top of page

I have existed one year without her.


The candle marks the passage of time.


When I sit on the sofa watching television, I can see it on the dining table.


When I wake in the middle of the night, I see it dancing in the moonlight, reflecting on the ceiling.


When I am in the kitchen, I can glance over to see if I must light a new one.


I was reading the tenth anniversary edition of Oprah’s magazine last night. For the anniversary edition she had ten readers interview her and when she said that in her entire life, no matter what achievements she had arrived at—and this is Oprah—she never phoned her parents to share anything with them. Nothing—not in her personal life or career. She said she was in awe of people who felt their parent’s love every day of their life. I started crying when I read the passage to my husband.


I started thinking about the other mother’s I knew—my father’s mother didn’t seem to like him or us very much and treated us with such coldness that I always say the nicest thing she ever did for me was when she passed away—I worked at a job I hated and I got three days bereavement. One friend’s mother lives eight hours away but no matter what shows up when she needs her. Another’s doesn’t know how to show up and puts practicality before all else.  One friend had a mother who passed away when she was seventeen and was sick the fifteen years prior leaving her essentially motherless her entire life. My boss at work drives three hours every weekend and limits vacation time so that he can give his sister a break and help take care of his mother. My mother-in-law endured endless scrutiny from her own mother—she had better than sixty years with her and no real connection


And so I cried for Oprah and for the other’s who didn’t feel their mothers—and parents—love and for those who the love was a struggle to feel. And it struck me that although thirty nine years, ten months and five days was not nearly long enough of a time to have my mother’s physical being here on this earth with me it was still so much better than what Oprah had. That although the twelve months without her have been lonely and quiet and anguished, the thirty nine years plus she gave me were so much better than the alternative. That the love I felt from her in every aspect—the phone calls, the boxes of Kleenex and rolls of toilet paper, the drives to Windsor when I was sick even though she hated to come alone, the doggy figurines—is worth so much more than the years.


I know that her spirit is here with me and that she is so proud I am writing about her (“you couldn’t do it while I was alive?), I can hear her voice in my head). I know that the lessons she taught me about love and family are her legacy and my tools to live—to quote Oprah—“my best life.” And while I wish for her physical being to phone or sit with or go to Target with and probably always will I am so grateful for the love that envelops me no matter what I do because she was my mommy.


My mourning officially—according to the Orthodox rules of Judaism—ends today. The nine-day candles that have flickered on that table all year are no longer required.


I will miss them. They represent my loss. Just as the Greek consider the butterfly to carry spirits, Judaism sees similarity between a candle flame and a soul. The connection between flames and souls derives from the Book of Proverbs (chapter 20, verse 27): ‘The soul of man is the light of God.’ Just as a flame is never still, the soul also continuously strives to reach up to God. Thus, the flickering flame of the Yahrzeit candle helps to remind us of the departed soul of our loved one.


Sometimes I feel guilty for it seems easier than I think it should be. I believe I should be crying more, hurting more. Or I think maybe I am still in denial, that I haven’t come to terms with the fact that she is really gone from this earth. That “my mommy died.” Jaron told me this after watching the first few minutes of “Finding Nemo.” “The mommy dies,” he yells to his grandparents and me. And then he turns to me and says it “your mommy died.”; I have never used these words, taken Steve’s cue and said she was up in the sky. Somehow he knows that this is considered heaven and that she died. Every night after reading a book, we look up at the collage of her and say the words “Goodnight Bubby Carole I miss you and I love you.”


I speak of her often. Quoting things she used to say or talking about what her reaction would have been. When we were at a party in Windsor with old friends, I could envision our conversation on the way there “make sure you call me after and tell me what they said about the baby.” There is no one to phone anymore, no one who is always available to chat on the drive home, who cares about my comings and goings and doings. At home it is so quiet without her calls—the line seems almost pointless.


I see signs all around me that she is out there in this universe looking out for me. On our drive to Saugatuck, I tried to get on the expressway near the mall but was redirected to the entrance just past the hospital where we used to take her for chemo and blood transfusions. She used to worry so when you drove someplace—passing by made me feel taken care of, as if she was still there waiting for my call that I had arrived safely. Last week, sitting on the sofa where her bed once was, at the exact spot where she would lay, Jaron sang in entirety “A You’re Adorable” (“this is one of Bubby Carole’s favorite songs” he says when we listen to it.) She would have gone out of her mind listening to him—her voice plays in my head “you should have the video camera with you all the time. He is so cute. I can’t stand it.” A flash of her bribing my niece when she was about Jaron’s age to sing to everyone “I’m a Little Teapot”.


A while ago I described her as my Shamash. The Shamash is the candle on the menorah that is lit during Hanukkah; it is used to kindle the other lights. The circle of people in my life is small and while some are not with me all the time she always was. She was my light.


Still I yearn.

bottom of page