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My mother’s death was my lemon. Living life with gratitude, and beginning a new career in a field of passion is my lemonade.
I’ve never written about my mother’s death, or my feelings about her when she was alive, sick, or in heaven. Her name is Friedah. All I know is she is my hero, and my mentor – a woman whose spirit was ahead of her time, and those around her felt imbibed by her passion for life. Friedah, also known as Freeds, was an optimist by choice. She suffered and sacrificed, but she also smiled, laughed, and danced. Those who knew Freeds, described her as “The Dancing Queen,” which was her favorite song though she knew few words other than “dancing” and “queen.” Hard working, she broke through career barriers in part because she never let them define a ceiling. Mom’s empathy was sincere and engaging. She knew pain, she understood unhappiness, and as a child I saw the difficult dance between love and discontent.
We had a deep connection, not based on the conversations or stories she shared with me (there were very few of those, in fact), so I don’t know how or why it existed. As an adolescent I didn’t realize or appreciate how well she understood me, though our experiences could not have been more different. Yet, today, I feel my life parallels her’s in so many ways.
Once I became a mother, a new root was planted in our relationship. The elusive bond was made tangible through my daughter. Freeds was in the delivery room with me and my husband. It’s a miracle she made it there at all. From that moment on, she would be there for me until I needed to be there for her. Mom was an AMAZING grandmother (affectionately called Savtah). Seriously, for all the times as a child I swore never to repeat her behavior as a mother, I want to be exactly how she was as a Savtah. Mom was in the delivery room for my son’s birth three and half years later. With her “I got this” attitude, I half expected her to have her face in my you know where.
Her diagnosis with stage 4 pancreatic cancer came on my birthday, an irony not lost on me. Deny. Deny. Deny. There was no cognitive way to process the next 10 months of hell. The summarizing description is watching a human decompose in front of you. The energy life force she magnificently embodied and shared was being tortured to death. January 24, 2009 she was taken from us. The heartache stems not so much from her death, as it was her suffering. That’s what stings the most. Freeds was young, growing younger with her grandkids, and coming to peace with her past, her present and, as always, optimism for her future.
Not more than an hour of each day expires without some thought about her, some mental conversation with her, some acknowledgement of her absence. Not one hour. I won’t give her up, even for an hour. Grieving is rough. It’s caused a dual existence, and, yes, therapy has been helpful. I’m growing and learning and embracing each step along the way.
So where’s the lemonade? She’s my lemonade. One doesn’t lose a person, a soul, and a woman like Friedah, and not become catalyzed into paying it forward for having the gracious opportunity to have her in one’s life – for me, as my mother. Her story awakened the realization there is no predestined storyline. We are presented with an opportunity each day to make the story, to frame, to change it. Sometimes we are faced with making difficult choices; some days without enough information, or time, or patience. The necessity of our action may disappoint others, or ourselves, and a minute later we are the reason behind someone’s smile and happiness. Recognizing a story will be written, it’s ours to approach with passion, love and gratitude we woke up with the chance to be a part of it.
Mom’s experience inspires a new appreciation for embracing a culture of life, one filled with positive food choices, an active lifestyle, self –discovery, laughter, and mindfulness. I am genuinely grateful for the people in my life, and cultivating that sphere of love and positive energy outward to new people and new experiences. Leaving a wonderful job in investment banking, my dream job has always been motherhood, and my lemonade inspired me to improve my ability to nurture my family through nurturing my own passions. This includes returning to school to earn a Master’s degree in Sports Psychology. A renewed outlook on life’s impermanence stimulates my internal courage to identify true passions, set challenging goals, and commit to a plan of achieving them. That, and a good sense of humor!