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 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.
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.Follow @danielle_meitiv