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.