This was the last photo I have of my mom Selma and me. It was taken at the birthday celebration of the mother of a friend a few years before mine ‘left the building’ in 2010. A delightful day in which a garden party on a sunny summer afternoon was laughter and love-filled. It didn’t even cross my mind that in some soon turns of calendar pages, I would be saying goodbye to a woman who was my stalwart, my most ardent cheerleader and the rock who insisted that I lean on her when needed. She knew I could stand on my own two feet as well, but she and my dad were my backups. Although they likely shook their heads at some of the out of the box activities I engaged in, I knew they were proud of me. When I was about to enroll in seminary to become an interfaith minister, her first question was “Are you converting?” It would have been distressing to them if I had abandoned my Jewish upbringing. I assure her I was not, instead, I told her I was expanding my beliefs. I say that love is my religion and God is too vast to fit in a box. So, this nice Jewish girl became an interfaith minister; they attended my ordination at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC in 1999 and my mom began referring to me as her ‘Reverend daughter’. (a takeoff on the term ‘Reverend mother’.)
In May of 2010. my mom was placed on hospice care due to CHF-Congestive Heart Failure and I trekked down seven times in six months, to her home in Ft. Lauderdale where she and my dad had lived for nearly two decades before he passed in 2008. I enjoyed our visits in which we talked about life, the universe and everything, laughing and crying in equal measure.
On Halloween weekend, 2010 I had jokingly asked her if she wanted to go trick or treating and she declined. I then inquired if she would like to dress up; that one I meant; to greet the children who would be coming to see her. “Nah, I’ll scare the kids.” I responded, “That’s the whole idea, Mom.” Instead, we opted for putting together bags of candy for the neighbor kids who had visited her throughout her illness. Plastic pumpkin designed bags were laid out on her lap and little by little, she filled them with sweet treats and then tied the top off. That simple activity tired her out, so she took a nap and in a few hours, the doorbell rang. In walked the sons of her neighbor Myrna, wearing Super Mario costumes and coming over to hug her. They looked adorable and what was so endearing was that they were more concerned about spending time with her than enjoying the candy she held out for them. Clearly she had created a bond with these surrogate grandkids. Her upstairs neighbor Diane came down with her then-teenaged grandson Cody and my mom had a bag for him too. Amazing how she bonded with him as well. She always had that way about her that attracted children like the Pied Piper. Cody is now a father himself and I remain in contact with Gary and Diane who my mom considered her angels who helped with her care.
A month later, I had asked her if she would like me to head on down for Thanksgiving. She told me it wasn’t necessary and she “would be fine”. I reminded her that it was likely that I “won’t see you until the end,” not realizing how soon that would be. She reiterated that she was ok with that. Less than a week later, she joined my dad. When most people refer to the day after Thanksgiving as ‘Black Friday’, it will always hold the connotation for me as the day my mom died. Even as I am typing these words, it feels surrealistic and I experience no emotion. Attempting to conjure it up does no good either. I have learned to flow with whatever arises. Such a surprise that I would be handling this as calmly as I have been, since years earlier, I had dreaded her death more than anyone’s owing to the fact that we have always been so close.
I smile as I recall Halloweens in my childhood. Many years she sewed or cobbled together costumes, other times they came from the store. Mary Poppins, granny gown and cap, a hippie, a clown, a pumpkin…all flash before me as choices of getup over the years.
After dinner, my sister and I would get all dolled up and when we were younger; our parents (sometimes one, sometimes both) would traverse the neighborhood with us, flashlights in hand. After an hour or so, we would head back home and dump the treasures on the living room floor. The rule was that my parents would need to go through everything for safety sake; to be sure that all was well with the goodies and that no one had slipped a razor or something else unsavory into the treats. We were then permitted a few pieces, saving the rest to be relished over the course of the next few weeks. In the Weinstein household, with genetic chocoholism, that was more intention than actuality. That’s the reason why now I don’t purchase candy until the day of since I can’t guarantee how many pieces will actually go home with the kids.
I also think of the holiday from a spiritual perspective. Although Wicca is not my primary practice, I honor the role the ancestors play in my life and although I speak with my parents in my heart and mind on a daily basis, I acknowledge what I have heard, that at this time of year, the veils between the worlds are thinner. Today, I ask for a powerful and positive message from those who came before. May my deeds honor them.
Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood
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