A Kaddish for My Mother

I’m grateful to Rabbi David Horowitz, Academy faculty presenter this week. He taught us the Kaddish, the prayer prayed to the Holy One on the anniversary of the deaths of our loved ones. Today I remember Mom.

Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name in the world which God created, according to plan. May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently, to which we say: Amen.

Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity.

Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing, praise, and comfort. To which we say: Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel. To which we say: Amen.

May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace us and to all Israel. To which we say: Amen.

Version of the Kaddish, praising God, that mourners recite during the bereavement period and to mark the anniversary of a death of a loved one. From Mishkan T’filah.

Remembering Mom

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Mom died on this day in 1983. I was in Divinity School that fall and wasn’t with her when she passed away. In July, she had learned that that her brain tumor was back and inoperable. I had gone for a visit in August and then again in October. Sometime in the fall she had been moved from home care to Deaconess Hospital in Oklahoma City. (Pre-hospice days.) Dad had let me know her death was coming soon, so even though her death was a shock, it wasn’t too much a shock.

I think that Grandma had wanted me to come home and care for Mom. I don’t know what Mom wanted, but I was young and “on a mission” and really didn’t want to put my education on hold to go home. In consequence, her dying journey was not one I shared. I wish I had been closer, to learn from her how you do this part of life.

The last time I visited her was in October. She was in the hospital and still conscious, but unable to speak more than a word at a time — and those words just came out of no-where when you weren’t expecting them. I remember Grandma there — dressing her, putting makeup on her, fixing her hair. Grandma was wondering out loud what color a sweater was … and mom chimed up, “Fuchsia.” It surprised both of us.

I was getting ready to go to the airport to go back to Tennessee and wanted to say something. We were alone and I think I told her how much I loved her and thanked her. I don’t really remember. But I do remember that I was getting ready to leave and said, “I love you, Mom.” And she said to me, “I love you, darlin’.” The sweetest words I ever heard.

She still travels with me. I always wondered about how “old people” could talk and think so much about those who were dead and gone. And now, I find myself thinking and talking about Mom and Dad, Grandpa and Grandma. I feel their presence. I forget they are gone and think about calling them. It’s not dementia. It’s love. It’s the presence of the Communion of Saints. They are not gone. They are here. Thanks be to God.

Marty

Charles and MartyToday is the 30th anniversary of my mom’s death. It’s so strange to have her frozen in time at age 48. I wonder what wisdom she would have to share with me today?

Today, I want to share a tribute that my dad wrote in the Grace United Methodist Church newspaper (Tulsa, OK) soon after she died.

As I shared with the worshipping community last Sunday morning, one of the expressions of love and sympathy which came to me and the family was in the form of a round crystal pendant which was so faceted that, when it turns in the sunlight, sends out a shower of rainbow-colored circles of light on the walls and ceiling of the room. It was accompanied with this sentiment: “To be hung in the sun to make living rainbows to remember a life beautifully lived.”

“Living rainbows” and “a life beautifully lived”; to me, that expressed Marty’s life. I am not one who believes that there is only one person in life with whom one could be happy in marriage or that marriages are made in heaven, but I will always believe that when we met for the first time, God may have said, “Hey, that would make a very good match!” And so a lonely preacher boy, who was shy, found a girl who made him feel very much at ease in her presence and God gave him the courage to pursue the relationship.

I was attracted by her unassuming ways, her intelligence and keen wit. She had a positive, sunny personality, a ready smile for everyone, and a way of making people feel at home in her presence. She never put on airs and never tried to be anything other than who she was. She was charitable toward all and accepted life as it came to her. She never complained about life or about her illness, accepting it with great courage and faith. . . .

As with any two persons whose lives have been intimately linked together in marriage, a part of Marty will always be a part of my life. I thank God for her life and for the many gifts she shared with me and with others. As Elvira Glossybrook [Marty’s alter-ego] might say, “I’ll declare, that Marty is sure fun to be with.” And so she was.

Remembering Mom

momMy mom passed away 29 years ago today. I was in seminary in Nashville and she was in Oklahoma. We had learned during the summer that her brain tumor had grown back and was inoperable. My mom wanted me to stay in school rather than come home for the duration of her life, so I decided to become an expert on death. I enrolled in Pastoral Care for the Sick and Dying. I read books like May Sarton’s The Reckoning. I wrote poetry and did art about death and how I felt.

Mom was cared for at home by Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, and many, many people from Grace United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City. At some point she was moved to the hospital where she lived for several months before she died. (I guess hospice care had not come to Oklahoma yet.) In October of that year, Dad called to say I might want to come to see her while she was still conscious. I flew home, all ready to have meaningful conversations about life and death and whatever Mom wanted to talk about.

I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but it didn’t happen. (Life is funny that way.) Mom couldn’t really talk … at least with words. Every so often she would say a word or two that let us know she was still in there. But she spoke with her eyes and with the squeeze of her hand.

One day, Grandma was there getting Mom dressed, fixing her hair, and putting on her make-up. We were trying to figure out the color of the sweater Mom was wearing. Mom said, “Fuchsia.” (Only thing she said that day.)

I wanted to do death “right.” And ultimately, I realize, I did. I was there with her and she was there with me. We sat in silence or I talked to her. I feasted my eyes on her and felt my feelings. When it was time for me to leave for the airport. I leaned over and hugged her. “I love you, Mom,” I said. She said, “I love you, darlin.” Those were the last words I she spoke to me.

Some weeks after that she slipped away into sleep. And on the 16th of November, 1983, she passed into the loving arms of God. I’m grateful beyond words for Mom.