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My Two Sisters and Three of Their Children Delivered Eulogies, Too, and This Is Mine:
When my mom of blessed memory stopped driving several years ago, she started hitchhiking. With her walker. She’d take a bus, cab or senior shuttle to a destination and then when she was ready to go home, if she didn’t spot someone she recognized from her 50+ years in Stamford, she would look for kind people and she’d simply ask if they were going her way. Practically every time, they said they were, and then they put her walker in their trunk and off they went.
Just last week, something unprecedented happened, my mom reported -– something even lovelier than a ride home; a man at Trader Joe’s on High Ridge Road insisted on paying my mother’s $14 grocery bill because he said, she reminded him of his grandmother. The man made my mom’s day!
In Twitter, as my wife Pat drove us back from the funeral home, I tweeted that my mom (z”l), gave me a sense of adventure and my Yiddishkeit. I’m not yet quite as adventurous as my mom – I don’t routinely hitchhike, for example, but I’m confident that I’m as experimental at work as I am because of my mom’s adventuresome example. When I was a kid, my mom invited me to try all sorts of museums and music lessons, swimming, tennis, golf, and ski lessons, and all sorts of art and nature classes.
Sometimes, she pushed me a bit too far with her adventure-sense, like when we were in the most ultra-Orthodox section of Jerusalem when I was eight and she had me wearing pants because it was February and relatively cold, and suddenly an older man grabbed my arm and urged, “Minchah, Minchah, Minyan!” I was tall and short-haired, just like now, and he mistook me for a boy that had already had his bar mitzvah and who could help complete the needed quorum of men for afternoon services.
I was terrified, but at my mother’s urging, I followed the man and donned one of the yarmulkes they provided in a box at the doorway of the sanctuary and then imitated the way the boys in my Modern Orthodox Jewish day school prayed. We never talked about that experience until I was an adult and when I asked why she had urged me on, she said, “I wanted you to have the experience and besides, why should you be excluded?” To my mom, it was an adventure not to be missed.
My mom, as I mentioned in my tweet, also gave me my sense of Yiddishkeit. When my sisters and I sat in the all-night Bull’s Head Diner with our spouses a couple nights ago, writing a draft of our mom’s obituary, it contained the word, Jew, Jewish or Judaica no fewer than nine times... in less than a page! My mother transmitted the best of what being Jewish could mean. By her example, she taught us always to advocate for social justice.
For example, in 1993, when Pat and I still lived in Illinois, my mom decided that she wanted to join the March on Washington for human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. So she went with the bus that Congregation Beth Simchat Torah chartered. The synagogue is dedicated to LGBT congregants and our supporters. Since moving to Montclair, New Jersey 18 years ago, Pat & I have belonged to the congregation. But in 1993, we didn't yet live in Montclair, didn't yet belong to the shul and my mom went without us. A woman close to my mom’s age began talking with my mom some minutes into the ride to D.C. Thinking the woman was flirting with her, my mother told me she said, “I’m here for my *daughter*.”
And then my mom said that a younger woman popped up from the seat next to the woman and said, “Well, I’m here for my *mother*.” The three of them had a great march. I’m grateful that God gave me my particular mother and I pray that I can remain grateful for the time I had with her and not drown in my sense of loss. She would not want me to drown.