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Remembering three mothers

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LJ Cohen

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The Yiskor service on Yom Kippur is a powerful one. The whole day is powerful with its themes of repentance, atonement, and introspection and the memorial prayers for the dead seem to take on additional meaning.

Even more so now that both my parents have died.

This year, I spent quite a bit of time during the service thinking about the three mothers who have had a great influence on my life: the mother who raised me, the mother who raised my husband, and for the first time, the mother who gave birth to me.

I am grateful for the mother who adopted me - who believed I was a special order from G-d to her. She instilled in me a love of reading, of learning, of art, of the importance of family and hard work. If she held on to me a little tighter than I wanted, it was from an abundance of love and a fear of losing what she loved. She was a woman who had experienced deep losses from an early age and lived her life always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I understand that now. I wish she had been able to let go of her fears and truly live.

I am grateful for my husband's mother. She died far too young - when she was 50 and Neil was in his second year of medical school. I was fortunate to have known her. She was a force to be reckoned with - passionate, energetic, fiercely devoted to her principles and her family - which is often a difficult balancing act. She raised her son to be a deeply caring and emotionally healthy man.

This year, I also said Yiskor for my birth mother. Her name was Robin. She was 17 when she discovered she was pregnant with me. Maybe if she had come of age a decade or so later, perhaps she would have been the mother who raised me, but in the 1960's single parenthood was a different proposition. For whatever her specific reason or reasons, she surrendered me for adoption as a 5 day old infant and set the course of my life on its trajectory.

It's almost been a year since I discovered her name on a website and uncovered the network of my extended birth family and have been able to learn a bit about her.

She died in 2010 at the age of 65.

I never had the chance to connect with her. To let her know I was fine. More than fine - that I had a rich and fulfilling life, complete with work that I enjoy and an amazing family.

I love and I am loved. This makes me fortunate beyond measure.

When you're an adoptee, the question of nature vs nurture is one that is never far from your thoughts. While much of who I am has been shaped by my upbringing and my experiences, it is also true that there is much of my birth mother in me: the love of science fiction, the pride in the work of my hands, the drive to create, and the passion for local, sustainable food are things I seem to share with her.

It felt right to remember these three remarkable women, all of whom have contributed to the woman I am. As part of my spiritual practice, and in the spirit of Yom Kippur, I will work to honor their memories in the new year.

May you be inscribed in the book of life.





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