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That Heart. That Mouth

In the first story I ever wrote I referred to someone who died. And I wrote it as if it was a good thing. It WAS a good thing. My mother, my critic, read it, and said, “Simi, that’s not nice. You can’t speak ill of the dead. Change it.”

My mother’s yartzheit is this weekend, and I can hear her, “My Yartzheit and that’s the story you’re telling?”

Oh, I have so much to say. But never as much as she did. Towards the end, but not the Very End, she was in the hospital for congestive heart failure, which she found very insulting since she never had any history of heart trouble. Sure enough, she survived that bout for another week or so, only to come down with C-Diff, which she probably caught during that congestive heart-failure hospital stay. She survived the C-Diff too, when the end finally happened I suspect that she was being assaulted on so many fronts that she just died of exhaustion. Anyway, back to the congestive heart failure episode. My brother, sister and I, and assorted spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, were at her bedside, when my brother, her fair haired, oldest, and dare I say most beloved, but that’s okay because we all agree on this, we love him the most too, arrived directly from the airport where he’d flown in from Israel. We heard him from the hallway, asking for his mother. An anticipatory stir flowed through the room. He was here. My mother nodded from her pillows, all the them, the one beneath her legs and head and said, “Good. Now I can go.”

He stood framed in the doorway, travel drained and sad, roller bag in tow. We watched, silent, reverent, when he bent to receive her kiss and bracha. My mother closed her eyes. We sat in wonder. In terror. In grief. She opened her eyes, took in the crowd, “I’m still here?”

It became clear that she would still be around, for at least a little while longer. The doctor made his rounds, asking, “Where do you want to go from here?” She was being released and had to decide if she wanted to return to the rehab where she’d been at the time of this hospitalization, or to her apartment in the assisted living facility that was her latest default address, or my sister’s house. My mother looked at the doctor as if he was an idiot. Not an unusual look, “Where am I going? The graveyard. That’s where I’m going.”

That soul. That heart. That beating, fighting heart.

I’ll light a candle and say a prayer on this anniversary of her death. But that heart…that mouth. What a loss for all of us.


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