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An Everlasting Gift

An Everlasting Gift

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This month will be one year since my mother’s passing. She passed away this year, at the young age of sixty-four, from pancreatic cancer. It’s been a struggle dealing with a new reality and a world where she is not physically present, but over time I’ve found ways to see the lessons her death has taught me.

My mom had a very special way of giving a present. It never mattered how much it cost or how big it was. The point of the present was the story that came with it. For example, a doll was never just a doll. It was a poor little baby doll whose shop owner mentioned how lonely she was. How no other children had wanted her because she was missing a button or an ear. And how lucky she was to have been bought by my mom, because now she was going to belong to me, a special little girl who would love her and take care of her.

The point of the present was the story that came with itMost of the gifts she gave me came wrapped in this sort of meaningful package. I still have many of the gifts, like the music box with the sad dancing clown, or the big yellow bear who needed to go to the bear hospital for surgery. Over the years, when I had my children, my mom would give them gifts in the same way . . . always full of meaning.

I recently came back from a trip to New York City with a friend. As usual, I brought each of my children a gift. The boys each got a car: Eli got a small limousine, and Dovid got a taxi, both of which said “New York”. This time however, their gifts came with a story.

“So, I was walking down the street in Times Square when I saw a large toy store. There were so many toys in the store! Beautiful, brand-new race cars lined the walkways, and perfectly pretty dolls sat on the shelves. I went into the store, and I noticed an area on the side of the store keeping a few beat-up looking toys. There were old-looking dolls, books, games, and even some Matchbox cars. They were so tiny and sad-looking. I went over to the salesman and asked him why there were toys on the side, away from the others. He told me that those were toys that had been in the store for years and desperately needed a home. They were broken down and nobody wanted them. I felt so sad for those toys. The man told me that his two favorite cars were in there, a yellow taxi and an old limousine, but that they were already too old to sell. Well, I thought for a minute, and I decided that I knew two little boys who were excellent at taking care of cars, and would give these two sad lonely cars a good home.”

I proceeded to hand each boy his car. The delight on their faces was wonderful. They loved their cars. Then, suddenly being bumped back into reality, my twelve-year-old tween said to me, “Are you trying to be Mima?” (our name for my mom). With a grin and a pause I said, “Actually, I am.”

The younger me would have never admitted this. I would have said something more like, “No! I just think gifts should be special!” with an annoyed tone. The new me saw things differently. As female children, when we are told we look or behave like our mothers, we smile and feel proud. We are close to this person; we look up to her. As teenagers and young women, when we are told that we look or behave like our mothers, we cringe or make annoyed faces. We love this person, but we are definitely nothing like her.

We seek to grow apart from this person and become our own individual, of our own making. Genetically, there are traits we cannot control, but anything that appears within our grasp to avoid or change becomes a focus. We want this person to be proud of who we have become and be proud of the children we are raising. Life goes on.

By emulating her, I was keeping her close to me When we get older and this person passes on, we miss them. I thought about what my daughter said and realized that, no, I was not my mother, but I was so happy to become like her. By emulating her, I was keeping her close to me. I had found a way not to miss her so much. By carrying on her best traits, I am never without her. She is always with me.

So, too, is our relationship with our Creator. As infants and children, our souls are the closest to Him. We do not recognize a separation between ourselves and our surroundings. Our parents, our world, our Creator are one with us. As we grow, we grow further away from Him. Suddenly, when we realize how far we’ve gone, or can’t “see” Him anymore, we want Him back. We strive for Him, we strive to be like Him, so that we can feel His closeness. We recognize that the separation we craved all along was not really what we deeply wanted.

Yes, I miss her so much. However, I am so grateful that G‑d has given me the ability to recognize a key lesson in life and the world around us. I was given a choice to flee or emulate, and I am so grateful for the lesson. May this story be an elevation for my mother’s soul.

In memory of my mother, who passed away on the 16th of Tammuz, corresponding this year to July 19.

Chana Bitton has been freelance writing for fifteen years. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois, with her husband and 5 children (BH).
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JDV Paramus August 6, 2015

Mother's passing Dear Rachael Chein: Your response means a great deal to me. I can always count on Chabad.org to help me when it matters. Reply

Rochel Chein for chabad.org August 6, 2015

Dear JDV, Jewish tradition teaches us that the souls of parents and children are spiritually linked, and this connection is maintained even after their passing. By performing mitzvot in your mother's honor, you are giving merit to her soul. May we soon merit to be reunited with our loved ones, at the time of the Resurrection of the Dead. Reply

JDV August 2, 2015

Mother Very sentimental article. Reminds me of my own mother who left this world in 1999. will I be reunited with her when i enter the spiritual world? Can't say for sure, obviously, be sure hope so! Reply

Frumma Rosenberg-Gottlieb miami, fl. July 24, 2011

your mom Your mother was so warm and sensitive. I remember her with great fondness. It must give her great pleasure to look down from her place in Heaven and read your lovely article! Reply

Ellen Rashkow Skokie, IL July 21, 2011

What a lovely way to remember someone who is loved. You wrote from the heart and it showed us the special relationship you had with your mother. May Hashem bless with a long lifetime of health and happiness with your family. Reply

Rivkah Miami, Florida July 19, 2011

AMAZING! Reply

Eula Irene Bunting RFD, IL / USA July 19, 2011

Mothers Hello so good to read your story, and it is funny how we grow into the image of our mother or whomever raised us to adulthood. Awhile back after my mother had passed away and had been gone for a couple of years at this time, I was in the bathroom and looking in the mirror after washing my face and I suddenly had a memory of my dear mother and I saw her face in the mirror and I was surprised that it was actually my own face there and it is true I had grown into the exact image of my mother at my age. Ever since then when I look at the mirror there she is and I sometimes say hell momma I sure do miss you so thank you for coming to visit me today. G-d Bless all our mothers who give so much of themselves to us. Reply

Michelle UK July 19, 2011

:) bless you and thanks! Reply

Malka NY July 18, 2011

May hashem bless you! You are an inspiration! Reply

sara W chicago, il July 17, 2011

I loved how you explained the details about the presents. I always wished I could be creative like that. I really enjoyed this article :) Reply

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