Simone Rosenkrantz - A Good Life

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My mom left this life on Saturday May 28, 2022 around 5 AM.  By 6 AM she was laying in her hospital bed in the middle of the living room surrounded by rose petals and other flowers from her garden, a scarf which I had given to her when I visited France in 1978 was tied around her head.  She looked beautiful with all of her worries and fears, her aches and pains now gone, seemingly ageless.

In her final earthly days and up to her last breath she was surrounded by her family, her devoted husband Norm, her daughter Robyn and husband Michael, her grandson Daniel, her daughter-in-law Yasuyo and myself.  There were also so many people who said their goodbyes to her (although my mom was in what seemed to be a very deep sleep state she could still hear).  Rabbi Marcus came to say some prayers and his wife brought us food and get-well cards from her children. This was all such a comfort, especially to my dad Norm who spent 71 years with mom through their courtship including 68+ years of marriage. 

Transitioning/passing on/leaving this lifetime/dying is a part of life that most of us don’t look forward to.  It is a time of grief for those of us still living but maybe, as in mom’s case, a relief as the body no longer functions well enough for any type of quality of life.  In mom’s case she had totally stopped walking two weeks prior and had been hospitalized with a UTI.  Her hospital doctor recommended that we start hospice care.

For mom and our family, the process of dying was made easier by having Vision Viejo Hospice involved.  Mom wanted to die at home and she was given this gift, through hospice,  in a very dignified manner.  Her nurse Gemma and final caretaker Deborah were so humane in their treatment of mom.  Yasuyo, through her nursing training was extremely helpful.  My sister Robyn and her husband Michael moved back in to be with my parents and were truly amazing.  My son Daniel also provided so much support with his love shining brightly for mom and dad. 

But what of mom, her life, her loves, her time on earth.  Mom was the youngest of three girls, born to Louis, and Minnie, who was born in Russia.  Mom and her sisters grew up in New York but all eventually moved to California.  One is never sure about other’s lives but from what I know, mom had a difficult childhood not really filled with a lot of love. But I do realize that parenting was different during the time in which mom grew up. 

One defining moment in mom’s life came when she was in high school and was pushed down some stairs causing her to be in a body cast for close to a year.  She broke her left leg and one could see, through scarring, where the stiches had been placed.  She always knew when it was going to rain.  During her time in the hospital given the distance between her home and the hospital, she wasn’t visited often by her family who didn’t seem to have a lot of money given her father’s lack of a career.  In talks with mom, I know that the lack of visits and insecurities caused by this were a theme throughout her life.  I can’t imagine what she felt as she lay in the hospital in a full body cast missing her high school graduation, her friends and her family.

Mom’s sisters were older than her and she talked about them coming and going quite a bit and her not knowing when they might or might not be at home.  Coupled with the experience of her hospitalization this most likely caused her difficulty in having relationships and feeling secure in her life with others. 

Mom married very young; she was only 20 and dad was 24.  Both of them had a lot of emotional scarring, dad’s mother having died when he was still a boy, but this also drew them together.  They married in November 1953 with the beginning of their marriage being very difficult as dad was hospitalized with TB.  This meant that even though mom’s family also lived in southern California, mom was really on her own for the first time in her life while dad recovered. 

I don’t know if mom was ever too confident in her abilities but as my cousin Mark once said, “she was larger than life.”  I think that is what really made mom attractive to so many people but something which also pushed so many others away as mom could be blunt in telling people what they might not want to hear.  (A good example of this dealt with my dear friend Beth and how mom told her to wear better clothes, jewelry and make-up.  Fortunately, Beth took this good naturedly as she knew that this was one way in which mom was showing her love and caring for her.  Other people might have felt the opposite.) 

Mom once tried her hand at business, but as I remember this was very tough on her emotions.  She often was upset, crying, at times, out of control, from the work that she was doing.  I remember the many times that dad helped to calm her with his steady hand. 

Another moment that defined mom’s life was when our sister Deanne who was 25 at the time and her friend Lisa, who was 22, were killed by a drunk driver in April 1984 in Palm Springs.  Mom was 51 and dad was 55.  One can never prepare for this type of sudden, senseless death and mom took it extremely hard.  I remember her unending crying with dad holding and walking with her.  I’m not sure that anyone overcomes the death of a child.  The times that I told my mom that so many people lose a child every day were pointless in alleviating her grief.  How can we know the depths of this type of grief until it is experienced?  But somehow like with everything in her life mom was very resilient and kept on living. 

Throughout my life mom and I often didn’t get along and had many senseless battles with some of the worst occurring when I was married to my first wife.  I think that this originated from mom’s not learning a lot of parenting skills from her mother.  When I was young, I was an incredibly picky eater.  This stemmed from mom’s parents constantly criticizing her about what I wouldn’t eat, which was pretty much everything.  Many times, I remember being in tears because I was forced to eat certain foods.  With mom’s insecurities and her parents berating it was very difficult for her to know what to do.  Fortunately, I turned out to be quite a food lover.

At times, I was overly critical of mom without really having full appreciation and understanding of her motives.  Having more empathy for her life experience might have helped me to get along with her better.  At times I thought that she was over protective and as for all of us, at some point the apron strings needed to be cut, but this wasn’t done in a very loving manner. 

Mom was a unique person, the colors that she wore, her hats, clothes, jewelry.  She wasn’t shy, as I noted above, about telling others what she thought of their clothes or their appearance.  Maybe this was one of the reasons why I never cared about what I wore and am so sensitive about wearing any jewelry; a rebellion in part.  Strange how some of us do the opposite of what our parents say.

I believe that mom did the best that she could given her life experiences.  She was fortunate to travel with my dad, have three children and two grandchildren.  Mom wasn’t highly educated academically but she did have a certain knowledge of life.  She experienced the highs and lows, the suffering, the happiness.  I know that she wanted more for herself and those that she knew and loved.  Mom had a special relationship with her grandson Daniel who was named after my sister Deanne.  This might explain why they had this relationship and also the fact the Daniel was born on mom’s mother Minnie’s birthday— May 15.

During the past few weeks when mom was dying, she didn’t complain at all.  Daniel pointed this out to me and how impressed he was with his grandmother’s passing.  Mom was so full of dignity although she was losing everything that was cherished in her life.  This was so poignant as I hadn’t thought of mom in these terms.  This revealed to me so much about mom’s character and her life on earth. 

One of the items that I asked mom to be buried with was a necklace that I bought her which said, “I love you.”  How do we show that we really appreciate those in our lives?  Mom’s death has caused me to want to dig deeper in my humanity towards others.  This was further reinforced by Rabbi Zalman at mom’s funeral and listening to the audio book Tuesdays with Morrie.

When mom breathed her last, I thought about the fact the she was with me when I breathed my first; the circle of life completed.

My hope, wish, whatever one would like to call it, is that Deanne, mom’s parents, her sisters and many others were all waiting to welcome her.  One day I hope that she will be there to welcome me. 




Position: Lover of Life-Change Agent

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