Getting Married Without Your Mom
I’m getting married in three days. I’m getting married in three days, and my mom is dead. She died over two and a half years ago. She died before I moved to Crown Heights, before I withdrew from Medical School, before I co-founded the Creative Healing Collective, before I kept Shabbat and before I met the love of my life. In many ways, it feels as though when she died, my life began.
My mom was ill for the majority of my existence. She was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma shortly before my 12th birthday and died a few months after my 25th birthday. Because of my mom’s ever-lasting sickness, I always felt a bit of fear about loosing her- a constant voice in my head that reminded me over and over again how my mom was sick and how important it was to be with her, take care of her and help her survive. The last few years were especially challenging. Her sickness began to slowly impact more and more aspects of her daily life. I felt guilty if I was not helping her because she was my mom and my best friend, but I felt angry if I was helping her because I didn't feel like it was my job to be her caretaker.
I lived at home during the last year of her life. I helped her take showers and put on her socks. I cooked for her. I drove her and her oxygen tank to work. I held her hand every night as she fell asleep, and I kept her company as she worked, read or ate just in case we would need to call the hospital (which happened several times). As I dedicated more and more of my energy to taking care of my mom, I was slowly becoming weaker myself, neglecting self-care and my own sense of freedom and wellbeing. When you love someone so much, you sometimes forget that you exist as separate beings. I was so unified with my mom, that when I lost her, I lost a part of myself.
If your lucky, your mother will make it with you through all of the most important transitions in your life. Unfortunately my mom is not with me now as I prepare for my wedding. My mom will not be there to help us as we settle into our first home. My mom will not be there to listen as I struggle through hardships in my professional life. My mom will not be there to hold my hand as I deliver my first child. My mom will not be there to witness the joy of her grandchildren’s first everything. My mom will not be there to answer the phone when all I want is to hear her voice. My mom will not be there…..
They say she is with me. They say she is here. And as true as that may be, there is nothing more comforting than the embrace of a mom. Nothing more soothing than a mom who kisses your forehead or tickles your back. Nothing more calming than a mom who knows just what to say just when you need to hear it. That’s the magic of a mom.
When I walk down the aisle on Sunday, with my dad on one side and his wife, Odette, on the other, I will be wearing my mom’s wedding dress and a necklace made with her birthstone, amethyst. Her best friend, Judy, will walk down the aisle, and my good friend Elana will sing her favorite song, The Rose, by Bette Middler. But no matter what we do, or how much we remember, there is an emptiness that can never be filled, a hole that is meant to stay vacant and a wound that will always hurt just a bit every day and even more so on these special days.
The price we pay for love is grief.
There is, however, one thing that is undeniably true. Had it not been for my mother’s passing, I would not have started the life that I have - a life that has been full of more love, community and self-reflection than I could have imagined. Death truly does give way to life. My mom gave me the gift of life twice: 27 years ago and just over two and a half years ago and for that I am so grateful.
Mom, we love you and we miss you. I pray that on Sunday, March 19th, Aryeh and I will be able to feel your warmth under the Chuppah.
PS. This is our first Creative Healing Collective post. How fitting that it's about my mom, one of the tremendous women who inspired us to create this Collective!