As it nears the end of the afternoon on this beautiful Friday, September 25th, I find myself thinking of where I was just four short years ago. On August 2, 2016, when I got the call my mother had a stroke, the situation she was found in by the caregivers at her independent living facility, led me to believe that by the time I got to her side in Detroit, I might not have the opportunity to say good-bye. Actually, I wanted to say more than good-bye. I wanted to ensure she knew I loved her. The ride from Cleveland to West Bloomfield, Michigan took forever on that beautiful summer day. Construction backed us up in numerous spots in Ohio, Michigan and within miles from the hospital, we were hit from behind causing yet another delay. Oy-Vay.
As I have written before when we arrived at the Henry Ford Hospital facility we were greeted by a sign, DO NOT ENTER, see charge nurse. My heart skipped more than a beat as I hurriedly made it to the desk, demanding to speak what I expected to be NURSE RACHTED. Instead, a very soft-spoken nurse informed me that what we may see may be shocking. My mother looked just like my mother no outer signs of a typical stroke. The stroke left her blind, and yet my mother did not know she couldn’t see. The brain was not registering that information. Per doctor’s orders, we were not to mention to my mother that she was blind, and we were to act normal around her, although we were going to assist her and guide her.
As I approached the room and entered to see my momma, I noticed she was slouched on the bed dozing off in her Dorothy manner, meaning she could hear a pin drop when she was sleeping and even deeply snoring. So. as I came over to her I quietly said, “Hi Momma, it’s KIKI.” She looked straight at me as if she could see and said something like, thanks for coming to see me. As we talked for a while, I explained she was in the hospital because they suspected she had a stroke. As I asked if it would be ok for Rich, Alex, and I to stay at her apartment. Of course, she said yes but she was concerned there wasn’t anything in her house for us to eat, she apologized for not baking. (That was so typical of my momma.)
The first few hours we were with her we could understand how she was unaware of the loss of her sight, and how she sounded so normal, not skipping a beat in our conversations. She remembered that my brother Joel and his family and me and my family had all planned to be with her this coming weekend. She apologized to me for being in the hospital but assured me she was OK, and she would be home in time for all of us to have fun. In fact, she was making plans and asking my niece Sue and me to take notes.
However, within days mom started getting a little hazy about where she was, and almost overnight we started to see the signs of dementia that often come on slowly, giving you some time to grasp the situation. That was not the case and by day five the doctor told us it was time to take mom home or place her in a nursing facility, and we knew she would not want the later. We did some research and asked around but finally chose to bring my mother back to her Independent Living Community and bring in healthcare workers to aid her and us. Both Joel and I chose to stay in Michigan and oversee and assist with mom’s care.
2016, August, September, and the first two weeks of October were beautiful. The temperatures remained warm and most days the sun was shining brightly. This became a time in my life when I truly got to know my mother. When mom’s brain was clear she would tell stories about herself as a girl, meeting my dad, raising my brothers and me, being a working mom, and so much more. However, there were ever-increasing moments of confusion when she saw a little boy in her room who pestered her, and she would ask us to send him away. My brother Joel and I learned very quickly not to question what she saw or what she knew and we went with the flow, often bringing humor into a situation that sad, we were losing momma, day by day, and we had no idea how long we had with each other.
During the 2 ½ months I lived with momma I learned that she loved watermelon. I also knew how much she liked coconut cream pie, and I bought a pie and fed her some and she was so happy! Even as a grown woman-child I would crawl into bed next to her and tell her how much I loved her. I even asked her to forgive me for anything I may have said or done that may have hurt her. I felt the urgency to find peace with my mother as High Holidays were approaching, and I so desperately wanted my mother to be engraved in the book of life. I was not ready to let her go, I knew she missed my pops, and towards the end, she would ask for her mother and father, as well as her sister Ann. Hospice and the Rabbis who came to visit shared that this is often passing into the next life.
We were blessed to have some marvelous caregivers, some whom I have stayed friends with to this day. The Rabbi’s were wonderful as they helped bring me closer to my faith, and the comfort belief can have.
My mother passed on October 11, 2016; however, it was Erev Yom Kippur. Momma died on the last day of the beginning of the new year. It felt at first as G-D had played a trick on us, why take her on that particular day? As Rabbi Krakoff shared with us dying on Yom Kippur is a good sign, because it implies dying without sin (the day of Yom Kippur atones for sin, providing the person repents).
As we approach the DAY of Atonement, I want to extend, love, peace, and the wish for health and happiness to all. You don’t have to be Jewish to want the best for all!n share a meal with us, she always had a spot at the table. She kept a ‘pushkee’ a tin box that she would put spare change in and when it got filled, she donated the coins to charity. My mother, nor my father ever asked for anything, but they were full of giving.
Erev Yom Kippur falls in two days on Sunday, and every year my mother’s Yarzheit (Jewish Memorial) of her death is observed on Yom Kippur Day. This year will be no different I will ask G-D to forgive me for any sins I may have committed during this year. I will ask G-D in front of witnesses (this year virtually) to be blessed for another year and to be written in the book of life, and I will thank Lord for the wonderful mother I had and will always have. My mother is my shining star.
As we approach the DAY of Atonement, I want to extend, love, peace, and the wish for health and happiness to all. You don’t have to be Jewish to want the best for all!