It is with great sadness and enormous gratitude that I share with you the news about the death of my Mother, Irene Blanche Ross Rosen (maiden name: Bulmash). She passed away on Saturday, October 31, 2009, after a long period of illness. I am grappling with my sadness because she is gone, and opening up my heart to profound gratitude because I was blessed to have her as a mother. She was 89 years old. I think it is appropriate to write about my mother in this forum because who I am and what I do in the world is profoundly impacted by her teachings and her very being.
A little more than a week ago, I was able to visit her in Florida and to tell her how much I loved and appreciated her, and I was able to thank her for all that she taught me. In a way, I was able to celebrate a "living funeral" with her. It was an opportunity for a beautiful closure for both of us.
Mom was born in
She taught me the Talmudic concept of Tikkun Olam..."to heal the world," and mostly two very important messages: that bad things can happen to people because they are different and that we -- all of us -- have a responsibility to do something about it. It is no accident that all three of her children, my two sisters and I, have spent our lives working on issues of social justice. She was a lifelong learner, and before her eyesight failed her, she was never far from the latest book she was reading. She was constantly sending me magazine articles, news clippings or anything else that kept me focused on learning...always learning. "Never stop learning" she said to me like a mantra.
When I had to stay home sick as a child, she would give me a book from the encyclopedia set and tell me to read through it that day and then she would sit with me in the evening and ask me what I had learned. Though she was not able to go to college, because her family could only afford to send her brothers, she was a keen intellect and rose high in her career as a health statistician. I have no doubt that in another era she would have been a doctor.
She believed deeply in community, whether it was being the den mother of the Cub Scouts, the president of the PTA or, after retiring, heading up the Maryland Club, she was the hub of connection for so many people in so many ways.
She was very connected to her Jewish identity and taught me to know about and appreciate my heritage. She had a deep and abiding faith and an unyielding belief in God, which was planted deeply in my soul, even as it may have been expressed differently in my life.
But mostly, and profoundly, my Mom was about her family. She and my father were in love for 40 years and after he died she was blessed to find another wonderful man to love, Bob, who was such an amazing support to her in her final journey and whom she loved very much, and who I love very much as well.
And omigod did she love her children and grandchildren! I cannot remember a single time in my entire life when she didn't take a call from me, no matter what she was doing or whom she was with. Anything would stop so that we could talk. When the grandchildren came she couldn't get enough of them, ever! And the great grandchildren? Oy vey! And she adored my wife. Her love for family was unbounded by time or space.
An amazing woman and an amazing life of family, service, contribution and faith. And with all of it, the thing that will be with me for the rest of my life will be the thing that has always been with me. My mother loved me every day of my life. I never doubted that. What a gift to always know that you are loved.
I already miss her.