They were spread out all over the floor of her living room from wall to wall: sets of beautiful, delicate dinner services; crystal vases; china serving dishes; silver flatware. There were all the things we had used each time we had come to spend Shabbat with my mother-in-law over the years. I could almost smell the stew in the big pot that lay on the floor, remembering the countless Shabbat meals we had enjoyed here with our seven young children.

It was disheartening to see all those cherished items out of their cabinetsBubba had moved to Israel after Zeidy’s death, to be nearer to her children and grandchildren, and although she came to visit us in our Jerusalem home, she much preferred entertaining in her own home.

It was disheartening to see all those cherished items out of their cabinets, where they had been for so many years, and now just spread out all over the floor. There simply wasn’t room on the big dining-room table for everything, and so we had gently lowered all these well-used and -cared-for utensils onto the floor, so that all of Bubba’s children and grandchildren who came could see them all and choose what they wanted.

And all the time, Bubba was busy telling us all how pretty and useful they were, and trying to convince us to take everything.

We all had very mixed feelings. On the one hand, no one wanted to be the first to take any of the items which were so much a part of Bubba’s home. But on the other hand, at least she was giving these treasures away of her own accord, and seeing who of her children and grandchildren were going to take them—and, hopefully, she would visit us all and see them put to good use.

She was about to move into an assisted living apartment. It was not something she was looking forward to. We knew that we had persuaded her to make the move. We were frightened of her being on her own any longer. She was becoming frailer. Once she tripped over the open oven door and fell, hurting herself and leaving the food alight on the gas stove. We dreaded that one day something even more dangerous could happen.

But Bubba wanted to keep a semblance of her independence, and didn’t want to move in with any one of us. The small assisted living apartment within a friendly warm home, with medical staff onsite, seemed the ideal solution.

But of course “ideal” was the way we saw it, not Bubba. She was moving from a spacious apartment, with three bedrooms and a large living room and kitchen, to a small living room/bedroom/kitchenette. There would be no more Shabbat meals entertaining her children and grandchildren around her large dining-room table. No more cooking up a storm of delicious delicacies in her warm, friendly kitchen, which used to leave her totally exhausted when we arrived on Friday afternoon, but happy and satisfied as we poured on the compliments about her culinary skills.

Now she would be eating her main meal in the communal dining room, and would need to make only her own breakfast and light supper. She wouldn’t be needing any of her utensils and large dinner services, and there was no room for unnecessary items in the tiny kitchenette.

“Ideal” was the way we saw it, not BubbaOf her sixteen grandchildren, four were married, and so she chose some of her prettiest serving dishes to give to these young couples. She wanted her three children to take the main dinner sets with which she had laid the table so lovingly over the many years. There was plenty to go round. She gave each family one of her delicate cut-glass dishes.

It was a slow, difficult process. No one really wanted to take anything. It was as though we were helping tear apart Bubba’s home.

When her newly married grandson arrived, Bubba insisted that he take the brown couch that opens up into a large bed. I remembered how many of our young children squeezed into that bed over the years. When they were small, four children had easily been tucked into the wide expanse while the older children had spread themselves out on mattresses in the salon. Their giggles and kicking could be heard for some time before they all settled down into dreamland, with the smell of tomorrow’s stew wafting through the apartment.

If these thoughts were spinning through my mind then, how much more must have been going through my mother-in-law’s thoughts . . .

Settled into her small room a few weeks later, we marveled at how she had managed to turn this into a mini-version of her large, welcoming apartment.

As we came in, I smiled to myself. The familiar delicious smell of her great cooking greeted us. Her culinary adventures may now be confined to one electric ring and a microwave oven, but she obviously wasn’t going to let this limit her hospitality.

Bubba may have changed her address, but she showed us all that it wasn’t the size of the apartment or fancy kitchenware that makes a welcoming home.