Grief or Greed?

Shabbat services have been a staple of my life for years now. I go for many reasons: community, peace, prayer, and to find God. God inside me, or God as an outside source of strength. Sometimes, both.

Tonight, I was praying during the Amidah, which has become my favorite prayer. Favorite doesn’t quite do it justice. It is the prayer during which I am able – if I am in the right space, if the music before has been just right, if the stars are aligned properly – to free myself enough to have a bit of a one-on-one with God. Maybe it is because I stand alone while in the midst of community. I don’t know.

Anyway…there I was, feeling unbearably sad from this very hard week, missing my mom fiercely. I began crying, tears pouring down my cheeks. I said to God: “I want my Mama back! I want my Mama back! Why is she gone? I want her back. I know it won’t happen, but I want her so badly.” It was so deeply painful, so primitive, a child’s plaintive cry. “I want my Mama back.”

Death does that, I think. Death of a parent especially. We are reduced to our child selves, whether we are 5 or 55. Losing a mother is terrifying. Our mothers birthed us (sometimes) and raised us, often as our primary or sole caretakers. Contemplating life without them is unfathomable.

I was my mom’s caregiver most of the time for several years before she died. We had reversed roles for the most part. There were moments, though…moments when she was there, completely present, as my mom. Moments when I was sad, or doubting myself as a parent, or depressed. She would put her hands on my cheeks, and softly stroke them. In my family, we called it “a dose.” A dose of mother-love, that indescribable connection between mother and child that eases the pain, soothes the fears, calms the doubts. My daughter knows it from me. She now comes up to me  and says: “I need a dose.” I channel my mother, lift my hands to my daughter’s cheeks, and touch them gently. She breathes more slowly, looks into my eyes, and calms.

I digress, however. As I was calling to God, begging for my mom to come back, I wondered whether I was being greedy. Is it selfish to ask for her back? To even want it? I am hopeful that my mom is in a better place, one in which she is not in pain, where she is surrounded by love and light, where she does not have the struggles that weighed her down for so many years. I would like to feel happy about that, and know that I carry her inside me, and feel strength and love in that knowledge.

But I need a dose…

*           *           *

Here are 10 more haiku from my daily writings.

 ELEANOR BURG ROTH, z’l
1924 – 2011

On my deck one winter afternoonDecember 9, 2011/Day 11:
Today is somber
thinking of you and Laurie*
two bright lights snuffed out.

(*Laurie was one of the most beautiful souls I ever met, who died recently, at age 52. She was taken too soon.)

December 10, 2011/Day 12:
Cleaning out your space
each item a memory
a way to hold you.

December 11, 2011/Day 13:
With Sunday’s slow pace
your soul so alive in me
deep grief floods my heart.

December 12, 2011/Day 14:
Reading a paean*
celebrating your teaching
love from your students.
(*An article from a local newspaper in the
neighborhood in which my mom taught.)

December 13, 2011/Day 15:
Smiling up at you
my confirmed agnostic mom
as I say Kaddish.

December 14, 2011/Day 16:
Awash in sorrow
trying not to lose myself
a faucet of tears.

December 15, 2011/Day 17:
As I think of you
and all the lives you have touched
Gratitude fills me.

December 16, 2011/Day 18:
My world is shifting
Our journey has run its course
I begin from here.

December 17, 2011/Day 19:
Reciting Kaddish
for you in community
my soul is renewed.

December 18, 2011/Day 20:
Concert without you*
Your presence so palpable
Your voice sorely missed.
(*I direct the chorus at the assisted
living facility where my mom lived.)

About armsakimbobook

I'm a mother, a lawyer, a feminist, a writer, a potter, and an inveterate and unapologetic New Yorker. My book, Arms Akimbo: A Journey of Healing, tells of my journey of healing over a number of years, learning to live a full life after I was molested by my father at a very young age. I live in Medford, MA, part time with my 11 year-old daughter and full time with our dog, Toast, and our cats, Samson and Hercules.
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