My mother Alice, was one of the most authentic people I ever met. I say this before I even say she was sweet, kind and big hearted, because I find authenticity one of these qualities that we as people naturally want to express, yet often suppress out of fear of what people will think of us. In that sense Alice was fearless! She was fierce in standing up for what she believed in, and when she wanted to get something done, she didn’t let anyone or anything in her way! This was Alice, and she was fine with it, even if some people didn’t like her for it. Sometimes I would hear people say “Wow, I really like Alice!” as if they were unique for being so accepting of a strong personality like hers. What people failed to realize, and what I didn’t appreciate for much of my life – is that Alice was as real as they come.
Alice wasn’t just my mom, she was my sister’s mom. My mom was a daughter and she was a wife to my dad (for 43+ years). She was a sister, she was an aunt, she was a cousin, and she was a friend, and she also was a grandmother. She was also like a second mom to many of my friends. The outpouring of love my family and I got at the time of my mom’s passing was truly heart-warming and amazing! People far and wide reached out to me for support, from close relatives and friends, as well as some of my mom’s childhood friends (who ironically enough found me on Facebook shortly after she passed).
My mother died 17 months ago on September 22nd, 2015 at the age of 71 after a long bout (6+ years) of having Alzheimer’s disease. She might have showed signs of dementia before we got a care-taker for Alice, but she still lived a normal life until she started to become a shell of her former-self. I don’t really have the words to describe what it was like seeing my mom transition from being my mom who was there for me whenever I needed her, to her having to need someone there for her 24-7. But, one thing I will say is that I’m still amazed in awe of my Dad for taking such good care of my mom. Along with my mom’s live-in nurse, Mary (who we are forever grateful for) my mom’s primary care-taker was my dad, and that is a testament to his unconditional love for her and a quiet strength and endurance that few humans could possibly bare.
As for my life with my mother before she got sick, I’m not going to lie, but I was a real brat with her at times. I resented her for her need to coddle me, yet funny enough, I still needed her. When I was 17 and at one of my last appointments with my pediatrician, my mother was nagging me about something so annoying to me yet “so relevant now” that I don’t even have the faintest of memories of what it actually was that she was bothering me about. Anyhow, my Doctor (who I have known since birth) said to me “Josh, your mother will always be your mother no matter how old you get”. I respected what he told me at the time, but I did not appreciate those words as much as I do now.
Of course I still wish I had more time with my mom. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of her. But I also realize that she served her purpose on this earth. Her getting sick and passing is a reminder to me to be a fierce advocate for those that need it the most. My mom stood up for me countless times. She made sure I didn’t get passed over in school when I was slow to talk or read. She didn’t only do that for me, but she did it for countless other kids, as well. She’d sit in on parent-teacher meetings as an advocate for kids that had parents that had a limited understanding of their rights as well as their kids’ rights and/or the school system. Alice always fighter for the little guy. She’d be absolutely mortified at some of the horrendous things happening in this country, today. When I write, and when I speak out for those less fortunate, I am carrying my mother’s legacy! I am so grateful that my daughter has a mother in Christy who is a fighter and advocate for marginalized people as well.
In Jewish tradition people usually commemorate a person’s death anniversary. Dying of course is all part of life, but we don’t celebrate great people’s deaths, we celebrate great people’s births! Hence, why I am writing this post for my mom on her birthday. Her death only impacts me in so much as I miss her greatly. However, my mom’s birth is the very key to my existence. I’m pretty sure my mom would enjoy this blog of mine, and enjoy the fact that I’m commemorating her on her birthday. “Mom, how I wish you were here in person to comment on this.”
All of us have an expiration date on life, some sooner than others. Even in Alice’s sickness, she still experienced life, and knew that she was loved and that she had a grandchild, too. I celebrate all of my mother’s life, even the more painful or sad memories, because even if it wasn’t filled with joy, all the time, there are still memories full of me being with my mom, and that is enough to sustain me, and keep me going strong.
“I love you mom! I miss you a lot too. I’m proud to be your son”.
In Loving Memory – “Alice Elizabeth Pressman Jacobs” February 08, 1944 to September 22nd 2015.
Here are some valuable resources a friend sent me (via FB Messenger) regarding the loss of a loved one and how in the Jewish tradition there is a natural mourning period of approximately 12 months. Everyone is different, and of course – even if you are not done mourning a loved one’s loss, it doesn’t mean they are forgotten. And, even if you aren’t Jewish I’m sure you can find some value in at least a few of the Jewish rituals, here.
Here are other resources/coping mechanisms I used as part of my healing process
- Driving in the car alone and talking to my mom.
- *The Landmark Forum at Landmarkworldwide.com – I have taken Landmark’s flagship course The Landmark Forum before, as well as numerous other courses they offer. My re-taking of the Landmark Forum this past summer (2016) created an opening for me to start to make sense of how my mom’s memory and very presence in my life still shapes me as a human-being. *
- Sharing memories of my mom with loved ones
- Celebrating my mom’s life and all that she did for people each and every day.
*Disclaimer – Landmark is not a class for people that are mourning the loss of a loved one – rather it is a course on personal and professional training and development, the value of the course and what you get from it is completely dependent on you. Also the views and opinions I share about Landmark are mine and mine alone, no entity or person is affiliated with my views – nor does it reflect upon Landmark’s policies and/or practices.*
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