To Honor A Memory

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If my mom were here to celebrate her birthday, she would be eighty-six years old today.  It seems a bit surreal to think that she has been gone for eight years.  In our eulogies, both my sister and I acknowledged that she was a complicated woman, and arguably a complicated mom.  That was said and is written,  within a far broader context of how deeply she loved us and how much we loved her.   Not a day goes by…

I spoke to my parents everyday.  And when work kept me from my 9AM call, my assistant would call her to tell her I would call later.   It was a simple thing to do;  it made her feel good.  Honestly,  I remember sometimes it felt like a requirement instead of a joy.  She knew I spoke with my dad everyday until he no longer could (often acknowledged with the half-serious comment “you always loved your father better”) and I knew that if I ever curtailed those calls she would be deeply hurt.  Ironically, I still look at the clock at 9AM and feel the incompleteness that comes with a conversation that no longer occurs.

Why do I write something about mom on her birthday?  Because I want her memory to remain as alive to my children as it is to me.  Because I want those who know me to know that she was a remarkable, vibrant, artistic, beautiful woman.  Because some passages take a very long time to find one’s way through, and it’s possible that some  never really end.  Because my beloved niece still wears her grandmother’s gold whistle around her neck.  And because when my sister laughs so hard she ‘strips her gears’ (as my dad used to say), it evokes a delight in my heart that reaches far back to another place and time.  Dad and Deb laughing so hard they’d eventually start to hiccup and mom’s laugh bringing her to tears as she would hug her stomach with a delicious pain.   I was good for a laugh.  Don’t get me wrong – I was also good at causing my share of frustration too.

I re-printed her obituary from the New York Times last year and I will do so again this year.  Perhaps wherever she is, she will know how much she is missed,  how much she is loved and how today each falling leaf seems to echo her name.

“….Dee was the loving mother of daughters Deborah…and Mimi… .  She was the proud grandmother of Matthew…, Aaron…, Tess…, Seth…, Spencer… and Paul…, and generous mother-in-law of Roger … and Andy… .  She was the devoted wife and indispensable partner of the late Jack W. Jerome.  Dee was born and spent her early childhood in Vienna, making her one of that shrinking cohort who experienced and survived the monstrous storm of Nazi violence.  Her father and mother, Michael and Miriam Intrator, took the family out of Austria shortly after the Anschluss, making their way first to Belgium and then through occupied France.  The family made its way to Portugal, where on August 16, 1941, they found passage among the 765 other refugees on the Spanish freighter Navemar – one of the last voyages of escapees from Europe.  Dee’s children and grandchildren bear in their hearts eternal, existential gratitude for her family’s valor and persistence.  Her intelligence, humor and immense energy were a gift to us all.  Our family is particularly gladdened that Dee lived long enough to know of the safe return earlier this month of her eldest grandson Matthew, from Iraq, where for the past year he has served in harm’s way the country that gave his grandmother safe haven.”

My dad died shortly before Matt left for Iraq.  Mom waited for all of her grandchildren to be home and safe.  I refer to that time as the year I didn’t breathe, for all I knew was that I drew breath when I knew Matt was breathing – and we weren’t in touch enough for me to know with certainty that he was ok.  There are some things I’m just not prepared to write about – my heart censors my fingers.  As it should be.  The point is not to return to that time, but to remember that today’s mom’s birthday.  And she would have been feted and celebrated.  As it should be.  So for mom – your birthday is etched in my heart.  I miss you.

 

71 thoughts on “To Honor A Memory

  1. Just beautiful. What a legacy and of course you should reprint it for us to read; she sounds like quite a woman, someone I would have loved to have known. Thank you for sharing her with us.
    MJ

    • Thank you MJ (my initials too btw and what I was called by some, until I got married). It’s a hard post to write – but it feels important to me. She was quite a woman..

  2. Happy Birthday, Mrs. Jerome. And, Mimi, I believe she knows all that was spoken and all that is left unsaid Above all she knew love. And today that’s what I send to you accompanied by warm hugs and a knowing heart. To the moon and back.

  3. very touching…a true tribute to love never dies…it transforms and honors. Your mother was very blessed to have you and all her family. Thank you for sharing your mother and your love. I am glad your son is home and safe. Namaste, mary

    • Thank you Mary – I think love has an immortality all its own. We were blessed to have her as we are blessed with a remarkable family. And I am thankful every day for my sons’ safety – all three of them.

  4. I weep tears of loss and at the same time, know they are as much from the love I feel on this page. Happy Birthday Dee, your legacy is one of true human kindness, love, and compassion in the form of daughters that pay that love and kindness forward every single day. Love you Mim…xoxo

  5. A beautiful tribute to your mom. I know you can’t help but think about her on her birthday and recall the love. I still think about my mom every day and it is almost 3 years now. I didn’t call daily but did call often. And so often still, I feel a need to call mom to tell her something or ask her something or just hear her voice. Thanks for a beautiful post.

    • It’s impossible not to think of her – especially today (though I think of her daily). I totally relate to your desire to just pick up the phone, share something or just say ‘hi’…

  6. gosh, I miss her too, now.

    Your empty space inside turned into this wonderful piece outside–I hope it fills that gap somehow. I know when I write about a person I miss–dead OR alive–for those magical moments of muse melding with collective energy consciousness (surely the place where all those gone missing reside) I am connected again. The person missed as vibrantly in touch with me as if seated alongside.

    Your Mom sounds like a wonderful lady. I have lately wondered about mending fences with my own Mom…but need a little more time to heal from recent events.

    (( )) Mimi. You express sentiment so eloquently.

    • She would have loved you – and your creative flair – I know it. I’m not sure whether I feel more connected to the people I miss when I write about them, or whether I feel the cathartic affect that it inspires. The private space for tears (of which there remains an ample reserve) and memories. I would like to ‘feel’ them as you do though.
      Whenever and should you decide to mend fences, I believe you’ll know when you are ready. And until then, there are hugs in abundance sent your way..m

  7. What a life your mother must have had. I am always in awe of the men and women who left everything they knew to immigrate to another land. Thank God she was a survivor! Beautiful tribute.

    • Her story was one that was incredible to say the least; and the demons that remained were equally so. She was a survivor with all that it entails and connotes – strength and sorrow, guilt and a deep gratitude, anger and bewilderment, deep love and tremendous insecurity. A complicated woman, and a woman of valor. Thank you Kate..

    • Hi Liz…funnily enough I am typically associated with my dad (we looked alike, enjoyed doing a lot of the same things, I even sounded like him) – and he had an awesome soul too. So I was lucky enough to know at core that my sister and I couldn’t lose, no matter which way the gene pool flowed…She was an incredible woman, and I miss her daily.

    • I think she would be proud (perhaps prouder if I would tweeze my eyebrows into a better curve, if I wore a different style of clothes.. 😉 but yes, her legacy is a family which though small, remembers her always, invokes her name repeatedly and love completely. Thanks Jill..hugs, m

    • She was very lovely…I remember when a woman I know referenced herself as an ‘orphan’ (her parents had passed away). I couldn’t understand why she would say that – and now I do.

  8. What a lovely post ~ I make a 9am daily call to my Mom as well. I think you’ve touched all of our hearts with this post (truth be told with all of your posts). Someday I will completely understand how 9am feels like you do, but in the meantime, please know I’m sending a special hug to you at 9am. xoxo

  9. I remember your mom as if it were only yesterday that she was here. She was one of my favorite people to tease and have fun with. We didn’t have any baggage, so she took it all in fun. I loved her laugh, and how she loved her family. She was very proud of you, and I’m sure you bring a glint to her eye even now. Well done Mimi.

  10. So beautiful and so moving, Mimi, thank you for sharing. It is especially poignant for me as my mom died three years ago yesterday. It hurts in some way every day, although every day I thrive as the woman she was so proud to call her daughter. I love and miss her. I felt that love in your post.

    • And I feel your pride in your comment Carolann – and the bittersweet feelings that accompany our thoughts. I have no doubt she was enormously proud to have you for her daughter..

  11. I used to think that “existential” was simply a conjured up word. I have recently read Viktor Frankl’s book ‘Man’s search for meaning’ and I realise now that its meaning and therefore the “existential gratitude” that you speak of is a whole different way of looking at life.
    I understand completely what you mean by that phrase and you have certainly achieved that by this remarkably beautiful tribute to your mother, to you, to all your family and to your heritage.

    • Thank you Elizabeth…our approach to life was deeply affected by my mom’s history – its horrors and God-given blessings along the way. And the joys and torments of being a survivor of genocide. She left a deep and powerful legacy of appreciation for life that is hard to explain – I’m so glad you ‘got it’ in this post…hugs

      • I think we all have learned a little from those who went through that war. I did from my grandmother and also my mother. Although nothing like the holocaust. Here is hoping we do not have to have any more ‘history’ like that just so we can appreciate what we have.

  12. Thank you for this Mimi. You are a great example for us all to over look the not-so-nice parts of the mother/daughter relationship and focus on the good. I guess that is what we are supposed to do, right? And thank you for sharing your families story….wow. In our very midst….ox

    • I think all of us have stories that are pretty amazing, don’t you? And yes, we can’t deny the not-so-nice parts -they inform a large part of our personal narratives. But choosing to acknowledge them and focus on the good (of which there is so much), is my preference. For in each story, there is an awful lot of that too..xox

  13. So beautiful — to remember always, and to bring forth that loved one’s name for all to hear…you know how much I agree with this premise when you read my blog (for which I am grateful, by the way). Sending blessings; your Mother must have been so very proud of you.

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