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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.