I’m a do-er, I like to go-go-go and keep myself busy and moving. When challenges arise, I tackle them and do my best to grow from the experience and move on. But every once in awhile, something comes up in life that forces us to slow down a bit, forces us to stop and reflect and to feel the weight of our world. I’ve just been catapulted into one of those times. My beautiful grandmother of seventy-nine years passed away very recently and suddenly.

Since it is my tendency to busy myself with details and the practicals of life, I have found myself a bit befuddled by the grieving process. It’s difficult for me to allow myself to feel sad. When we received word of her dismal diagnosis I rushed to be by her side. I busied myself with organizing household things, coordinating home-hospice care, cooking-freezing, shopping, calling nurses and social workers, planning for kosher burial. Thank G‑d, I also took some time to stop every so often and lie next to her and just be together. We talked and laughed and remembered and enjoyed each other.

She was a redheaded Southern Belle with a laugh and a smile that could soften the hardest of heartsThen, just like that, she died—just three and a half weeks after her fatal diagnosis. When I received the news that she had passed on, I remember gasping, tearing and then swallowing hard and saying, “Okay, now what.” So, I got busy again, planning a last minute trip back to the States for the funeral. It wasn’t until hours after my plane took off, after the meal was served, and the in-flight movie ended that I allowed myself to stop and feel. I was stuck on an airplane with 12 hours of flight time ahead of me and I had nothing to do. So, I cried. It was the first time since hearing of her illness that I allowed myself to totally let go and feel everything. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was cathartic. When my sobbing let up, (much to the relief of my concerned neighbor) I felt a little bit lighter. Not less sad, just lighter.

I’ve had some time since then to reflect on her life and her death, and in the process I have discovered some wonderful things. First of all, my Bubby died this past Yom Kippur. Chassidic thought explains that the day of a person’s death serves as a metaphor of how that person lived, even more so than the day of their birth. Yom Kippur is known to be the holiest of all days. It is called the Sabbath of all Sabbaths. And it is the day that G‑d says to us, “I don’t care what you did, I love you boundlessly and I forgive you.”

No sentiment could encapsulate my Bubby’s way of living any better. She was a redheaded Southern Belle with a laugh and a smile that could soften the hardest of hearts. She immersed herself in love and devotion for her family. She didn’t ask for much, and gave of her self limitlessly. Her children, and perhaps more so her grandchildren and blessedly, her eight great-grandchildren gave her definition, purpose and so much pride. She kvelled for us. She was chock-full of love and never hesitated to share it. She was full of forgiveness and understanding. She had an uncanny ability to see the best in everyone.

One day about a week or so before she died, in a particularly soulful moment, I asked her if she was able to, to come and visit me after she died. She said she would. Last night I dreamt that we were in the funeral parlor and the Rabbi was giving his eulogy as I sat in the hallway with my Bubby. Suddenly the whole crowd of mourners, lead by the Rabbi starting singing, in perfect harmony, “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, Zip-a-dee-ay, my oh my, what a wonderful day, plenty of sunshine headed my way, zip a dee-do-dah, zip-a-dee ay.” It was by far the best rendition of that song I had ever heard. Bubby and I just smiled at each other and when the song was over, with a very dramatic and drawn out harmony on the final “ay,” my Bubby winked and said, “It’s time for me to go now.” And she went.

I asked her if she was able to, to come and visit me after she died The night before that, I dreamt that she was in the kitchen on the eve of her death, cooking. I came to her and said, but Bubby, you don’t really know how to cook, and she said, “But I can try, it’s never too late to try.”

I cherish these little lessons from beyond. These little soul-visits. I do try new things because of her, and I do my best to appreciate the beauty of a simple day and the sunshine, because I know she wants me to see the good. Like she always did. I taught my kids “zip a dee-do dah” before bed last night, just to help remind me.

It so happens that we find ourselves reading the Torah portion this week called “Chayei Sarah,” - The life of Sarah. It also happens that my name is Sarah, so I always feel connected when I read about her. Knowing that this portion was imminent really gave me the strength to take a deep look at my feelings about my Bubby and see if I couldn’t make some more connections with her through this piece. Our foremother Sarah was a very special and holy woman. Interestingly, there are commentaries that say that Sarah died on Yom Kippur also. But what I find most intriguing is that the name of this week’s portion is called her “life” when in fact; the story begins recalling her death.

Perhaps this is what our Sages meant when they say that the sum of a person’s life can only truly be measured after their death. Because ultimately it’s all about the impact that’s left after we’re gone. It’s about our kids and grand-kids and great-grandkids living the values we instilled… and perpetuating those values.

Sarah Immeinu (Our Mother) was the first Jewish mother. Her life and more importantly the way that she lived it, serves as the precedent for all the generations that followed. When I, a Jewish woman, am able to be self-sacrificing in some manner of my life, it is because Sarah possessed and nurtured that trait. She gave her maidservant, Hagar, to her husband Avraham to marry, to allow him the opportunity to bear children, as she herself was barren. In the merit of her self-sacrifice, G‑d rewarded her with a son, Isaac, the second of our three Fathers.

When I open my home to guests and we eat together, and we thank G‑d together, I am able to do so because that is the potential that Sarah created. She and her husband had a tent that was open from four sides to allow any passerby the opportunity to stop and eat and thank G‑d for His bounty.

We are wired with the potential of our mothers and grandmothers

When I judge someone favorably, and see good within, I can do that because Sarah only saw the good and the potential for holiness in others. She and Avraham welcomed in idol worshippers who literally worshipped the dust on their feet. She never dismissed anyone on principle, she gave all of G‑d creations a chance to learn more and do good. This particular aspect of Sarah’s legacy is one that my Bubby lived in full.

What I realized after reading this week's Torah portion, is that in essence, the lives of our mothers before us don’t just serve as a reference point, but more specifically, they serve as blueprints. We are wired with the potential of our mothers and grandmothers. When we live with the values that defined them, we allow them to continue to live through us.

Every Jewish woman is a part of Sarah’s legacy. All that made my Bubby warm and beautiful, loving, and forgiving was spiritual DNA handed down like a royal jewel from her mothers and grandmothers before her, all the way back to our first Mother. What makes her, and each of us, unique is the degree to which we actualize it.

Although I miss her physical presence deeply, the “Life of Sarah” reminds me that she is very much alive within me. My job is to cultivate those gifts. I will look forward to more lessons, whether they come in my dreams or while I am still awake, and I thank G‑d for such an amazing ancestry.