Last week after I called the only florist in the small Midwestern town I’m from, an odd thought went through my mind. The woman I spoke with, Betty, apparently remembered me from the two times I had visited her flower shop; it was her store, Becker’s Florist, that had provided the flowers for both my parent’s funerals. When I called Becker’s last week I had already chosen a nice arrangement to have placed on my Mom’s headstone for Mother’s Day but when I gave Betty the item number from the Becker website, she said, “Oh honey, I’ll make something special for your Mom, something pretty that I know she would like!” And that’s when it occurred to me… I wonder if my Mom knows there is a “special” bouquet of flowers on her headstone today?
Unlike Christianity, Judaism places little emphasis on the notion of “life after death.” As a Jew, I concentrate on the things I can do each day to make the world a better place. But truth be told, there are still times when I ponder what will “happen” after I die and I wonder, now that both of my parents have died, what “happened” to them? Are they capable of “knowing?”
Because the only thing I can say for certain about God is that I believe in God, anything I imagine about where or how my Mom “is” is woefully inadequate. Like Maimonides, I am an adherent of “negative theology;” in other words, everything I know about God I can only describe in negative terms, i.e. God is not limited, God is not selective, God is not cruel. For this reason, I believe that God would not allow my Mom to eternally suffer the indescribable pain of the cancer that took her life. God would not keep my Mom from spending eternity with the man she loved for over 45 years (my Dad) and God would not eternally deny her the joy and happiness she was unable to feel when she was alive. Although I believe these things from the bottom of my heart there remains an uncertainty that is undeniable; my humanity does not allow me to understand the “capabilities” of God and my finite being is unable to conceive the infinite “nature” of God. This reality has left me mulling over the same question all week – I wonder if she knows? On Mother’s Day 2011, I wonder if my Mom knows:
- How, when I look in the mirror I sometimes see her face staring back at me.
- That I have 4 different “purses” inside my purse, just like she used to.
- That I can’t fall asleep at night unless I read for at least an hour and
- That, like her, I never last more than 20 minutes.
- How I oftentimes find myself standing with my hands on my hips, swaying back and forth as I stare at a store shelf trying to decide what to buy.
- That I’m still at my County job because I “can’t give up that retirement.”
- That I feel like I’ve failed her because I’m fatter than I was when she died.
- That one of my biggest regrets is that she never knew I was accepted to and graduated from the school I dreamed of going to.
- That sometimes I cry when I see a woman my age spending time with her healthy, elderly mother.
- That despite our differences, I know I am my mother’s daughter.
- That she won’t be here to see me turn 50.
- That sometimes, I still can’t believe she’s gone.
- That I miss her.
- That I will always love her.
I hope you like the flowers, Mom.