A Facebook message asking for your phone number is probably rarely a good thing. When it comes from the third child of one of your two Jewish moms, you just know the news is going to be particularly bad – and, indeed, it was.     

She (S) was gone.  

My immediate reaction was physical, a crushing regret. S had sent me a message on some social media platform within the last couple of hectic weeks. The words from her had gone across my screen once, quickly, and I hadn’t yet found a moment to locate them and respond.  

Now, it was too late.  

S had lived a life that had always impressed me as being exotic. She’d been married three times, (although no one spoke of that brief middle coupling to a musician), and often hosted holiday dinners for an extended family of half siblings, step children, former spouses and assorted friends. The table groaned under the weight of special dishes representing an array of traditions and cultures. I found it all fascinating.

S’s Jewish, Westchester upbringing, during the middle of the last century, had prepared her for little beyond being a wife, a position she both enjoyed and shunned.  She appreciated the constancy of a breadwinning husband, but she struggled to contain her “smoke-a-joint-in-the-bathtub” bohemianism, which often led to conflicts. I, however, found her, and her colorful relationships, to be intensely interesting..  

When someone you love dies, what do you miss more – being able to spend time loving someone special to you or feeling the warmth of the love they bestowed upon you?   

I’ve been thinking about that.  

I went to a yoga class about 90 minutes after I learned of S’s death. As has happened to me once before in a hot, dark studio, I had a mini breakdown.  Lying on my back and settling onto my mat was surprisingly emotionally stimulating. Tears ran down the sides of my cheeks and dripped onto my towel.  

My mind began playing a reel of memories I had shared with S during the many years our lives overlapped.  The road trip to Key West, Thanksgiving dinner transported from her home to a picnic table at the beach in Boca, the sound of her laughter…on this very day when I was heading to yet another a rally for reproductive rights, I recalled her calm presence when she accompanied my mother and me to my abortion appointment as a teenager.    

My mother believed S was there to support her, but I knew better. She was there for me. 

At the end of the yoga class, I completely lost it. Burying my face in a towel, I released my sadness, soundlessly, into my hands as my shoulders shook.

When the house where I lived with my brother and then boyfriend (my mother had moved out leaving us on our own at 18 and 20), burned down, S took us all in until we could find a new place(s) to live.  She and her third husband embraced and cared for us as my own mother completely divorced herself from our state of homelessness.

Convinced that I was special, S always championed me. She delighted in my accomplishments, adventures and loved more of my Facebook photos than any other person in my digital world. Her enthusiasm and awe for stories of my travels inspired me – to both go more places and also to chronicle those destinations with even words and images.   

S and I hadn’t spoken on the phone in a few years. Between her diminished ability to hear and my sometimes sketchy cell service, our last conversation had been frustrating. Instead, we exchanged quick comments and messages digitally, always with fondness.  

My last direct message to her was a belated birthday greeting, sent to her in mid-July from Greece. I apologized for being late with my wishes, but told her that she was “always loved.”   

The last words of S’s I have are from two days before her full and enthusiastic heart failed her for the final time. In response to a post about my son’s most recent soccer injury, she commented with “Thinking about you and sending healing thoughts and prayers. Love You.”

I hope she held my last words as tightly as I intend to hold hers.

2 thoughts on “Motherless

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