Catching UP: Conversations with Eileen Day #54/ SOLT

Morning Friend,

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.

Miss you,


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Categories: Conversations with Eileen, SOLT 2012 | Tags: , | 15 Comments

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15 thoughts on “Catching UP: Conversations with Eileen Day #54/ SOLT

  1. I am sorry for your loss. Praying for comfort for you. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. Nancy C.

    I had my first shiva experience when my stepmother’s father passed away earlier this year. The outpouring of support for my stepmother was amazing. Our living room was filled with people that did not know Max but have known Barb, my stepmother, for years. I could tell that Barb and her mother and brother were buoyed by the support. It left me with a deeper appreciation of Judaism. May Edythe’s memory be a blessing.

  3. This is a powerful testimony of your love your mother and how your spiritual foundation held you tight during the most difficult of times. I am sure your mother is proud of the way you held it all together for her. I’ll continue to hold your family in my thoughts and prayers during the weeks of slowly adjusting to lives that are filled with memories.

  4. Dear friend….I keep returning to that paragraph, that scene where you “shared the life space of the room” and made the most of your time. You were preparing yourself for this with every entry you wrote, but, in the end, there can never be adequate preparation. And yet, there is a serenity in your writing, Bonnie – such joy you have had through your Mother’s love and her place in your rich and purposeful life. My thoughts are with you and your family, still….

  5. This is a wonderful description of a tough time – you shared the peace and comfort you felt through this, although you “slowed down as I passed the hospital at exit 122, out of habit.” We come and go between the past and the present at these times. I will be thkinking of you.

  6. It’s wonderful, Bonnie, that you had that last sweet time with your mother, just being, & that you read to her. The circles of life are something I value, and remember well the last visit I had with my own mother. I appreciate your swirling thoughts of this time, the sharing with us makes me feel honored, but also it honors your mother, that you have these little parts of her final time you want to keep & tell about. Thank you for sharing. Blessings to you and your family.

  7. Thinking of you…thank you for sharing this slice with us. I am glad you had the time to “share the life space of the room”…I remember being in a similar moment with my grammie when she was in hospice care. It was hard because I wanted to talk, she couldn’t…she was just too tired.

  8. Tender and touching these end of life passages you have shared with Eileen and now your Mom. You show a path we all walk, have walked or will walk. There is comfort for me in your sharing. Though each journey is unique we are not alone. God bless you.

  9. Thank you for sharing. God bless and comfort you in these comeing days.

  10. Thank you for sharing. It brought back memories of sharing life space with my mom too on her last morning. And I smiled at the planting of tomatoes and dill…my mom and dad’s headstone is surrounded by tomato plants and thistles…her favorites!

  11. So sorry about your loss. Sounds like you have a really special last day to remember. May you be comforted by the love of family and friends!

  12. This piece is absolutely beautiful. I especially love the line, “just shared the life space of her room and it felt like our time.” Sharing a loved one’s last moments is such an honor. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. May you be blessed with the love and support of your friends and family.

  13. So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing. My mother is 93 and I know this time is not far away for my brother and sister and I. It was very helpful for me to read and feel the peace of this passing and the support of the community around you. I know this is never easy but your writing tells of your strength and the strength of your family to support you. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Such a beautifully written piece. I have only a vague concept of Jewish practice but the ritual of mourning and beautiful depth of grief it allows you to embrace came through. And actually made me wish I could have had that with my dad. God’s peace in the days and weeks to come.

  15. Bev

    So sorry for your loss. How special that you andf your family were with her at the end.

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