Oct 23 2014
My family always asks me what Jews believe about the afterlife. My family is Mormon but my husband’s family is Jewish—they belong to a Reform synagogue—and my father-in-law is slowly dying. So whenever my family members ask me how my mother-in-law is doing and I give them the update—that she’s coping but still sad—they always shake their heads and say, “How does she do it without a belief in the afterlife?”
This is incredible to them. Mormons spend a lot of time thinking about the afterlife. For example, even though my uncle died tragically, before I was born, he was still very much a presence in my extended family. So much so, that when I was little and I would say my nightly prayer, sometimes I would ask God to put him on the line. Then I would say, “Hello, Uncle Rich. How are you?” and I would tell him things that I thought he might want to know about my grandma, my cousins, etc… (I kept it upbeat, so he wouldn’t feel bad about cutting out early). At my grandparents’ funerals we sang “God Be With You ‘Till We Meet Again,” and I meant it. To Mormons, the idea of an afterlife is the only antidote to the sting of death. Read the rest of this entry →
A little over three months ago, my father died. It was sudden and devastating, but not totally unexpected. I held his hand, and with my mother, our rabbi, and sister on the phone, we said the shema and told him how much we loved him as he left us. We should all be so lucky.
My dad passed away just before Shabbat, which I think he did on purpose, to be sure that we’ll remember him at least every week. Not that he needed to worry about that, since I’ll miss him every day. He loved our Shabbat dinners around the table and singing a few zmirot before we lit candles. Shabbat became extra joyous after the first granddaughter—my gal Charlotte—was born. My dad added lyrics to one of his favorite Yiddish songs, “Shabbos, Shabbos, Shabbos, Shabbos, Shabbos, yidn zol zayn Shabbos,” to include “Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, Charlotte, yidn zol zayn Charlotte.” Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 14 2014
Last October, I wrote about how devastated I was to learn of a dear friend’s pregnancy-associated breast cancer diagnosis. I wrote in order to spread awareness of a rare disease and to honor her fight. This month–Breast Cancer Awareness Month–I write again about my friend. To again spread awareness, but now to honor her memory.
At the end of July, my friend’s husband had to tell their daughters–4 and not quite 2–that their mom wasn’t coming home again. She was a week shy of her 36th birthday. Despite nine rounds of chemo, the cancer had spread to her brain and spinal fluid. She’d been diagnosed only 10 months earlier.
I think of my friend daily. We knew each other for only four years, but we got together every other week for most of that time. It’s hard not to go to the places we frequented and not expect her to walk up. I see her sitting in my basement while our kids play together. I see her at my side as we sweated through a Stroller Strides class. I see her in my dining room during my daughter’s birthday party. I see her getting into her car and pulling away from my house for the last time. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 13 2014
My 6-year-old son lost his first tooth a couple weeks ago. It was so exciting, yet scary, as so many new things tend to be. There was blood. He wanted to know where the blood came from, if it was OK or bad.
“Blood travels through your body and helps keep you healthy,” I explained. He nodded seriously.
“What about da Toof Fairy?” my son lisped. “Is she going to come take my toof?” Yes. “What does she do with them?” he inquired. “Does she put them in her own mouth?” No. He nodded again in approval. “But how big is she? Is she going to touch me? How will she get in my room?” Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 19 2014
This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Nitzavim. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
To a mama friend who is currently having a rough time:
I’ve never been a fan of the, “We’re only given what we can handle,” line. Extra rough things happen only to people who are better equipped to deal with them? I just don’t believe that.
But I do believe the opposite of that line. It is precisely through dealing with hard things, that we become strong. And that is exactly what you are doing. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 11 2014
On October 31st, 2012, I awoke to a phone call from my sister. “I think I’m going to have a baby today. Maybe baby!” I pretended to be calm and collected and told her I would be right over. She only lives five minutes down the road.
When I got to my sister’s house, her curly-headed 2-year-old Rachie greeted me at the door with a big grin. My sister was trying to stifle her own excitement, knowing that while she had been having steady contractions since 3 a.m., birthing is unpredictable–it could be an hour or a day. As we watched television, she wiggled around on the birthing ball, shifting positions, walking around, breathing deeply as her contractions rose and fell. I was mesmerized. This woman before me, sister of my blood, seemed elevated with grace and knowing even in the throes of her primal ache. What a great laborer, I thought to myself enviously. I wish I could do that.
When it was almost noon, we noticed that the contractions were coming a bit less frequently than the morning. “When they get back from the store, Rachie will nurse,” my sister said confidently. “That will get the contractions going again.” Sure enough, the arrival of her big girl sent strong clenches through her uterus as we awaited the midwife. Not just any midwife, but the woman who had gently steered and caught my son and both my sister’s older children. Read the rest of this entry →
My son Dalen is a worrier. He worries about big things like mass extinction and little things like being late for school and not wearing the right color clothes for Spirit Day. When his mind begins to spin and his fingers begin to twist, I think of myself at that age.
I was an anxious kid. I worried about thunderstorms and math tests and lingering coughs. But more than anything, I worried about death. I was obsessed with it, in fact. Every time my parents were 10 minutes late to pick me up (always) I imagined them buried under a monstrous tractor trailer. When my little brother started going out with his friends, I stayed up and waited for him long after my parents had gone to bed. And when my dad complained of chest discomfort, I didn’t sleep for a month.
Death lurked behind every doorway, sneaked in through every crack in the ceiling, crawled under the floor, slithered into my daydreams, and lingered long into the night. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 9 2014
Oh, Joan. The reason we love her so much is because she was never afraid to blurt out what we all were thinking–especially when it came to motherhood, childbirth, and all things vaginal.
So it was only appropriate that Howard Stern deliver a quintessentially Joan-esque eulogy at her star-studded funeral at Temple Emanu-el on the Upper East Side of Manhattan this past Sunday.
On her website, comedian Margaret Cho, who was at the funeral, described what happened after Howard’s opening line, “Joan had a dry pussy.” Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 4 2014
We are so sad to learn that Joan Rivers has died at 81 today, from complications related to throat surgery.
RIP, Joan Rivers, and thank you for making us laugh for all these years. You will be missed.
Read more about Rivers’ impressive career here, and share your favorite Joan moments in the comments below.
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Aug 19 2014
I have worked with retired “senior” adults for many years. The other day a woman I had never met came in sobbing about the loss of her mother over a year ago. This was not the first time I have been surprised by the intensity of grief experienced by an older woman over the death of a very, very old mother.
But it did pose the question: Can you be too close to your mother?
A few weeks ago, the same thing happened with another woman in my office. Years earlier, someone else told me she had never married or fulfilled her potential because her mother insisted that she take care of her until she died. I recall a man who slept on the floor next to his old mother’s bed in case she needed immediate attention during the night. She lived a long life and by the time he got up off that floor, he didn’t have much else. Read the rest of this entry →