Early morning in Ellenville and it’s peaceful at Jeff’s house sitting Shiva with family and friends. It’s a new experience for us: for me, for Jeff, Rick and my dad and we are taken care of by Marla and her Shiva Squad of great friends. It’s a well oiled machine of nurturing as we begin life without my mom.
I have been trying to write this post for the last few days when each phase of this process was fresh but it didn’t/couldn’t happen.
I wanted to begin at my mom’s last day when I sat with her on Friday morning. Just the two of us for an hour before more family arrived. It was my unexpected window to share a moment of her last hours of life. We didn’t talk, just shared the life space of her room and it felt like our time. I listened to her labored breathing and then opened my iPad and read her the piece I was writing for her funeral. I read it out loud for the first time even though others read it on my blog. I revised and tightened lines inspired by her signals, the way she might have commented in earlier times.
Over the last few years and more dramatically the last few months I have been watching my mom start to leave us but my writing was centered on our time together when she had the most influence on me. As I read my piece to her I realized that she too, had been sharing more and more about her life with her parents when their influence was most critical.
Soon a nurse joined me and my mom, checking in with both of us and sharing with me some of her conversations with my mom. It was a sweet time, just the three of us, a wonderful way for the day to move along.
Jeff and my dad arrived and we sat together quietly. More family joined us and it was clear to the doctors and nurses and even though my mom had experienced a spurt of consciousness in the early morning, she was in her last hours.
At 3:00 PM after missing a breath, the staff was called in to make it official. Her sister Sally arrived to see her and her granddaughters sat with my dad just outside the room. Inside we began to write her obituary to share the funeral details with the larger community. All new to us, we used the daily paper to model our obit. We weren’t ready to leave her.
But the final process was in motion. Too late for a burial before Shabbat, my mom gave us a needed Saturday for restore our energy for the dreaded day of her funeral. Near the end of the day I traveled up to Ellenville without Tuvia to spend time with family and share the funeral process. On that way up to Ellenville, I slowed down as I passed the hospital at exit 122, out of habit, but my mom was somewhere else now, prepared for burial.
Late that night we met with the new Chabad rabbi, trying hard to share a very orthodox approach to Judaism with some sprinkles of modern lingo. It didn’t work for me. That unequal role of men and women in the world of prayer was just too anachronistic. But I was respectful, relived that I would not be spending any time with him after this week of mourning. My mom would have been horrified if I were too challenging.
Sunday was a long day, but a wonderful celebration to my mom. The room was packed with friends and community members and everyone who spoke added more rich details about my mom. And with Jeff as the mayor and we did get a police escort down route 209 to the cemetery.
And Sunday night the Shiva began with prayers, women pushing their way into the male dominated Minyan, not counted of course but our voices were strong.
Food for comfort arrived, platter after platter and Marla and the Shiva Squad took charge as we sat.
Peaceful and new to the experience I remained in the house until last night when I skipped out to join Andy at your grave in the cemetery that I once teased my mom she could find me. She was horrified.
Andy has created a perfect site for you, planting tomato plants, flowers, some dill. Leaving heart-shaped rocks, figures designed by your grandchildren… everyone else up there must be jealous.
We would have stayed longer but it was hard to ignore the bugs and so we headed back to your homestead and Andy made coffee and we sat on the porch, listened to the brook and felt you with us.