November 14, 2014

Baruch Dayan Emet

Despite her illness, my mom danced at my brother's wedding in August.

On Wednesday, the 18th of Cheshvan, a dear soul left this world. My beloved mother Denny, Devora bat Avraham, passed away after a full year battling fighting cancer. Her last three weeks were spent in palliative care in a Toronto hospital. We were at her side when she passed.  She was a wonderful husband, mother, sister and friend. 

As a daughter, I wanted to share a few words to describe how exceptional she was as a mom.  My mom. May her soul be blessed.

Imagine a knock on the door.  A little girl is standing there. “Hi,” she says, “Can you come out and play?”

Seems like a regular childhood story, right?

Well, not really. This little girl was not asking if I would come out to play; she wanted my mother to come out to play.

Of course my mother always said ‘yes.’ There could be laundry piled up or dinner to be made. It didn’t matter. Eyes twinkling, smile beaming warmth, she would run outside, pulling me behind her.

‘Let’s go out and have fun,’ my mom would say, grabbing my hand. And we would play wall ball and draw hopscotch boxes in colored chalk on the driveway. My mom taught my friends Double Dutch and was a skipping master.

Over the years, my friends and Barry’s friends loved to hang out our place, the Nathans; there was always a huge jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table, my mom crouched over, patiently searching for that elusive piece, inviting our friends to join in the hunt. She played board games for hours, be it Boggle, Scrabble, Monopoly, Clue. You name it. My mom was there, surreptitiously teaching us skills such as fair play, concentration, numbers, spelling, reading and deductive reasoning. Was it professor Plum in the library with the revolver? Ask my mom. Crossword challenge; seven letters with an ‘x’ in the middle? Ask my mom.

She was an adult, yet her ‘child within,’ shone. “Come, play, she would cajole me, her sullen child. “Have fun. Even if you have to pretend. “ “And smile. Even if you don’t feel like it. Show the world a smile.”

This was a small part of her deep wisdom. Whatever path Barry and I picked, she was behind us. She was our ally, always giving us the freedom and space to choose and decide.

And, as many of you know, the paths I took were not exactly ‘close to home.’ Be it backpacking in the Himalayas, becoming Observant or moving to Israel and taking along her four beloved grandchildren, she was on my team.

She never questioned Barry or I. Instead she simply loved us for who we are, and with her big, warm heart and wise soul, she came along for the ride. It was this respect, love and trust that helped Barry and I grow and become independent.

She was an artist when it came to creating a place of love, warmth and acceptance.  Young and old, and everyone in between felt this when they got to know her. She was always more concerned with everyone else's needs and never her own. Even in the last few days, lying in her hospital bed, she would ask about others with true concern. And not once, during the 12 difficult months of her illness and three hard weeks of being in palliative care, not once did she complain about her own pain and challenge.

My mom will be dearly missed by us all; by her loving sister, Joyce, who was by her side every day, all day; her devoted nephews Martin and Stewart; her son-in-law, Amir and daughter-in-law Alina; her soul mate of 60 years, Len; her grandchildren Ariel, Aviva, Shaya and Talya; and by her children Barry and I.

We will cherish every moment we had with her. Even in the last few days, we felt her love; be it a small wink of her eye when she had no strength to talk or the kisses she would weakly blow, she continued to warm our hearts with her abundant love and show the world a smile.

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