Jill Of Some Trades

And Master Of At Least One


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A Day, A Year, A Decade

My mother...
My wonderful little Mommy.

I’ve watched many people post their feelings about the last decade on social media. For some, it was a delight – the best time of their lives. For others, lives were changed, in a somewhat devastating way. Others saw the best and worst in people. I would say that my life over the last ten years was a combination of the three.

I had some amazing experiences, both through travel and through relationships with people and just life in general. I had lows that were devastating in ways that I likely will never recover from. My faith in people was both rewarded and tested. People often don’t see the good, only the bad, but there were people in my life that came through for me in ways that I’ve never, ever imagined.

Grief has been the over-riding theme of the last 5 years. My father died on June 9, 2015. Grieving the loss of a parent you were estranged from is a different kind of awful. I remember feeling so alone. People thought estrangement meant that I didn’t care. If I had a dime for every time someone said, “Oh, I thought you didn’t like your father”….Estrangement and like are not comparable. I cared about my father, and estrangement was a last resort, not a first. This is the way it should always be, by the way. In a way, it is like losing your parent twice. First, when you have to say good-bye to them for yourself, and then when you have to say good-bye to them, losing forever the hope that things will ever be repaired.

My relationship with my mother wasn’t perfection, but it was close. There was no one that I more deeply admired. When she died on March 3, 2018, one year and nine months ago, I lost my anchor and purpose in life. Being her care-giver was the greatest thing that I will ever do and the greatest honour that I have ever had. Speaking for this woman, who didn’t have the energy to speak for herself, and being her voice was the most important thing that I will ever do. I don’t have any regrets, except that I wish that I could have done more.

She was the person that made me go and visit my father the last time. When he said something to me that was completely horrible, I remember telling her what a waste it was. I’ll never forget what she said to me, “Jill, I know you, you are my baby. What he said to you was awful, but you can also go to sleep at night knowing that you made the right decision. If you didn’t go, you never would have known and you always would have wondered.” All I could do was say, “Mummy, you are right.” And she was.

She was right about so many things. I miss having her as my advocate. As much as I spoke for her, she often spoke for me. She was smart, feisty and funny and nobody’s fool. She spoke her mind, and if you didn’t like it, too bad for you. She was right about that too – she was never afraid to speak up for herself and I’ve inherited that from her. I am, and will always be proud to be Judy Zelikovitz’s daughter. I often have people tell me how to grieve or that I’ve grieved for long enough, that my mother wouldn’t want this for me. I know, from her, that grief lasts a lifetime. I also know my mother would be proud that I have never let sadness prevent me from living. She told me to live my life and I have. I’ve never let the fear and despair over her loss keep me from doing anything that I have to do from work, to socializing, to anything else. I understand what is important in life, but I also know how to honour someone’s memory on my own timeline. More on that in a later post.

I was with my sister when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and as devastating as that was, I’ve tried to be there for her through her treatment, appointments, everything that I did for my mother. She is well cared for, and I don’t have to be on high-alert at all times, like I was with our mother. Michele has her attitude and her determination to live. We each have a part of our mother’s personality. Mine is in the planning and details and general Type A that made up my mother’s DNA. Michele has her grit and her ability to roll with things. She never lets her disease prevent her from living. A lot of people hear the “C” word and don’t know how to approach her. I always say that a person with cancer is just a person. We all have something, don’t we?

I’ve been shocked by people’s kindness and wounded by people’s malice. I remember when I was going through everything with my mother and sister, my dearest friend said this is the time in your life when you get a pass. I’ll also never forget the good. The joyful moments that I wrote about this time last year, what I called the beautiful awful. I’ll never forget people just being there, around my family during the worst time in our lives.

I see things very differently than I did ten years ago. I believe in keeping my word. If I make a promise, I keep it. If I say that I’m going to do something, I will do it. I’ve learned that words matter, but actions speak louder than words. I’ve learned that in life, and in business there are choices that you can make. You can take your profession and your life seriously, or you can treat it like a game of chess. Either path will get you some degree of success, and maybe even happiness, but only one will get you any type of fulfillment. Living life in the way that I was brought up to, by the person that I respected the most has made me realize there is only one choice. Do the right thing, and although in the short term, it may not pay off or work to your advantage, in the long term, if you stay the course, you will be rewarded. It was an important lesson to learn, and probably the most important thing that I learned this decade.

I hope that the next decade brings my loved ones all of the health and happiness that they deserve. I hope that there will be more joy after the sadness of the last few years. I hope that I have have told my friends and family how much their love and support has meant. I hope that I will always be able to live up to the expectations that my mother set for me. I hope that wherever she is, that she is watching, smiling, her big beautiful smile with the good, and giving her finger, as only she could, to the bad.


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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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What’s the Black Ribbon For and Other Ways of Dealing With Loss…

The loss of a parent, regardless of the relationship that you may have had with them is difficult in a way that can’t really be put into words.  When you aren’t close, it opens you up to a different type of grieving.  Maybe it’s the loss of possibility that I’m grieving now or the loss of hope – I can’t really describe to you what it is.  The reality is, that everyone’s experience is unique to them.  I can give you all of the tips and tricks that have worked for me in getting through this last month, but they may not work for you – everyone is different.  The one thing that I know for sure is that in death and mourning, there is no real right or wrong, you have to do what feels right for you.

Since this is a blog about taking Dr. Oz’s advice, I checked his website and found a video featuring Dr. Richard Smith.  He laid out the three stages of grief – these really didn’t apply to me, but I’ll share them with you anyway:

  • Stage one – loss of control, denial and a lack of reality…maybe even anger.  This totally didn’t apply to me.  In some ways, the death of my father has been easier than I thought, in some ways more difficult, but I’ve never, for a minute been angry or in denial over what happened.  Maybe, because it was expected, maybe because no matter how early it was, I did get to say a needed good-bye or maybe because there isn’t a one size fits all on death and mourning, but I never went through any part of this stage.
  • Stage two – persistent sadness and emptiness…this one, I’m not sure of.  It’s a complicated situation.  After the funeral, and when I went back to work, I could easily focus on the job at hand.  As time has moved on, there have been weeks where I felt numb inside.  I could even watch a sad dog video and not cry.  Just numb and in some ways, on auto pilot saying and doing the right things and what is expected of me. I have had a lot of other things that have needed my attention though, and maybe that’s why I feel more myself than I perhaps should.
  • Stage 3 – reinvest with other people.  It’s too soon for this one I think.

Sorry, I wish I could tell everyone that there is an exact process to follow, but there isn’t.  I’m not religious, but one thing that helped me, was taking part in some of the observances that Jewish people following the death of an immediate family member.  The practice of K’riah (literally ‘tearing’) just prior to the funeral, where the mourners rip and a black ribbon and continue to wear it for 30 days has helped me.  It is supposed to be symbolic of loss, and permanent scarring to your life at the loss of one so dear to you.  For me, it was a reminder that whenever I had any doubt, that my father was no longer here.  People would ask me what the little black ribbon was for and I’d explain that my father had passed away.  Each time I said it, it made it more believable to me.  I went to synagogue to say Mourner’s Kaddish (a traditional prayer for the dead) during Shloshim – the 30 days of mourning after the funeral.  I did this 3 times, and again, I’m not religious, but having a process to follow brought me comfort.

The one thing that was most helpful was going to the cemetery by myself a few days after the funeral.  I went because I didn’t have any time at the end of my father’s life to say the things that I needed to say and I wasn’t afforded the opportunity at the funeral.  I spent ten minutes there, but it made everything so much better for me.  I had the whole place to myself, and I just stood there and said (mostly in my inside voice) what I felt at that moment.  It didn’t take long, but for me it was time well spent.  Sometimes, it’s not about getting every question answered or “getting closure” that counts, it’s about taking the time that you need, for yourself.  I know that I may never really understand my father and I know that he likely didn’t understand me, but that’s ok.  I understood, in that moment, that I didn’t need either, I just needed quiet time to process everything and it helped.  What surprised me was how little time I needed there.  I knew that I wasn’t going to get a sign from my father that he was there with me, and I was also ok with that.  I went with no expectations, and I left with even fewer but being there helped a realist like me, in ways that I just can’t explain.  You will never get time back, especially time to deal with complex emotions – so take what you need for yourself.

Some people have gone above and beyond, and I know that I’ve thanked them for everything that they have done – make sure, no matter how sad you may be to do that.  Everyone deserves to be appreciated and when times are tough, and people go out of their way to help, let them know that you value them.  You will get through your loss whatever it may be and there will be days, which may come sooner than you think where you will feel exactly like yourself.  I know for me, that writing about how I feel about this has been cathartic, but I’m at the point now where I just want to write about fluffier, more enjoyable things.  Maybe one day I’ll want to revisit this time in my life, that’s the beauty of having your own blog – you can write about what you feel like, and when it’s time, you can let it go…


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A Eulogy for My Father

Dr. John Lawrence Schneiderman

March 24, 1933-June 10, 2015

Dad…

I don’t think I’m going to get to speak at your funeral tomorrow, so I wanted to do a eulogy in my own way.  In many ways, you were a stranger to me.  You were one of the fears that I had to face this year.  Seeing you so ill in February was so hard, but letting you know that I forgave you is bringing me peace right now.  I know you didn’t agree that you needed forgiveness, you didn’t believe that you did anything wrong.  I still needed to say it though.  As with most things, we had to agree to disagree.

I am sorry Dad.  I always felt that I was a disappointment to you.  I was never Daddy’s little girl, but my Bobbie’s soul mate and my mother’s daughter.  I wanted to look at you the way Mummy looked at her Dad – as a hero.  I know that you looked at him the same way as well and I wish that your parents were as wonderful as Bobbie and Zaidie.  I wanted to respect you and put you on a pedestal and maybe, I failed you in that way, and for that I am sorry.  I did respect your intelligence and I did have compassion for your shortcomings.  I did try to be the best daughter that I could.

I will try to remember some of the good things, Dad.  Like the time when I was a little girl and I was afraid that Frankenstein was going to take me away.  You and Mummy sat on my bed and explained to me that we had two big wooden doors that he would never be able to break into.  I remember how we always had the most beautiful garden in Boulderwood because you had a green thumb.  I remember how you loved to tell a dirty joke and you did it well.  I’ll remember how you snuck surgical scrubs out of the hospital so that I’d have something to wear on career day.  I’ll remember that you and I were the only two people in the house who loved Shakespeare and we’d trade quotes.  I’ll remember how you taught me to play gin. I’ll remember how you took me to meet your 99 year old patient so that I could interview him for a school project and the pride that I felt when he told me about how you saved his life.  I’ll remember how you let me give the pre-op orders over the phone once or twice…”Chest…ECG…BUN…Creatinine…Electrolytes…CBC and Sed Rate…Mogadan 10 HS…SS Enema HS…prep mid chest…” I still remember that to this day.

I’ll also remember the bad.  I won’t dwell on it.  I won’t be bitter because of it, but I’ll remember.  Again, I’ll try to be compassionate.  When we came to see you in February, I made the decision not to bring up the past to you.  I knew that there was no point in arguing with a dying man.  It was so sad for me to see you barely able to hold a paper cup of juice.  Your once steady, surgeon’s hands shaking as you tried to sip it.  It broke my heart to see your body covered with bruises caused by the blood thinners.  You were defeated.  Where Mummy can be so strong and fearless, you were always more timid.  When Mummy gets sick, I look at her, and she still has a spark – you didn’t have that spark when I saw you.  When I went to leave the room for a minute, and you said “Jill…Jill where are you going?” I was shocked because it was one of the few times in my life where I saw you vulnerable and where I thought you actually wanted me to stay.

I wish that you had been able to go and die with dignity in your own home surrounded by your own things instead of in a hospital room.  I wish that you didn’t have to die alone without your children at your bedside.  Dad, I wish that wherever you are, that you finally have peace and that you were able to forgive yourself.  I hope that you know that I never hated you and that I’ll be OK Dad, we’ll all be OK.