Tuesday, January 03, 2012

In Loving Memory, Betty Birnbaum Woolf זכרונה לברכה

Tonight is my mother's twenty-first yahrzeit. She was, by all accounts, a remarkable, strong, intelligent and loving wife to my Dad and mother to three, not easy to raise, sons. The more time that passes I wonder at her strength of character and faith. She was eight years younger than I when my Dad died, and she was left to carry on alone. Very few people were there to help her, and yet she persevered and prevailed; with dignity, with presence and propriety. 'Always do the right and proper thing' was one of her central lessons. She was also a lot of fun.

God put her through many trials. She wasn't able to go to College, because she had to work to help her struggling immigrant parents. She once told me how her paycheck went straight to my Bubbe for food. She struggled with my father through good times and bad, with good humor and always shielding us from adversity. She created a Yiddishe heim, which had kashrut, Shul, Shabbat, and Yom Tov. And while we were not strictly Orthodox, I challenge any Shomer Shabbos person to match the warmth and yiddishkeit which characterized the home she made for us. When she was struck with cancer, she faced it straight on and lived to the fullest...and beat it for ten years. And then, when the disease returned, and she felt that it prevented her from having a dignified life, she was ready to return to her Creator, with dignity. As she breathed her last breath in the hospice, and I said Shema into her ear, she was calling to her mother; who I assume had come to bring her home.

Today, parts of my own life are extremely difficult, while others are wonderful. I struggle with the question why evil people are allowed to prosper, and derive courage and inspiration, perspective and strength from my mother's life and example to appreciate the blessings God has given me, and not to empower the bad things that come my way. In the long run, they matter not. She used to say that evil can only hurt you if you let it. She never let it, and blessed everyone whom she touched with her example.

תהי נשמתה צרורה בצרור החיים ותהי מנוחתה כבוד.


Merry Miller said...

What a wonderful woman your mother, my mother's best friend, my Aunt Betty was.
She did have many obstacles in her life to overcome, but she did so without complaint and with a dignity and a grace about her.
I always remember the fun we had together, sitting around the breakfast nook with my mother, and with Aunt Betty, just laughing and having a good time.

My mother Lillian and your mother Betty were kindred spirits. Neither one of them was allowed to go to college by their parents, and had to go to work at 16, to help support their families. They met at work, Red Distributing, and really bonded.

Both of them were good Jewish girls who kept Kosher and ended up raising their families in good Yiddishe heims.

Your mother had the added burden of losing her soul mate, your father Irving, so suddenly and at such a young age. I still remember how terrible we all felt and going over to your house to sit Shiva. It was a sad time.

In the months before my mother Lillian passed away, we often spoke of your mother Betty. My mother would always remember her best friend Betty. Even with her mind so compromised by Alzheimer's. she was still able to remember Betty and would have a story to relate about her. Luckily the old memories stay intact in a person severely affected by Alzheimer's. It's the ability to remember what is going on currently, or 5 minutes ago, or 5 years ago, that becomes damaged by Alzheimer's.

In the end my mother also called for her mother & father before she died, as well as for my father Irving. The last month my mother kept seeing them and calling to them. She insisted that the caregiver's feed my father,as well as feed her, since she was convinced that he was present in the room with her. I think he probably was.

Both your lovely mother Betty, and my mother Lillian, were Eshet Chaile's. I will always remember them together with warm feelings and so much love.

May God Bless their souls.

Meredith Miller

Paulette said...

She was like my mom and I miss her still. She was a true lady, always thought the best of people and never complained even though she had a hard life. She was my role model. I can't believe she's been out of our lives for so long, but her influence and goodness live on.

Anonymous said...

a beautiful commemoration. [you know, you look a little like her.]

but tell me, if you kept shabbos, kashrus, etc., how were you not orthodox? perhaps you were pre-modern, mimetic, traditional...

Anonymous said...

I don't know you or your mom, but nikarim divrei emes, tehi nishmasah tzerurah bitzror hachayim.

Jeffrey Woolf said...

We weren't strictly Shomer Shabbat in the area of Melakhot etc. The house was strictly kosher (obviously Pesach was a strict production). I"d say we we were very heavy on the מצוות עשה and less so on the לאוין.