“I want my mommy,” I repeated, sobbing, while the visitors looked on, not knowing what to say
I was lost. Lost in pain. Lost in confusion.
“Where’s Mommy?” I wanted to shout over and over again.
I’d known my mother wasn’t doing well. Succos time, she’d found herself in the hospital. Emphysema had burned out most of her lung capacity and she had to be permanently on oxygen.
Several weeks after the Yamim Tovim, I flew out to visit my parents. It was Daddy’s 70th birthday. A happy occasion, right? How could it be happy when my mother’s life had been so drastically altered?
I felt angry. I didn’t want my mother to be sick and helpless, I didn’t want to have to make applesauce and other light food for the woman who had cooked me gourmet meals. My heart fell into a pit of pain as I watched this vivacious woman who favored brightly colored clothing slowly shuffle around her home, forever trailed by a long oxygen cord.
Almost six months later, Pesach was approaching. Dust was beaten out of every corner, as if it harbored secret crumbs of chometz. Cleaning, shopping, cooking, was all done with military precision. In the midst of this whirlwind, the phone call came.
“Mommy’s in the hospital. She has pneumonia, but she’s getting better,” came Dad’s tired voice. I managed to speak to Mommy almost every day that week. Sometimes I didn’t say much more than a sentence or two as Mommy had to be taken to breathing physiotherapy. Pesach loomed; only three and a half days away.
I thought about Mommy’s Pesach of yore. She’d been in her element. Both the upstairs and downstairs fridges were filled to capacity, not to mention the large chest freezer. The pantry had been cleaned long before, lined with tinfoil, and loaded with an array of Pesach goodies. Only the best for Pesach. The house could be called Pesachdig almost all year long, but leading up to the holiday of freedom, it had an extra sparkle.
I didn’t know how my father would manage over Pesach. Perhaps my brother would bring him store-bought food? I dialed the many numbers that connected my phone in Israel to Mommy’s in a faraway hospital in Canada. She answered with a raspy voice. She told me it was because she was in the middle of her physio.
We talked few words. Mine were stuck in a bolus of sadness and confusion. Mommy’s were too weak to spring out. With great effort, Mommy said her parting words, “Don’t let this bother your Pesach.” Little did I know those were to be her last words to me.
Shivah was a short affair; a grand total of a day and a half. I couldn’t make it to the levayah, so I sat at home, together with my brother who also lives here, trying to absorb this unbelievable reality.
“I want my mommy,” I repeated, sobbing, while the visitors looked on, not knowing what to say. Somehow, between my heroic husband, dedicated neighbors, and the unbelievable Hashgachah that I had already prepared much of our Yom Tov food, and had even bought new toys for the kids to keep them occupied in the days leading up to the holiday, our Pesach got made.
We were told that we should sit shivah till about an hour before the holiday, take a short walk around the block, and then make our personal preparations. A long Maariv later, we found ourselves numbly sitting at the Pesach Seder. The table was set as in years before, but the luster was lacking.
Exhaustion overtook me Yom Tov day. We finished our seudah and I curled myself up in my blanket, deep in a land that blocked out all pain. After a few good hours of separation from all around me, I awoke to yelling: “Shoshie, where are you? Does anyone know where Shoshie is?” The concern in my husband’s voice startled me.
“Check if she went up to the neighbors!” I called from behind my closed door. The kids scattered around the building searching for their three-year-old sister.
“She’s not in the building or around it,” they informed me breathlessly.
Here in Har Nof, we have a few lost children’s gemachim. We looked in our local directory to see where they are located. The older children and their friends set out in different directions in search of Shoshie.
Immobilized, I sat on a chair and wept through my Tehillim. Shoshie had inherited my mother’s energy and determination. Where could this little child have gone to? I worked hard not to let my overactive imagination overwhelm the little stamina I had left.
Neighbors heard our daughter was missing and went out to look for her. One teenage girl was running in the streets down below when she met up with another teen, also running. “Are you looking for a little girl in a white flowery dress and blonde curls?” asked the second teen.
“Yes, yes,” the first one answered.
“I know where she is! She’s at the gemach down at the bottom of the neighborhood.” She gave the address of a house at the far end of the neighborhood to my young neighbor, who wisely came back to tell us. “I figured your daughter may not know me and not be willing to come back with me. Best to send a family member.”
Our oldest son was sent to the address given. There, he found his little sister sitting contentedly on a kitchen stool sucking a lollipop. She was very pleased to see her oldest brother. He was less pleased to see her without her shoes and wearing a rather dirty dress. Meanwhile, knowing my precious little girl was found, my breathing returned to normal.
When the two offspring came running through our front door, I pieced together the story. Shoshie had thought I had gone somewhere and she’d went off in search of her mommy.
“I was looking for Mommy,” my little girl whined repeatedly.
I held her close in my arms and rocked her back and forth, tears seeping out. I’m looking for Mommy, too, I thought.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 716)
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