If you had asked me how life was yesterday, I would have written about the quiet day we had in paradise. Mom and I sang songs, drank coffee at our favorite cafe, went grocery shopping, then met my dad for lunch along the cliff top overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The day was warm and sunny. It felt like winter had ended.
That was yesterday. This morning, 7:00 am Israel time, my precious grandmother passed away. She was 101-years-old. There were emotionally fraught calls between my house and my parents, to my brother Simon in California, my aunt and cousins in England, to our Israeli relatives. I finally managed to catch a mid-morning train to Netanya; by the time I arrived, Mom had forgotten all about her mother’s death.
We’ve been making arrangements all day. Each time we mention the word “funeral,” Mom asks who has died. She wants to know why we are whispering and why she’s not included in the conversations. I showed her a photo of her sister Barbara and told her that Barbara is coming to visit. But it’s not sinking in.
We’ve decided that Mom will come to the funeral, and then, as is traditional, she and her sister will sit shiva for a short period of time until Barbara returns to England. Mom will not sit for the full week. How can she if she can’t even hold in her mind the very painful truth of losing her mother.
It will be our job to shield Mom as much as possible from reacting with fresh pain every time she hears the news. And from well-meaning friends who will ask her how she is. There is little we can do to prepare her for the funeral tomorrow. I dread telling her that her mother has died.
Yesterday I felt so calm, confident that I could give Mom simple pleasures that enhance her being. I could see Mom was happy, too. But no matter what we do, Alzheimer’s is always with us, shadowing us and throwing darkness on our lives. It makes it more difficult to mourn, to give into our sadness, because Mom reacts to our emotions. To keep her calm and cheerful, we have to be calm and cheerful. I can only sigh and hope that even in mouring the loss of my grandmother, Malka bat Miriam, we can find temporary happiness, and that it will be enough.
May my grandmother's memory be for a blessing, and may her daughters be comforted among the mourners of Jerusalem.
I’ve been planning what to cook for Shabbat when my aunt and cousins join us from England. It may just be this easy apricot chicken recipe.
This dish is more sweet than sour but oh so good. And easy to prepare.
8-10 chicken pieces
1 large onion, sliced I rings
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 jar apricot jam
1 Tbsp mustard
2 Tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Fry sliced onion and garlic in oil until onions begin to brown. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Place chicken in a large baking dish. Lay onions on top of chicken then coat with apricot sauce. Cook at 350° for 1 hour uncovered.