was still in avelut, and just trying to get through each day. This year, some of the weight of mourning has lifted, along with the strictures about things a mourner can’t do. However, this has only served to highlight the sense of loss that came on suddenly at those times that should have been happiest. My birthday, followed a month later by my mother’s, then the happy holiday of Purim and then Passover, during which I kept thinking how I was “just” with her for seder—two years ago. And last week, as we celebrated a milestone birthday for the boy who made me a mother, I was thinking how much I wished I could have my own mother to share this with.

In the past few weeks we have had two national remembrance days, followed by an amazing 69th birthday of our state. On these days, people who have lost their loved ones to the Shoah or to the many wars and terrorist acts our young country has had to survive in order to continue are invited to be at Yad Vashem or at the Kotel on Yom Hazikaron. I did not lose either of my parents to this, and do not claim to understand what these people have been through. I also can’t imagine the incredible tragedy of losing a child, or what comforts those who must suffer through this.  I do know what it is like to watch someone you love go through a prolonged illness, and I have been to shivas where the passing was completely unexpected and shocking in its suddenness. All of these experiences are different, and I haven’t been there; I can only guess that for them, as for those who suffer a ‘natural’ loss, it is not only the days of mourning that are difficult, but likely also the days of happiness and celebration. The days when your child, the one who is a model of your father, has his first meeting with the army, and your father is not there to be so proud you are living in the country and homeland he had to leave behind. The days when you move into a new house, as a friend did, and can’t help thinking how much your father would have wanted to see that, to be part of it. The times when you think of a parent lost long ago, like another friend, wishing so badly they could have just seen you grow up, make a beautiful family and a wonderful life. The times when you finally achieve something, only to turn around and realize you can’t share it with everyone you love, because they are not all with you.

We are given prescribed mourning time, which lets up little by little. In many things, Judaism shows such wisdom, such an understanding of the human heart. But once the mourning period is over, we are expected to rejoin the world, to go on. This is also healthy, and resilience is what helps us survive unimaginable things. However, I think the world needs to make room for understanding that it could be one month, one year, five years or even twenty-seven, but somewhere inside we have changed. A mourner may get up and walk around the block, may go out and do normal things, seem fine and even feel normal most of the time, but these sad thoughts and feelings may linger, and pop out at the most unexpected times. We need to understand that this is normal, too, and that it is okay.

The time between Pesach and tonight were national days where we remember those who died for not knowing how to treat each other. Now come more celebrations, national and personal. All I am asking is for some kindness, remembering that not all mothers still have children who can send them love, and many children (of whatever age) do not have mothers. And to those who do, no matter how much your mom may make you crazy, enjoy her and love her as much as you can, if you can. [And I understand that there are those who can’t. This hug is for you too.]

I was lucky, I think, that my mother knew how much I loved her, even from far away. After she was gone, my sister found a card that I had written, where I was smart enough to tell her. Eema, I love you and miss you so much. And Mom, my mother (in-law), I love you and I am grateful that you are part of my life. Happy Mother’s Day.

About the Author
Mori Sokal is a FIFTEEN year veteran of Aliyah, mother of three wonderful children (with her wonderful husband) and is an English teacher in both elementary and high school in the Gush Etzion-Jerusalem area. She has a Masters’ degree in teaching, is a copy editor, and has published articles in Building Blocks, the Jewish Press magazine.
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