My mom died on Saturday. Less than two weeks ago, she and I were plotting a visit of purchases at the Amish farms that surround her home so we could freeze fresh fruits and vegetables for the coming winter. A day later, she was rushed to the hospital. At 95, she had little reserve to fight a sudden infection that overwhelmed her system. Within a week, she passed. Hospice was present at the very end and her final hours were comfortable, but the agonizing decline—though mercifully quick—was excruciating to watch, especially for my siblings who shouldered most of the responsibilities for her bedside vigil. (you can read her obituary here.)
She was surrounded by family at the end—all her kids and several grandkids. At one point there were ten of us in her room at the same time. The nurses moved the unoccupied second bed to make room for the love that overflowed. It was the kind of final days she would have chosen, surrounded by the family to whom she devoted her life.
My mom was an amazing woman. She was always kind, always loving, always humble and yet, in her own way, fierce. She was a passionate advocate for progressive causes, acutely aware of global realities while always welcoming family and friends—whatever their perspectives—into her home, even until the very end.
We had a terrific relationship—always. We shared thoughts on everything from family matters to theology to politics. We’d reminisce about old times and swap stories about cooking. When I’d call to ask her advice about a certain recipe, she’d go into her “professorial” mode—telling me precisely what she had learned in decades of daily food preparation. These educational sessions are among my very best memories.
She had chronic health issues since she was a teenager that required arduous daily maintenance, though few people knew. She never complained, never blamed another, was always grateful for the many blessings she experienced. She was married to my dad for 72 years before he passed a couple years ago. In his obituary, he wrote “My marriage to Arlene was never marred by a serious misunderstanding or disagreement. Ours has been a loving, considerate and respectful relationship.” My wife Blythe said recently how grateful she is that my parents always loved her unconditionally. Yes, they were like that.
I will miss my mom’s strength and gentleness; I will miss her private cooking classes; I will miss talking politics; I will miss making her proud. When she was in her final hours, my good friend Sam Simon sent me a moving email that concluded, “There is an angel waiting to greet your Mom,” prompting my daughter Kris to respond with the single line, “And his name is Grandpa.” Rest well.