Hi Bubbe!

My mom was not a religious person at all (indeed, she was a committed secularist). So, when we had a brief ceremony at her bedside at Serenity House hospice in Santa Barbara yesterday, the day after her death, it was non-denominational and led by the Chaplain there.

Beautiful blessings were offered, and the symbolism included a quilt, with an embroidered image of a hummingbird, whose wings beat so fast, some believe, it can carry messages from the other side. I took a picture, only of that image, before we said goodbye to my mom.

Today, after I told my two daughters, Alison and Marlena, about the ceremony and the image (they were not able to go to Santa Barbara), we were standing on the lawn chatting, and a hummingbird flew right up to us, hovering, and made eye contact long enough to allow us to say, “Hi Bubbe!” with the most amazed and joyful expressions on our faces! The bird then flew a few feet, turned and looked at us again, and flew off.

The girls and I are afraid we had a religious experience, which would not really please their Bubbe at all! But you can make of it what you will.

Meanwhile, let my mom’s–my kids’ Bubbe’s–memory be a blessing to us all!

My Memory of Mickey

Mickey was one of those rare people whose thoughts, energies and life in general was devoted to the common good of all people.  She was a living treasure and a pleasure to be with.  She is dearly missed.  Edward Bear

My Mom Passed

It was always complicated, this me and you;
You brought me here, and I found your sadness.
Your life’s theme, struggle, defined you
But, your passion and joy in beauty were so present.
I strived to make it easier; I wanted to make you proud;
Fighting for your attention; hoping for your ease;
I confess I never felt enough. The simple words,
“I love you”
Proved to be an ineffective balm.

But, your strength and perseverance were always a touchstone.
You glowed with a fire of commitment and care.
I couldn’t help but bask in that light and appreciate all you became.
You did this on your own terms, and I found my own ways.
Finding my way back to you was a great gift.

The last days were oddly easy. You seemed to have laid a path.
It was not one you shared with others, but confidently strode as your
Gait failed you and your breathing became difficult. That quiet confidence
Never waivered.
In your last moments, you were surrounded by the men who loved you.
Separate, but together at the end, each in his own thoughts; with you, and
Helpless in our efforts to help you. You didn’t need us, but you had us.

You always saw me. I think we got each other in a deep way that we never discussed.
I have you in my hands’ tremors and my stiff-necked resolve; my passion for truth
And my way with words. Your spirit and love continue down the generations. Your
Influence spawned and nurtured the courage of multitudes. But, to me, there will always
Be the knowing smile and the whispered words at the end of an embrace, “You’re a good boy.”

Farewell to my mom

At 3:45 p.m., to the coincidental strains of Blowing in the Wind (a song my mother cherished), my mother, Mickey Flacks died peacefully today at Serenity House in Santa Barbara. After 80 years of struggle, celebration, good food, good friends, loud singing, many weddings of her sons, and 60 years of marriage; plus 6 grandchildren, a published memoir, and the admiration of the Santa Barbara community, she found her end.

My mother, always a fighter, chose a peaceful ending, free of interventions and medical drama. She made her own determined and stubborn decisions, often disagreeing with my father, and always, proudly going forward.

I’ve watched my mother’s slow decline over the last 3 years. Her brash, opinionated, bull in a china shop style gave way to a subtler, calmer, quieter demeanor. She still got her barbs in when my dad missed an important detail in a story; but, her fierceness tempered with age. She got cuter. One of my favorite near-end memories was a lovely role she had in a local play where she was a wheel-chair bound little Irish grandmother who sang and talked to trees.

Her love of movies, and literature, and plays, and ideas were inspirational and formative for me. Her capacious knowledge of folks songs taught me the roots of Appalachia, Ireland, the American Labor and Civil Rights Movements and Jewish American culture. Her Yiddish scholarship was admirable, but private to her and her contemporaries except for the amazing book of pre-holocaust shtetl photos where she translated the nursery rhymes of her parent’s childhoods.

My mother was my link to working class America, and immigrant America. She was the voice of working people like Tom Joad of Steinbeck, a character she admired and emulated.

When a hero of Latin American revolutions dies, people will shout “presente” (here) when their name is mentioned at a rally or speech. My mother will always be present in the long struggle for human rights, dignity, democracy, freedom, and the chance for all people to lead lives of dignity and equity.

I will cherish your memory mom, as will hundreds, perhaps thousands. You are a hero and a beloved woman. But also, you were my mother, and I will always remember the tender moments we shared.