Sunday, May 24, 2009

Preparing for the inevitable

After a long day of overtime at the office, I came home to a message from my sister on the answering machine: Our mother, who broke her hip the day after Pesach, underwent surgery, and had been in a rehabilitation center, was back in the hospital due to a lung infection. The next morning, my Israeli brother called from the hospital, just before returning to my mother's bedside. (My brother made aliyah over 30 years ago, my parents, over 20.) He didn't want any of us siblings to be unpleasantly surprised by anything that might happen, saying that, though my mother was improving, "If it isn't this hospitalization, it'll be the next one." So I called my sister, then my brother in California, with the news.

Since our mother has been caring for our father, whose mental abilities have been diminishing for years, I think all of us siblings had hoped that Mom would outlive Dad, just so she'd have a few more years to enjoy herself. Alas, it appears highly unlikely. As for Dad, when I asked my brother whether he'd explained what was going on with Mom, he said that he hadn't even told Dad that his sister had died, because he didn't see the point. I can understand that. Why get Dad upset when he's just going to forget in 20 minutes anyway?

A friend of mine from synagogue is having similar sad times. As the youngest sibling, she's been the caretaker for her brother for years, visiting him in the nursing home for the better part of a day almost every week. But now, her sister and brother-in-law are also ill. She's preparing for the worst on multiple fronts.

I've already told most of the morning "minyan" regulars that I won't be leading services on Mondays and Thursdays after my mother dies, since I'll need a minyan to say Kaddish Yatom/Mourner's Kaddish, and we haven't had a minyan on a Monday or Thursday morning--despite counting women for a minyan--in over a year.

I've also found an egalitarian Conservative synagogue that holds Shacharit/Morning services every day and is, well, within hailing range by public transit. I thought of davvening (praying) at one of the local Orthodox synagogues, but, even assuming that they allow women to say Kaddish--not all Orthodox Jews believe that it's permissible--I'm not willing to give up wearing a tallit and tefillin for the eleven months of Kaddish. I haven't quite decided whether I'm going to try to pray with to a minyan for all three daily services, but I think I should pray with a minyan at least once every day to say Kaddish.

After serious consideration, I decided not to go to Israel for the funeral, whenever it comes, because most of the people paying Shiva (roughly, condolence) calls on my brother will be strangers, and I don't speak Hebrew well enough to have a meaningful conversation in it.

I'll probably go back to folk dancing after Shloshim (the first 30 days of mourning following burial), since it's really the only form of exercise that I get anymore. I haven't decided whether I'm really willing to give up listening to music for a year, either.

The decision-making and preparation are the easy part.

It's thinking of a future without my mother that's hard. That it happens to all of us, sooner or later, isn't much consolation.

I'm going to miss talking to Mom on the phone every weekend.


Blogger Leah said...

Thinking of you in this difficult time.

Sun May 24, 07:44:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thank you.

Sun May 24, 08:26:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Jendeis said...

I'm so sorry. Sending good thoughts and strength.

Mon May 25, 11:31:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thanks. I could use some.

Mon May 25, 12:21:00 PM 2009  

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