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Thank You Savta Penina z”l (Pearl Burstein nee Shmidman)

It’s been 11 years without Savta Penina. That is the same amount of time she lived in Israel after joining us by making Aliya. I would like to believe those were the eleven best years of her life. I think they were.

In her memory, I will share words of thanks that I expressed at her funeral on 19 Sivan, eleven years ago. I still thank her.

* Thank you for telling us stories about Poland in the 1920s – your family store, the vacations in the countryside, the people.

* Thank you for describing your boat ride to America, as a young girl. We could never hear that story enough times.

* Thank you for giving us a laugh at the mistakes you made as a young student in school in Brooklyn, not yet proficient in English – lunch [lounge/couch] will never taste the same.

* Thank you for telling us about how you met Saba Shmuel, the handsome tall Machal pilot.

* Thank you for sharing tsena stories with us – whenever I drive through Katamon I try to imagine it back in 1949.

* Thank you for singing us the same songs you sang at bedtime – Oyfen Pripichak and Zeegeleh.

* Thank you for teaching me how to fold a fitted sheet, impeccably.

* Thank you for teaching me how to make the perfect cup of drip coffee – first wet the grinds, wait, then pour the rest of the water, slowly.

* Thank you for teaching me that you can return your dish at a restaurant if it isn’t up to standard. OK, you didn’t have to teach by example EVERY TIME we ate out…

* Thank you for preparing your delicious chicken – no matter how hard we tried, it never came out the same as when you made it.

* Thank you for realizing the first time that I came home with a bad grade in behavior, that this was a sign of my growing up.

* Thank you for never comparing my grades to those of other kids, and never bragging about me, even though my grades were good and you had plenty to brag about!

* Thank you for the skating lessons, even though we all know it was a waste of time and money!

* Thank you for buying me a hamster when I was a kid – even though you aren’t a pet person.

* Thank you for tolerating Rosy our cat, as well as you did – she was only trying to express her love for you every time she unsuccessfully tried to jump in your lap.

* Thank you for bringing me fresh fruit and comic books on visiting day at camp – to this day my friends from then talk about it, and you.

* Thank you for sending me to the most expensive schools, camps and university.- even though we couldn’t afford it – teaching me that education comes above all.

* Thank you for letting me make Aliyah, effectively abandoning you when you grappled yourself with Daddy’s health issues.

* Thank you for your extended visits to Bat Yam and then Rechov Hagalil – I can still see the kids when they were young snuggling in bed with you in the morning.

* Thank you for making Aliyah yourself in the year 2000, the same day I gave birth to Nathan. Your being here was an invaluable experience for my children, your grandchildren. For this I thank you the most.

* Thank you for taking those early morning, “Ma, the baby is sick–can you babysit” calls. You were always there.

* Thank you for teaching me by example about kibud av v’em – I can only hope that I reached a fraction of the level you reached.

* Thank you for giving me the opportunity to teach my kids about kibud em. I tried. I will never be able to make up for the hard time I gave you as a teenager – which lasted into my 40s – but I tried as best as I could, especially these past few months.

* Thank you for being an inspiration to me, going back to your profession, a teacher, at a later stage in life. Every day I study or work on my research I think of you.

* Thank you for being fully independent for 86 years, until merely a few months ago.

* Thank you for a wonderful Leil Haseder this year and for spending a few meaningful Shabatot with us in our house, despite your pain, weakness and anxiety.

* Thank you for giving me the opportunity to spend quality time with Ilana – I think the past few months have been the most time we have spent together, ever.

* Thank you for keeping your sense of humor, to the last minute – you were always thinking of the well-being of those around you.

* Thank you for teaching us the real meaning of “Hatznea lechet im elokecha.

* Thank you for being a role model to my kids – and for teaching all of us by example how to die with respect and dignity.

May her memory be for a blessing. We love you.

About the Author
Alissa Burstein is an over-educated mother, wife and cat lover living in the center of Israel. With a PhD in education, she currently works at the Bar-Ilan University Azrieli Faculty of Medicine in an administrative capacity. Yoga and good coffee (and cats!) keep her somewhat sane.
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