Right now, we are in the 7 day mourning period. A time when you, well, mourn. In Judaism, there are a number of rules that accompany this mourning period everything from not showering to not exercising for the first few days to covering your mirrors - all with the hope of letting you focus on mourning. My family is not the most religious family, but we do O.K. and want to honor my mother as best as we can by sitting shivah for her. In the beginning of this process (a mere four days ago...crazy time is going so slow right now), I tried to take in as many of the rules as I could. I am often quite the "rule" girl, I want to be the best, do the best, and this experience has not been much different. I have wanted to be "the best" at honoring my mother, to follow all the rules to the T. And there is a laundry list of "rules" to keep me busy
-do not shower
-wear your funeral clothes throughout shiva
-sit shiva for 7 days
-do not serve your own meals
-do not work
-cover your mirrors
-do not exercise
I was all gung-ho about abiding by each rule except then I accidentally thought I was allowed to shower and did. And then I may or may not have had a little mental breakdown yelling ridiculously about the most meaningless things as my brother tried to calmly rationalize it out for me. Instead, of being rational, I grabbed Aaron, and you guessed it, went for a walk and when Aaron suggested we run a little, I tried to say we did not have to (who am I?!?) but he insisted so I sped off and Aaron is really beginning to give me a run for my money.
There are lots of rules in Judaism and they all have a purpose and I respect them and try to follow them to a degree that makes me comfortable. So back to the point of this post - honoring my mother. I want to follow the rules of shiva because I want to honor my mother. I want to honor her life and respect her. Shiva is actually about letting yourself mourn in the Jewish religion and the burial was actually the last act that I could do for my mother.
At first, I felt pretty unjustifiably guilty over the fact that I was not following every rule to a "T." Good old Jewish guilt for you. But now I am beginning to realize that for me, honoring my mother does not necessarily mean not going for a walk or not showering, but it is about honoring her in my own way.
So I will honor her by remembering her - by bringing forth as many memories of her as I can and celebrating the parts of life she was able to live and mourn the fact that her illness took too much of her life away from her and us. Last post, I mentioned I would share my speech at the funeral with you all. My speech was about honoring my mother through memories so it seems fitting to share it here. Some I have already expressed to you but some other points are different and are about her and my memories of her. So here we go.....(P.S. be gentle with me on the grammar here folks this was a speech that I have not edited through so gracefully)
Today we are here to honor and remember a very special woman, my mother. In the Jewish religion, you bury your loved ones and then you have 7 days of mourning. During those 7 days, referred to as a shivah you sit and remember your loved one. No matter what religion you may be, a death is a time to a celebrate a life. It is a time to remember them and make certain they are not forgotten and their memories live on. In many ways, I do not have the same memories of my mother as others may have of their own. The illness took a lot of that from us.
However, in the little time that has gone by since she passed away, I have recounted some of my memories and realize that even though I cannot remember as much as I would like to and even though I may not have the typical memories of events that a mother-daughter may have together, my mother lives on inside me in the many lessons she taught me and the traits she passed on too me.
It is these traits that make me proud to be her daughter and that I will smile at and look up to the sky and thank her for them each time I notice them. Some are little things, but they are mine all the same and I feel honored that she passed them on to me.
And because I think we should smile at her memory (as my mother would not want us all here crying she would try to comfort us and make us feel better), I wanted to share some of these traits that my mother gave me
First, my mother gave me my beautiful big blue eyes and thus she gave me my husband. He will tell you that is the first thing he noticed about me, my eyes. I have her to thank and likewise I have her to thank for still getting carded at R rated movies and never having to dye my hair because not only was my mother young at heart but she also had the glow and radiance of a young woman throughout her life.
Second, my mother taught me never to share. Yup, you heard me NEVER. O.k. well maybe sometimes but not with the important things like desserts and Egg Foo Young. I learned from her quickly that those were things that were not meant for sharing except of course if it were a situation where she and I would spilt a black and white cookie (which only worked because she liked the black and I the white).
Third, she introduced a new holiday into my life. She gave me her love of fall and showed me that hey it is o.k. that our birthdays both come in May because she was wise enough to create her own second holiday conveniently 6 months from her birthday to “celebrate” the beauty of fall oh and to get gifts, cards, presnts, and of course, cake. Did you get that mom and I love sweets?
Fourth, about those sweets. She taught me the importance of a good dessert, especially icecream. I can tell you what day my favorite icecream stand opens for the summer. It is no accident that my mom had marked on her calendar when Frosty Freeze opened for the year. Even when she grew sicker, and even when she could not eat anything else, she still perked up for Frosty Freeze. I often stopped and brought her some Frosty Freeze before visiting her or if in an off season I stopped at Friendly’s for old times sake.
Those are some of my memories and while some may seem silly they bring a smile to my face. Smiling, smiling is my favorite memory or rather trait of my mother. My mother and her smile and unwaining happiness lit up the room. She was a star. But it was more than just a smile. It was when and how she smiled, which was ALL the time. She smiled through thick and thin. She had a strong, courageous face on. The smile was her game face. This smile, a memory and a trait, is a lesson she continues to teach me. To smile. To be strong no matter what comes my way. Her passing has reminded me of her unspoken lesson to me - smile, stay strong, and the rest will follow.
For those memories I do not have, I hope that this is a time that people recount their memories of my mother to me. Having been to too many shivas already in my life, one of the things that I recall are the stories. I do not remember the grief I felt day in and out, but rather the love and support from people that arrived with stories in hand to tell us all who were grieving. It is these stories that I cling to, that I will carry with me forever. It is not easy to hear stories that make us sad and happy all at once, but it is what helps us remember and how we continue to grow and make those people a part of us. I know my mother will be a part of me. I know I will see her in dreams and still speak with her as I do to others that I have lost (only those who have lost can agree that this is not a crazy statement). I hope you all will help me and others build on these memories and celebrate her life.