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a year since my mom died

by Judy
June 28, 2016 (began writing this on June 23rd)

It’s been exactly a year since my mom died. I woke up this morning and turned on my facebook page and sure enough a beautiful photo of my mom appeared – the one here – as it noted remembrances from a year ago. Perfect timing. I lit a yahrzeit candle commemorating a year and picked flowers from outside to put by the candle. Nothing too dramatic. Noticiably quiet.

About three weeks ago I had gone down to New Jersey for the unveiling of my mom’s grave. It’s a Jewish tradition that you do close to a year after a loved one dies. My cousin Matty and I went to the cemetery. Visits to the cemetery, particularly after my brother died with my mom, were always very emotionally fraught so whenever I thought of going for my mom’s unveiling, I only had very sad and tense memories. Matty and I were going to be the only ones there and Matty had found a beautiful poem for us both to read in remembrance. I brought some flowers before we went and also had some small marigolds to plant by the graves. This is not a Jewish custom but neither my mom nor I are/were religious and she always loved flowers.

I was pleasantly surprised how peaceful it was when we got to the gravestone. My mom is buried in a family plot started by my grandfather on my father’s side and so it has not only my mother, father and brother, but my two grandparents, aunts, uncles and even some great aunts and uncles. I laid flowers on all the gravestones of my family including my grandparents and a few other relatives and I planted the marigolds. A very friendly worker drove by and commented on the hedges planted and apologized that they were not pruned…I did not mind at all. You could see the new green growth.

It was a simple ceremony and afterwards I wanted to stay and just sit there. It was so peaceful. I thought to myself: I will have to come back on the soon side and just sit here with my family. Before we left, I put small stones - a Jewish tradition - on all the graves.

Soon after the unveiling, I went to San Francisco for almost two weeks. I went mostly to spend time with my very dear cousins and also to attend a weekend seminar. I was happy to be there and had some warm, close and fun time with my relatives. It all felt very natural. I also had forgotten how beautiful the whole bay area is - the dramatic sky, the golden gate bridge forever being slightly or very hidden under clouds, the rolling hills and so much light - I could go on and on. It really is a kind of paradise in many ways.

Now back home to a smaller world, the New England countryside, which still has its own charm and beauty. I notice that when I am on my own and alone a lot, then I definitely am more aware of my mother’s absence. There is still this instinctual or habitual desire to call my mom after being out for a while. I still miss her, miss my whole family, but in a way that is becoming just simply a part of who I am

And something else is seeping in…ever so gently and quietly. When I look at my mom’s photo, I feel more joy and only a whisper of sadness. She left her mark and in many ways it was of joy especially for me in those final years when I spent so much time with her. I don’t mean to minimize at all her difficulties because it certainly was not easy being bed-bound and so limited, and yet, and yet, she kept her spirits, her humor; that abandonment of laughter and that is what remains with me the most.

So a year of grieving has passed and in the Jewish tradition that is significant. I don’t even know exactly what it means, but it is a marking of some kind of completion; at least that is how it feels to me. It’s not a completion of forgetting; not at all, nor is it a completion of grieving, but it marks a year of being fully with my mom’s passing; reflecting on the past and experiencing so much gratitude for who she was and what she gave me.

And now it feels like the pieces of my life are being reconfigured yet again but I don’t really know exactly how yet. It asks of me patience and quiet listening...still not rushing into anything, but also definitely acting. In that sense the tables are turning; slowly turning yet again and I am responding.

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