Though I was dreading today as something just to get through, I made an effort to try to be present whenever possible. I spent my wedding so focused on Mom, her comfort, getting through the day as quickly as possible and really getting everything done with that I have very few memories of the actual day. As soon as that was over, I realized that I hadn't been paying attention and I missed out on enjoying a very special day.
I didn't want to do that today.
So I spent the day testing the limits of waterproof mascara (it's come a long way) and enjoying the numerous well wishers. I saw people I hadn't seen in 20 years, 15 years, 10 years...I knew that would happen and thought it would push me over the edge but instead I found comfort in it. It was wonderful to see how many people showed up for Dad, who maybe didn't know Mom that well, but who were there to support him. It made me feel less anxious about leaving him on Friday. Especially knowing that this will probably be my last trip before Gary and I come out with the Pea next year.
There were five eulogies today. I completely forgot to ask Mom's friends for copies of their words, so I'll leave you with Ross's and mine.
I want to thank everyone for coming here today and celebrating my mom's life. I want to thank everyone for your overwhelming support and love, and helping us get through these last nine months. It was truly in my mom's spirit and in the true spirit of all of you.
My mom taught me the value of education, taking care of yourself, taking care of others, sticking up for people. Patience. The values of not being wasteful, of truly appreciating life, no matter what it hands you.
Finding beauty in love, friendship, happiness; and finding beauty in sorrow.
This is how my mom lived.
My mom was an adventurer. Never afraid to try something new. When together, we explored, whether it be places, people or ideas. It's that curious spirit which I feel the most in me now, too.
In 2007, I was diagnosed with a stress fracture in my hip. As soon as the MRI results came in, my doctor called me and told me to get off my leg immediately; I was not to walk, stand or put any weight on it at all for at least a month. I was devastated and called my mom for some sympathy. None came. Instead, she told me that maybe this experience would make me more empathetic towards other people who had mobility issues. Maybe this experience would make me a better trainer when I came out of it.
I was so pissed.
But now I understand. First of all, she was 100% right, on all points. Second, this was self-inflicted, curable, heal-able and in the grand scheme of things, not that big a deal. A learning experience and a temporary inconvenience. Not a time for self-indulgent self pity.
Growing up, there were many of these moments. My mom would irritate me by consistently doing the right thing. Her motto was that if you’re the parent of a teenager and that teenager likes you, you’re not doing your job as a parent. So there were many occasions where I didn’t like her so much. All my friends, however, adored her. One of my longest, best friends who has known my mom since 4th grade sent me this: “As a child I remember her creative energy - sponge painting the walls, making cookies for us kids, listening with a careful ear to all of our stories. Once I grew older, I think of her in my apartment in Jerusalem, laughing easily with my friends, the same motherly figure but now a friend.”
She transcended age boundaries, my friends were her friends, Ross’s friends were her friends. She was magnetic, everyone wanted to spend time with her. Throughout her illness, I would hear from childhood friends, college friends, far flung people who knew and remembered her fondly. All the women had stories of her kindness, her beauty, her humor. All the men were in love with her at some point.
I have really struggled with defining her with through her illness. I don’t identify her as a cancer victim, I feel very removed from cancer as a concept. BUT, the way she handled her illness, the way she lived her life in the last year of it has taught me so much. When I think about the reality that I will be embarking on my journey as a mother without my mother’s guidance, it’s too much grief to bear. So I think of all the preparation she gave me this year. Patience. Total and complete loss of control of what happens to us all. Lack of sleep. Accepting help, accepting gifts, accepting love, accepting support. And so I know that when my child arrives, she’s already equipped me with everything I need to know.