Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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My Father and the Little White Box

A few months ago, I received a message from my step-sister letting me know that she had some of my father’s things and offered to ship them to me. This was very kind given that we only met once. My father and I had a strained relationship at best. I am not going to get into the details. It is no longer a factor in my life, and even though I had issues with my father, I do not have Daddy issues. To be fair to someone who cannot defend themselves, those problems belong in the past. I forgave my father a long time ago. I am writing about it today because it is the fourth anniversary of my father’s funeral.

I was curious to see what would be in the box and two padded envelopes that were coming. Maybe a piece of information that would help me understand my father a little, maybe an unseen photo of my mother (likely not) or even my mother’s parents. The box and packages came separately, and when I opened them, it was a lot of family photos from my father’s side of the family. I didn’t really know many of the people. There were a couple of photos of me, and many more of my sisters (the curse of being the youngest child). They also contained his medical diplomas, a cub scout hat from when he was a child, two rings (his medical school ring and a class ring) and finally a digital watch and a couple of other men’s “fashion” watches.

The items themselves didn’t make me feel much of anything. What saddened me the most was that his life came down to a little white box. Imagine living for 83 years, and that is your legacy. I think about my mother, and her life was so much more. Recently, I had a charity come and pick up most of her clothes, some kitchenware, books, cds, toys and a few knick knacks. It was just under 20 boxes and bags. I’ve thrown out 8 garbage bags of things and gave another couple of bags to a senior’s home. Her house is still crowded with her life, her things. My mother had a bigger life. She had interests. She was an artist – a pottery and needlepoint buff. She had so many photos and other treasures. It is all proof to me that she was once vibrantly alive.

My father didn’t have a big life. He was all about his medical practice. He enjoyed gardening and reading, but he was also very introverted. My mother had a presence about her. I remember watching her at her sickest moments, noticing that she still had a spark – a will to live. When I saw my father in February of 2015 for the first time in almost 20 years, it would also be the last time that I saw him. He was gravely ill, but even worse, he didn’t have that energy, that will, that my mother did. My mother’s death left me aching for her presence, but comforted in the fact that I can see that her life had meaning, because of what she created and because of the impact that she had on people. My father’s death left me sad for a person that didn’t have an anchor. When I grieve for my mother, I grieve for her loss and for what I lost. When grieved for my father, it was for the things that I never had. Now what I have is that little white box.

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One Year…

“What is it like?” I was asked by a woman who shall remain nameless. “What is what like?”, although I knew the answer before she told me….”What does it feel like when you lose your mother? I’m so close to mine that I can’t even imagine…” She looked at me pleadingly, and I asked her if she really wanted to know and she nodded. “It’s a ache in your heart that just never goes away. It is a nervous buzzing in your stomach that gives you a feeling of always being on edge. It is a lump in your throat that you cannot swallow away. You cry in unexpected places at unexpected times because you saw a mother with her child and it made you miss yours. There is the feeling that you are seeking something that you can no longer find. The best days are bittersweet because you can’t share your happiness with the person that would take the most joy from it. The difficult days are even harder because your mother is no longer there to comfort you. That is the best way I can describe it.” She looked at me with such shock and horror that I almost regretted telling her.

Grief has become my comfort and my foe. It is always there, a feeling like a dam that can burst at any time. It is a comfort because it has been a constant, and it is my foe because of how easy it could be to just be about it. I feel myself moving on, but more because that’s what I know that my mother would want, and even in death, I cannot disappoint her. Days go by quickly, and in some ways in slow motion. People expect after a period of time that your mourning has ended once you get through all of the firsts, but I want to tell them that it is just the beginning. I’ve had half of my life with my mother, and I will likely have to live without her for almost as long. A year, a day, really, it’s the same. When I have a bad day, I remember a moment when I was beside myself, wondering what I would do without her, and how I could cope with my sister’s illness. When I said to her, “Mummy, what am I going to do?” She said, simply, and knowing what I meant, “You’ll live your life.”

When I think about my mother, I think of the silly little things that I miss. They make me smile when it is one of those days. In no particular order, they are:

  1. She would say, “I’m not happy.” and I’d ask her “So which one are you?” and she’d say, “Dopey.” Get it? Like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
  2. When I was in her little storage room/office, I’d drop something, and she would say, “Is that you Dayo (her nickname for me)?” At first it would be lovingly said, then as I’d drop something else or hit my head as I always did, she would say, “JILL – what the eff are you doing in there?” Patience was not her strong suit, but it was funny.
  3. When she had one of her road rage moments in the car, giving someone the finger and swearing at them, and then looking at me with a big smile on her face as I barked like a dog at her.
  4. Laughing so hard at something together, that we were in tears, hyperventilating. This happened often and never stopped, no matter how sick she got.
  5. Sitting on the subway with her, as she stared at some weirdo or someone with a mohawk or who looked like they were carrying a knife, and me telling her to stop staring, that she was going to get stabbed, and she would continue to stare anyway while I rolled my eyes at her.
  6. Going to anything and being in the audience with her. My mother didn’t applaud like everyone else, she cheered and whooped loudly and proudly as my heart sank with embarassment at her.
  7. My sister is the treat queen and often hid candy at my mother’s, because my mother never found a cookie, cake, candy or pie that she didn’t like. She somehow always found the stash. One day, she told me to get her the jujubes that my sister had hidden, but when I went to get them for her, there were only green, yellow and black ones left. My mother had eaten all of the red and orange ones. She told me to go put the bag away, she didn’t like those colours and to get her something else. BRAT.
  8. The squeak of horror when she opened a menu on the one day a year, her birthday, that she would let us take her for dinner. Well, she didn’t allow us to take her, I had to tell her that it wasn’t gracious to rob us of the joy of taking her out. She was miserable, and acted like she had never seen the prices on the menu before, as she tsk-ed at each item. I also had to tell her if she ordered water and bread sticks, that we would take her out until she ate like a lady.
  9. The frantic phone call that I received when there was rain or snow. I also had to reassure her that I had an umbrella and/or a winter coat that I would zip up – every single time.
  10. Her shaking her head at me, with a big smile on her face, when I would do or say something silly.
  11. Her big smile when she would give me the finger.
  12. Her big smile when I walked in a room.
  13. Her big smile….

My mother had an amazing smile – it lit up her whole face. It was like she put everything she had into it. My mother was tiny, but her presence was so large. She filled a room even though, she took up so little space. Not a day goes by that I don’t get a little teary remembering something that she did or said. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember her strength and that is what gets me through missing her. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my lucky stars that I had the world’s best mother. I think of a quote that I read at my mother’s funeral – “How lucky I am to having something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” How lucky indeed.


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2018: The Beautiful Awful

People posted their top nine moments of 2018 all over Instagram. My moments of the year are likely different than a lot of others. They are what I think of as the beautiful awful. When my mother died 321 days ago, on March 3 (yes I know how many days it has been), my life changed forever. I knew that 2018 would be the year that I would lose her and I knew that I would feel profound sadness, but I also did not realize that in that grief, there would also be moments of beauty.

My mother was an exceptional person, not just OK, not just a wonderful mother, but exceptional. She suffered with a smile on her face and even though she was in pain, in her final days she was surrounded by so much love and so much genuine affection, she had the death that she deserved. In the weeks leading up to what we knew was imminent, I saw quiet moments with her sister just holding her hand. I had my cousin, her son, come by to see her, putting a smile on her face. I remember her singing Happy Birthday to him – those are the last words that I remember her saying. I remember calling him one day, in tears, but getting his long time girlfriend instead, and she told me that what I was feeling was normal; she had lost her mother a few years before and reassured me that it was OK to feel this wave of grief. I remember my cousins in Florida asking me if we needed them there and when I said yes, they packed up everything and came and they acted like it was no big deal. I remember their daughter coming over and keeping my mother’s spirits up, knowing how bad it was. I remember my other cousins coming, surrounding my mother with love. I remember them comforting me and my sisters. There were always at least a dozen people around all day, everyday. I remember them forcing me to go out, go for a walk to get some air. I remember my friends offering to come, even though my mother was so terribly sick.

I remember the palliative doctor and nurse being so kind, and telling us how to ease her into death, not just by pain relief, but by just continuing to talk to her, even if she wasn’t conscious. The nurse hugged us and told us that she could feel the love in the room. I remember her care givers treating her so gently, and with so much love. The last night of her life, I remember we were all with her. One, by one, everyone got ready for bed. I was going to be up for a long time, and I was sleeping in bed with her at night to give her injections. When it was just me, and her caregiver (my sister literally left the room), I was holding her hand and she slipped away so quietly and so peacefully that there was even something beautiful in that moment.

There was beauty at her funeral. When she was buried, it was warm and sunny for a winter day. At the exact moment, when her casket was being lowered, it got warmer, and just a little brighter. I thought I imagined it, but when I looked at my sister and said, “Did you feel that, it just got warmer?”, she was looking at me, saying the same thing. We had so many people looking out for us the week of her shiva (the Jewish week of mourning and visitations) and in the weeks after, that it took awhile for reality to set in. I remember the first night of her shiva, my friend, who is my cousin, wanted to do something, anything, and he and his wonderful partner made all of the beds (including one on the floor and one on a chaise lounge). When I started to cry, they understood it was because it had been almost a year and a half since I had seen my mother’s bed made – she had been in it for so long. Even throughout the year, long after her death, her friends, and our family, continue to look out for us, and to remind us how much she is still loved, even if she is no longer here.

I will also remember how people have rallied around my sister while she continues to go through chemo. Our friends and family always call to check up on us. Our cousin always picks us up after her appointment and her doctor and nurses so clearly want the best for her that it warms my heart to go to her appointments. When I broke my ankle, our cousins and her friend were there to take my place at chemo. My sister continues to do as our mother did and not let this be all about her disease. She makes the most of her good days and takes it easier on the rougher ones, but she so rarely complains.

When I broke my ankle and needed surgery in the late summer, it was just one more thing in a year crowded with challenges. Even though the situation sucked, there were still moments that I will never forget. My friend staying in the ER with me, even though I tried to send her home numerous times. She was even there when they re-set my bone. There was my guardian angel of the ankles, showing up the day of my surgery and name dropping so that the doctors knew that I was not just an ordinary patient. He not only kept my sister company, but checked on me daily, reminding me that it is a marathon, not a sprint to get better. There was my dear friend who waited with my sister too and got me home. He took me out in my wheelchair a few times (and laughed at me each time). I had more than 50 visitors in the 6 weeks that I was laid up, from my food-delivering cousins to my close friends who baby sat me reminded me of their own injuries and those of their family when I was getting impatient keeping me entertained to my sweet (but feisty) British friend who has also been my life mentors and to everyone in between. I had one pity moment, but remembering my mother’s strength got me through that.

The last year left me a little bit more fragile than I have been before. Author Mary Gordon once wrote, “A fatherless girl thinks all things are possible and nothing is safe”. In my case, I would say, it’s a motherless girl. I still believe that all things are possible, but I no longer have the safety net of my biggest fan, harshest critic, comic relief and advice giver. This New Year, I decided to stop looking back at my old resolutions and try to figure out what my new ones would be. I’m going to be a little kinder to myself this year and just do as my wise mother suggested and live my life. Luckily, I have the beauty of memories of my little Mummy and her words of wisdom still with me whenever I need them.


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An Unveiling

Today was my mother’s unveiling ceremony.  If you have never been to one, it literally is a ceremony where a headstone is unveiled and it is held within one year of the person’s death if they are Jewish.  Planning it, from selecting the headstone, to writing the words that will live on long after I am gone, and planning all of the other details was, as I saw it, one of the last things that I could to honour a woman that I so admired.  My sister, Michele and I decided last night, that I would say a few words.  It was harder doing this than it was giving the eulogy at my mother’s funeral.  The shock and numbness that I felt that day could no longer protect me from what I was feeling.  There is a sense, on a day like this, of a wound that had never closed, reopening.  Seeing my mother’s headstone reminded me that this loss is real, and now, it had a tangible aspect that it never had before.

I did not prepare or write down anything for today’s service.  I just had a very vague idea of what I wanted to say.  Some of my family, who could not be at the service, asked if I could blog about it; others who were there did not hear everything, asked for the same.  Here is the gist of what I said:

“I first want to thank you all for coming out on such a cold day.  Some of you, like my cousin, had to travel from out of town.  My aunt is in from Ottawa, but I know that she had always planned on being here, for her sister.  When coming up with the epitaph for my mother’s headstone, it was difficult to summarize everything that I was feeling in 5 words or less.  Some of you many think, when you see it, that I was seeing my mother through rose-coloured glasses.  That the words came from a child’s love for her mother.  I actually took the words from Rabbi Chaim (Harold) Zelikovitz.

After my mother died, I showed my aunt my grandfather’s siddur (prayer book).  It has to be about 100 years old.  Harold had written a passage in it when my Zaydie died.  She suggested that I should ask him to send me something about my mother, and here are his words:

Judith Zelikovitz Schneiderman returned her heroic, courageous and dearly beloved soul to her maker on 17 Adar 5778 (March 3, 2018).  May she find comfort forever in the everlasting world.  Rest peacefully.  Never to be forgotten.  

That is where the words for the epitaph – Heroic, Courageous and Dearly Beloved – come from.  They seemed to perfectly describe my amazing mother who was exactly the person that I remember her to be.

We know that the loss of our mother does not just belong to me and my sisters.  It belongs to all of you as well.  You all miss her too.  We wanted to make sure that we reflected that loss on her headstone.  

I know how cold it is out, but I wanted to thank just a few more people.  Emily, Narda, Grace, Julia and Angel – you all put the care in caregiver.  You treated my mother like a cherished family member, not just a patient.  You gave my sisters and me peace of mind and cared for our mother 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We are forever grateful to you.  My mother cared about you all too.  She would be deeply touched and so appreciative of the turn out today, and we are too.”

I had the chance to speak with some of my mother’s very close friends and her dear cousins today.  It was so touching hearing what they thought of her.  One of her friends told me that my mother would have been so proud today – that everything was done perfectly.  That meant a lot to me, but no matter how perfect it was, it will never seem like enough.  Today reminded me of how I felt the week that my mother died.  I wondered, then, how something could be awful and beautiful at the same time.  That week, my family, including my cherished mother, were surrounded by people and with so much love, even as we were losing her.  Today, we were once again, surrounded with love, but this time, we all had to deal with the pain of her absence.

When I asked the Rabbi, who officiated at the unveiling, months ago where my mother would be once she died, he said something incredibly profound.  He said, “The best way to explain it is that your mother will be everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.”  That still makes perfect sense to me.

 

 


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Cast-Away: Surgery

Castaway.jpg

Hello Toes – I’ll be seeing a lot of you….

Having surgery if you have never been through it, can be a scary thing.  My only other surgery was when I was a year and a half and I do not have any memory of it.  I had almost a two day wait for ankle surgery.  The challenging part was I never knew when the surgery would happen.  When I had my oopsie moment, and was told that I would need to go under the knife, I was really hoping it would be immediate.  No such luck.  I went home, high on life (actually ketamine, which quickly wore off).  I was told to fast from midnight onward and they would be in touch.  I received a call at 8:30am telling me that the surgery would not be during the day, so I could eat up until 10:30am and to fast again until I got the call.  At 5:30pm, I received another call saying that the surgery would not be that night, that I was to fast again from midnight onward.  They told me that if I did not get in for surgery the next day, not to worry, I would be on the priority list for the day after that.  Lucky me!

When I finally heard from the surgeon later that night telling me that they had me booked for 8:30 the next morning, I was relieved.  As much as I feared having an operation, the alternative was to be in the non-healing limbo that I was currently stuck in.  It felt like progress at that moment.  Once again, I began to fast – it’s funny how I immediately got thirsty the second that I knew that I could no longer have any water!

I had to be at the hospital two hours prior to surgery, so my dutiful sister made the sacrifice and left the house with me at 6:00am.  Admitting is weird – everyone there will look better going into the hospital than they will leaving.  It was actually just me and other woman, who was clearly terrified.  I felt bad for her because in my own head I was on the road to recovery and nerves simply had not hit me yet.  Once I got through admitting, I was wheeled (in a chair) upstairs to the surgical waiting room and was taken immediately to Pre-Op.  I’m guessing that since I was a fall risk, the wanted me safely tucked away in a nice little stretcher.  You have to change into a gown, are given a robe, little foot covers and a surgical hat which makes you look quite silly.  If you have any modesty, which I did, at least at that point, you can also ask for disposable undies.

After some time went by, the anesthesiologist came to speak with me to ask me my weight (really, who do they think they are – that’s private), height and if I had any allergies. He mentioned that I would have a breathing tube inserted and he warned me that it may chip my teeth.  Horrified, I told him that better not happen and he assured me it was rare.  At this point, I got a little nervous and told him, and he just said not to worry, everything would be fine.  After another 20 minutes, the orthopedic surgeon came to speak with me.  If truth be told, he picked exactly the right profession – he was a real bone head.  Seriously, he gave me 30 seconds of his time and made it clear that he had zero interest in answering any questions.  I only had enough time to ask him how long the surgery would be (2 hours which seemed like a long time to me) and what the next steps would be (no pun intended).  He quickly told me that I would be in a plaster cast for two weeks and that I should stay as quiet as possible for that time.  I was basically only allowed to go to the bathroom.  I thought two weeks was a small price to pay for mobility.  He wasn’t Mr. Personality or Mr. Bed Side Manner and I reminded myself of one thing that my mother always said….as long as they can do their job, you do not need to be their best friend.

This was the point where I started getting really terrified because I knew that I was going to be wheeled into the Operating Room shortly.  My legs were literally shaking.  I tried to put on a brave face for my sister, but I could see that she was nervous for me.  They started wheeling me away, and wouldn’t even let me say good-bye to my sister.  The hall way was incredibly long.  As they wheeled me into the OR, I remember thinking how narrow the door was.  The room itself was so much smaller than what you see on TV.  It seemed not much bigger than a small-ish office.  It was painted a pink-ish purple that was kind of pretty.  I was struck by the number of people in the room already, and the surgeon hadn’t even made his appearance.  They made me slide off the stretcher and onto the OR table.  They told me to wrap remove the top of my gown and to tuck it under my arms like a tube top.  They hooked me up to a blood pressure/ECG (electrocardiography) unit and monitored my oxygen.  They barely spoke to me, talking about me, but not to me.  I lay there, freezing cold (it was like an icebox in there) with some vague promise of a blanket.

The anesthesiologist then told me that he was going to start an IV, and that he would place a mask over my face and that I should breathe into it.  Within 60 seconds, I would be asleep.  I completely thought he was full of it.  A short period of time went by and I was thinking, what if I don’t fall asleep?  I then got really light headed and the last thing that I remember saying was “I don’t feel very well….”  I woke up knowing that time had past, but with no memory of the surgery.  It was a dark sleep, no dreams.  I was overcome with horrible nausea, so they administered something to help….and it didn’t. They tried something else and it didn’t work either.  They tried something else, and still, I was so nauseated and dizzy, it was unbearable.  A little while later they let my sister in and she told me that two of my closest friends were there, but I was still so sick, I couldn’t think.  The nurse asked her to leave.  I was on anti-nauseant #7 when she told me that she only had half a dose left to give me.  She said to try to sleep it off, and I was so groggy that is exactly what I did.  I was supposed to be out of the hospital by 12:30 but at 2:30, I finally woke up.  I felt a little better.  After another half hour, I was allowed to move into a chair, and then I was finally allowed to see my sister.

We sat there for awhile and I was beyond thirsty and was allowed a small drink.  You are not allowed to leave until you can drink and eat something small.  Crackers it was!   After another hour and a half, I was finally allowed to leave.  My friend kindly drove us home and helped me get settled into bed (after mocking my crutch abilities).  I stared down at my fluffy white cast and thought, I just have to get through two weeks of this….

Which will lead into Castaway – The Recovery – Stage 1 – tune in next week to find out if I went stir crazy – how I passed the time, and what home medical aids everyone with mobility issues needs!

 


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Israel Then and Now

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EL AL Airlines postcard circa 1961.

After my mother died, I found a bin where she had some of her cards and letters saved.  I came across a stack of letters and postcards from my grandparents first and only trip to Israel in 1961.  My grandmother wrote my mother almost daily while she was away; her musings and love for travel put a smile on my face.  There was a wonder about travel in the 1960s.  People were still amazed that you could fly overseas and they dressed up in their finest clothing, not in their yoga pants like I do.  Sometimes, I wish that we had the same innocence, but my latest trip to Israel did remind me of how incredible the country is.  It was the right place at the right time in my life with the right people.  I thought it would be fun to look back at how much the country has changed using the postcards from my grandparents, putting them side by side with current pictures of the places that we visited.

 

It is not exactly Tel Aviv, it’s Ashkelon on the coast of the Mediterranean on the left, with a photo of the beach in Tel Aviv on the right.  The biggest differences?  The swimsuit fashion and now Israel is so dog crazy that they have part of the beach reserved so that the pups can bond, play and go for a run with their owners.  Here was a passage from my grandmother’s note: “We arrived here tonight (Ashkelon) and this is the loveliest place.  Our rooms are like bungalows facing the Mediterranean.  We are staying here overnight, then leaving for Beersheba and Jerusalem.”

Tel Aviv has changed so much in the 57 years since my grandparents visited.  On the left you see what part of the city used to look like.  On the right, the modern skyline of the White City.  My grandparents loved Tel Aviv with my grandmother telling my mother that “I enjoyed every minute of this wonderful city.”  She also wrote: “If my cards sound mixed up, Daddy was rushing me, so forgive the mistakes.  Daddy is so excited.”   Yes, my grandparents called each other Mummy and Daddy and no, it was not creepy in the least.  It was adorable.  They had quite a love story.  If you are all good, maybe one day, I will tell you about it.  It really is swoon-worthy.

Haifa Hotel

We did not go to Haifa this time, and I only got to spend one day there when I was in Israel in 2006.  It is a city on a hill with the beautiful  Bahá’í Gardens being the centerpiece. She wrote: “Arrived here yesterday, I doubt whether any place could be more beautiful than Haifa.”  The hotel featured on the postcard was Hotel Ben Jehuda – I do not believe it is still open, but there are plenty of places to stay.  I cannot wait to go back and spend a little more time there.

My trip ended in Jerusalem and even though it was the second time that I was there, it is still awe-inspiring to see the first view of the city as you wind around the Judean Mountains.  My grandmother wrote: “We just arrived in Jerusalem and never will I forget this drive!  When we came into the city, Daddy was asked to say the prayer and everyone was crying.”  Remember, that when my grandparents visited, the country was only 13 years old, and the Holocaust was not even a distant memory.  My grandparents and their contemporaries, likely never thought that there would be a Jewish State or that they would have the opportunity to pray at the Western Wall – a single spot that has not changed in thousands of years.  It meant everything to them, and that is just one of the reasons why I find visiting Jerusalem such an incredible experience.  It is a blend of ancient and modern; quiet contemplative moments and hustle and bustle; religious and secular.  It’s everything.  By the way, the President Hotel has long been abandoned, but had a very interesting history – check out this article to learn more https://guyshachar.com/en/2016/abandoned-president-hotel-jerusalem/

There were other postcards, from other places, like Eilat, where my grandmother was so excited to sail on a glass bottom boat.  One of the nicest surprises for them was the last night of their trip, at a farewell banquet, “…and for dessert, oranges from the Zelikovitz Orchard.  Was Daddy proud!”  My grandfather and two of his brothers, were in the fruit business for a long time, and until a few years ago, our family had the orange orchard.  The land was donated back to the State of Israel but for a long time, it produced oranges that were sold around the world.

The best part of Israel?  It is a country that is continuously changing.  The Tel Aviv skyline has changed, even in the 12 years since I was last there.  The Old City in Jerusalem has changed as archaeologists continue to excavate and discover groundbreaking knowledge that is corroborated by both the Old and New Testaments.  It is at the forefront of new technology and advances in medicine that can change lives.  It is a country that was a desert and where trees and flowers now grow.  It is a place where I can go, even though it is thousands of kilometres away, and feel the presence of my family.

 


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All Roads (Flights) Lead Here

I leave for a media trip to Israel and I was asked to write a tweet about what I was looking forward to the most.  In so few characters and with a more general audience, it’s hard to put what I’m feeling into words.  I kept it simple and said the White City in Tel Aviv and the Old City in Jerusalem. Of course, experiencing the blend of modern and ancient that Israel possesses is incredible. I am happy to be doing everything from a tour of the Soda Stream factory to being moved by once again visiting Yad Vashem to seeing the beautiful Baha’i Gardens in Haifa.  There is one thing that I am looking forward to more than that though.  It’s not a place – it’s a feeling.

When I visited Israel for the first time in 2006, I was overwhelmed by many things.  What stood out to me the most though, was not the history of the country itself, although that was impressive, it was the knowledge that I stepped off of a plane and into a place that held so many memories for the people who were the most important to me.  My grandparents, Nathan and Sara Zelikovitz, visited in the late 1960’s and fell in love with this new nation.  My parents visited the country in the 1980’s and could not stop raving about it.  It was, and is, still a very important part of our family history.

When my mother passed away 4 months ago, I made a promise to myself to find ways to honour her memory whenever and wherever I could.  I never thought that I would be travelling so soon after her death, but when my friend Shai asked me about coming, one thought really struck me. I could say Mourner’s Kaddish (a prayer that you say for 11 months after the death of a parent or for 30 days after the passing of a child, spouse or sibling) for my mother at The Western Wall – the holiest site where I can pray as a Jew.  I am not religious in the least, but my mother was spiritual, and this is something that I can do for her and it will be especially meaningful in the land that she loved so much.  Once I finish, I will put a paper in the wall with what is believed to be, a written prayer to G-d.  Spoiler alert – it will be prayers of good health for my family, particularly, my oldest sister Michele who is also battling breast cancer.

On my first trip to Israel, I wanted a picture at the Wall simply because my grandparents and parents had photos from there and it was a chance for me to recreate a moment in time, even if my relatives could not be with me.  This time, my wish is that somehow, my mother will feel that I am doing this for her and that my grandparents will know too.

Not too long ago, when I was cleaning out my mother’s papers, I came across some letters that my grandmother wrote about her own trip to the country.  She wrote about how much she and my grandfather loved it and were so excited to be there.  She said that at dinner one night, they were served oranges from a grove that my grandfather owned, and he was bursting with pride.  I can picture the look on my quiet, unassuming Zaydie’s face.  To know that I’m going to be back in this country, a place that was so important to my family and to be able to honour my wonderful mother is what I am most looking forward to.