my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?


A Woman of Valor

When my mother died, her two full brothers and her sister traveled from Kansas, Nevada and Arizona to honor her. The oldest child, she had mothered the three other children during a Depression-era period when my grandmother worked in a factory in town, my grandfather was sharecropping at a farm further north and the four children by my grandfather were left on the family farm alone.

Now one of her brothers was a professor at the University of Kansas, one was a civil engineer and her sister was a human resources professional, with a master's degree in industrial psychology. My mother had never attended college.

Her brothers and sister were joined by congregation members of my stepfather's church where the funeral was being held. By my Jewish husband, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and sister-in-law, honoring my mother's memory for my sake. By my brother's conservative Presbyterian inlaws, his wife and his daughter, my mother's only grandchild.

My mother had no close women friends, but many women with whom she had worked on committees or bake sales or bazaars. And they came to recognize her passage in the customary way, with cold sliced meats, homemade breads, a variety of salads ...and appraising looks at her motley family, its own testament to my mother's ecumenical beliefs. For she did believe that there is One God.

The God who blessed my synagogue marriage, the fundamentalist baptism of her adopted granddaughter and the agnostic funeral of her own mother (which in a last vehement statement about her relationship with her own mother, my mother refused to attend).

I asked to speak during the service. I read a psalm and sang the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer honoring the deceased, my own last statement of rebellion for and against the strong woman who was my mother.

The psalm was "A Woman of Valor" and I sang the Kaddish in transliterated Hebrew ... the officiating Methodist minister could barely wait to get me off the altar.

Mother would have liked it. Not one for overt rebellion herself, in her later years she despised hypocrisy and conservative Republicans. She would have enjoyed the tight-collared cleric's discomfort. She liked my Jewish family and I believe was grateful to them for taking me in, since I could never accept the family she had tried to create.

Although she wouldn't believe it of herself, so distanced was she from her own emotions ... my mother was a woman of valor, treasured above rubies ... Yis ga dal, va yis kadesh, vo yis ramei ...


Anonymous janey said...

The way you describe your mother, that little act of rebellion would certainly have pleased her. And it's a beautiful tribute. Though I was raised Jewish and am an atheist through and through I still can see the beauty in the Kaddish. I say it with my mom when we visit my father's grave. I say to honor the man who gave me life though not love. I always thought of it as a prayer for the dead but there's not one mention of death in the whole prayer. And that picture is lovely.

7:35 PM

Blogger Atreau said...

Beautiful as always M! Simply beautiful!

10:24 PM

Blogger ParisLondres said...

M - I am certain your Mother was very proud of you. I am not religious at all but spiritual and this post moved me.


11:56 PM

Blogger katiedid said...

Oh M, that's sounds like a great tribute to your mom. What a touching post. And the colorful picture of the glass catching the light sets off just the right mood.

2:07 AM

Anonymous Victoria said...

I read this with tears in my eyes. I was raised atheist, came into Christianity and then just began to explore my spirituality in ways that do not confine me to any religious affiliations, even though I still go to Eastern Orthodox church if I have a chance. I see religion being used to spark patriotism, to demonize the other, to build political affiliations and to encite violence. I first saw that happening after the Soviet Union fell apart (first meaning first personal encounter).

I am sure your mother would be very proud of you.

7:11 AM

Anonymous Laura said...

Oh, M, you do write well. So very well.

9:56 AM

Blogger cjblue said...

Thank you for a beautiful and moving post. I have tears in my eyes.

12:34 PM

Blogger Tan Lucy Pez said...

It's a lovely post. I cried a little. Maybe thinking about how hard your mother had to work and how much she had to give up in order to raise her siblings.

You did right by her.

3:16 PM

Blogger mireille said...

thank you all -- so much -- for your kind comments.

3:56 PM

Blogger Bela said...

What a beautiful, moving post!

I'm like Janey: a Jewish atheist. But I like rituals.

My mother died in Nice on a Monday; I flew over there the next day and had to arrange her funeral very quickly, on my own. On the Thursday afternoon, around the grave, in the Jewish Cemetery, on that beautiful sunny hill, were her doctor and his wife, an old woman friend of hers, her Algerian, non-Jewish neighbour, who'd been looking after her a bit in the last few months of her life, and me. The rabbi who officiated was a Sephardi and the "tunes" were alien to me and would have been alien to my mother. I always felt I'd betrayed her by not checking beforehand. The fact that he thought it was ok to crack jokes non-stop while driving us back to the town centre didn't help. I know it shouldn't have mattered, but it did, and does more and more as time goes by.

6:28 PM


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