Mother's Day is less than celebratory when your own mom is dying.
Rabbi Sherre: I have spent years counseling people, young and old, when their parents are dying. Now I find myself in their shoes, again. My father died in 2001 from pancreatic cancer at age 58. It was a silent killer. Within six months, he went from diagnosis to death. Now only 8 years later, I find myself once again dealing with grief as my mother, age 64, battles stage-four brain cancer. Except this time, it is different.
My mother's mother lived until age 98, so truth be told I did not see this day coming so soon. Plus, I thought that since my father had died so young, I was in the clear for a while. So when she was rushed to the emergency room this past September, I never imagined the road that would lie ahead.
As a mother of three children and with another on the way, I find myself constantly pulled in many directions. I am a daughter taking care of her mother. I am a mother taking care of her children. I am a wife taking care of her husband. I am a rabbi taking care of my parishioners. And, oh yes, sometime between all that, I am supposed to take care of myself.
I want to go back to the time before my mother got sick. The time when I could call her and talk just about nothing. The time when she helped drive carpool. The time when I could meet her for lunch. The time when doctor's appointments, treatments, and IVs were not part of our daily conversation. The time when I did not count time.
Mother's Day is coming and I feel yucky. This is supposed to be my day. I have given birth to three children -- two of whom are old enough to understand this is my day. I am pregnant with # 4; I really need the attention this year. As a mother of small children, this is the only day that is even remotely about me. The entire 364 other ones are all about them. So I take it seriously.
Except this year, it is all about my mother. Will we be able to spend time with her that day? Will we be able to go to brunch? Will she be able to eat? Will we be able to smile, laugh, and be happy?
I can't help thinking, will this be her last Mother's Day? What do I need to do to make it the most spectacular and meaningful? She already told me that she does not want to see another flower bouquet, as they remind her of the hospital. Plus, she has been so busy the last few months giving her prized possessions away, what is it that I could possibly give her that she would treasure?
This entire time she has been sick, I have been trying to make each day count. And now I have to make it doubly count? I am exhausted.
Part of me wants to skip it. Except I don't want to set that precedent -- I don't want my kids to think it is an optional holiday. My mother does not want to skip it either. She has made reservations for all of us for brunch in the hopes that it could be normal, just like any other Mother's Day. So I have spent the past week hoping that when she wakes up on Sunday, she will feel strong enough to participate. But no matter how normal the day turns out, she and I both know it is anything but.
I decided after much trepidation to keep a blog about my feelings and experiences during this time in my life because I realized that I am not alone. Many of us are in a similar boat -- navigating the rocky waters of motherhood and daughterhood and grief. My hope in writing this is that together we will find comfort and community, and ultimately some peace.
|Rabbi Sherre Z. Hirsch, mother of three, is only the 60th woman ordained in the Conservative movement. She currently serves as spiritual consultant for the world-renowned Canyon Ranch. Hirsch authored "We Plan, God Laughs: 10 Steps to Finding Your Divine Path When Life Is Not Turning Out Like You Wanted." She holds two master's degrees and received her BA from Northwestern.|