My mother passed away when I was just 20. I am fortunate that she was alive long enough to transmit to me so many of the Jewish life lessons-the morals, the values, the importance of family-that I would need to walk through life.
It was her voice that I heard when I chose a post-college path that led me first to Israel and then to work for a time in JUF's Women's Division, where the Jewish mothers were plentiful. There, I could model my Jewish adulthood after the most upstanding women in our community who exemplify the best of what it means to live a life with purpose.
While I have a supportive network of family, friends, and colleagues, there are days of the year when the pain of her absence is especially deep: Mother's Day, her birthday, and her
On those difficult days, my grandmother, the matriarch of our family, reminds me to remember my blessings and forget my misfortunes. Self-pity is not a word in her vocabulary. Now 95, she endured the Great Depression, a young husband off fighting in World War II, and sudden widowhood at 39 with three young children. She speaks from experience and I listen.
I found out that I was pregnant on the 11th anniversary of my mother's passing, a light on a dark day.
With the most supportive partner by my side, I have navigated this new role. As I have watched my son grow from a helpless newborn to a happy, curious, energetic, and sweet toddler, motherhood has been a fulfilling journey.
I have a deep sense of appreciation for all the selfless sacrifices that my mother made for me, some that I'm now discovering, and many that I'm sure I'll never even know. I think about this when I put my son to bed at night, and rock him to sleep. I run my fingers through his soft hair, and gently lean down to take in his sweet baby scent. I wonder how many times my mother must have done this to me. I know he won't remember, just as I don't, but somehow in those moments, I feel more connected to her than ever.
Of late, parenthood has been particularly unusual as we do things like move our son's 1st birthday party to a "virtual" one. We are trying to avoid forming bad "screen habits" as we FaceTime with family and friends to stay connected during quarantine.
As the seasons pass, and as I have new life experiences, I gain perspective. I focus on the blessings (as my grandmother still reminds me to do) and accept that it isn't the quantity of years I had with my mother, but rather the quality of those years.
While it hurts that my mother is not here to consult with or to administer her love, I talk about her and keep her memory alive so that my son understands the larger-than-life legacy he inherited from her, for whom he is named.
Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and caretakers as we learn together how to be a parent during a pandemic. Watching our community come together to support each other reminds me of my grandmother's sage advice: in the face of darkness, we must hold onto our blessings and look to the light.
Fara Alexander is
Fara Alexander is the SVP of branding and marketing for reverse supply chain and returns management company, goTRG, based in Miami, FL. She is a member of the Young Professional Committee at the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Museum and an
Fara Alexander works in retail branding and marketing, is an incoming member of JUF's Young Women's City Council, and lives in Chicago with her husband and son.