Missing Mom [Reposted from August 2011]

mom with Isaac and Rafi
Thanksgiving 2005. Mom with my son Rafi (standing) and my newphew Isaac. She died four weeks later.

My mother Davida would have been 70 years old today. She died at 64. I can never hear that Beatles tune without thinking of her.

She lived long enough to attend my wedding and celebrate my son Rafi’s first birthday. She will never know the grand-daughter Dvora who is named for her.

My mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer when she was 44. I was 13 at the time. Thank God and modern medicine that I had her for another 20 years. Damn them both that it wasn’t longer.

Motherloss

Motherloss is a recurring theme in my family. My mother’s mother died of breast cancer when she was 43. My mother was 17.

I grew up in the shadow of that tragedy. Every day of her life my mother mourned her mother. No, she didn’t walk around in tears all the time – she was vibrant and alive and taught me much about the joy of living.

But she always missed her mother. I had no doubt that that early loss marked my mother forever. I regretted not knowing this woman who was the star of so many family stories. Legends, even.

And now my daughter shares a similar fate – she will only know her mother’s mother through stories. Thank God, I had so much more of my mother than my mother had of hers. I have more to tell. I pray the pictures I paint will be that much richer, her presence that much more vivid for my daughter.

Losing another mother

My mother’s younger sister Linda was only 8 years old when her mother died. When Linda turned 43 she died of a brain tumor. She left behind two children, 8 and 14.

I became very close to that 8-year old. She spent at least one weekend a month sleeping over at my Manhattan apartment.  When my mother died, I mourned with that same girl, now a woman in her late twenties. Among other things she told me about two books that have become priceless guides to the painful journey that I have now begun: Motherless Daughters and Motherless Mothers by Hope Edelman. I recommend them both to all women who have lost their mothers, at any age.

And now I’m the Mom

To recap, in case you’ve missed any of the craziness on this page:

My mother’s mother died of breast cancer at 43. She left behind four children: 21 (Judy), 17 (Davida – my mom), 8 (Linda), and 3 (Larry).

Linda died when she was 43. She left behind two children 14 and 8.

My mother was diagnosed with cancer when she was 44. She died 20 years later.

I turned 42 this year. Am I afraid of dying? Does the specter of cancer haunt my thoughts day-to-day? Not consciously. Yes I’ve tried to eat well all my life and I rejected smoking after a very brief experiment in my teens.

But that’s not the most important impact of all this tragedy.  As a direct result of so much sadness and grief, I’ve learned how to live.

Carpe diem. Live each day as though it was your last. You really only get one chance and you never know when your time will be up. Live, love, laugh. Don’t wait for that rainy day – live now.

I don’t know if I ever would have started writing if my mother hadn’t died. Knowing that this was it, that I only had one life in which to be whatever and as much as I could be – maybe that’s what opened the creative wells that had been shut for decades. And now I write almost every day.

With Rafi and Dvora on the Staten Island Ferry, Memorial Day weekend 2011.

It was a dream of my mom’s, too – to be a writer. Now it is my reality, a gift from her to me.

And maybe back to her as well?

My daughter will turn 3 tomorrow. She has my mother eyes.

Happy Birthday, Mom. I miss you very, very much.

Danielle Meitiv is a scientist, a writer, a “free-range” mom, and a very passionate, opinionated person. She is currently working on a book called “Fighting For the Future: A Parent’s Rebellion.” You can find her on Twitter:  @DanielleMeitiv , Facebook: Danielle Meitiv, and YouTube: Danielle Luttenberg Meitiv. She lives with her husband and her two famous, free-range kids in Silver Spring, MD.

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14 thoughts on “Missing Mom [Reposted from August 2011]

  1. Very touching post, Danielle. My mom and dad are still with us, and I thank God every day for that. I can’t bear the thought of facing the day I lose them.
    I hope you live a long and healthy life and preserve all of your memories of your mom in your writing so you can pass it down to future generations.

    My mom lost her mother when she was only 13. My grandmother died after giving birth to my aunt, her 7th baby, on my grandfather’s birthday. Mom’s little sisters went around the neighborhood, knocking on doors, and telling people that their mother just died. Sheesh, the image gets to me every time I think of it. Two of my closest friends lost their mothers when they were in their teens. When I see their eyes brimming with tears as they share memories of their moms, it’s evident that losing our mothers is something you never get over, but we have to carry on because we know that’s what our mothers would want for us.

    Happy birthday to your little girl. I’m glad she got your mother’s eyes.

    1. @Tiffany It is good that you understand that having your mother is such a blessing and that you keep your grandmother close in your thoughts and in your heart. Thank you for your wonderful support.

    2. Wow @Lynn – I choked up when I read your comment. can you imagine how intense and painful that must have been? Those poor kids. Sigh. We take for granted how lucky we are to have our parents as long as we do, until they’re gone or we learn of someone else’s misfortune. As I wrote my grandmother’s death was with me everyday even though I never met her.

      I am blessed to see my mother everytime I look in my daughter’s eyes 🙂

  2. Danielle – what a touching tribute to your mother. Happy Birthday, Danielle’s Mom (and tomorrow to little girl)! The women in your family have been through a lot, and your daughter is so very lucky to have you and your memories. I’m blessed to still have my mother by my side, and I miss my grandmothers daily. Mothers are the most precious gift any child can have.

  3. Michael Akbar

    Thank you for your very touching post and the lesson you shared in seizing the moment had a special meaning for me today. My dad died of cancer at 64 and while I thought I had him for such a short time I cherish the memories, stories, and to this day repeat some of his old jokes 🙂

    As I write, a friend is staying the last few nights of her mom’s life with her in a hospice in Woodbridge VA. I think I will steal your magical words and forward this post to her.

    1. @Michael – Thank you for your kind words although I am sorry that you know just how this feels. My blessings and prayers for your friend and her mother.

      @Angela – I feel so blessed to have my children and to be able to tell them stories about my mother. Thank you

      @Damian – You put into words what I often feel: that our lives are so much more than the time we spend living them – they also include the time that we influence those who live after we are gone. Your father-in-laws project proves that, going back many many years. Kudos to him – and many thanks to you for your kind words.

  4. This is a beautiful post Danielle. I think preserving and passing on the stories of the mother you knew is the greatest tribute. My father in law has written a family history, researching as far back as his great grandfather, but concentrating on the people, not the headstone dates. He has included photographs of family homes, paintings and photos from the appropriate era, and explanations of jobs or functions – his great grandfather drove a “Growler”, a horse drawn-taxi. Last year he finished his story of his own parents, and I’m encouraging Mrs Dim to do the same for him. Her family have a rich tradition of stories, of talking and and sharing.

    I like the idea that no one truly dies while the things they have influenced remain, that the actual years e breathe are only the core of our existence. While your name is spoken, while someone still smiles at the thought of you, you live.

  5. Your mom was blessed to have a daughter like you as your children are blessed to have you for a mom. What a rich history you have to share with them. Thank you for sharing your mom with us and celebrating her life.

  6. Danielle, this is a very moving post. I think your mother would have been pleased that she was in her own way an inspiration for you pursuing your creativity through writing. This post also spoke to me in that I just turned 44 yesterday. May we both live happy, long lives.

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