Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saying Goodbye

I wrote this on January 27, 2009 Photo taken June 2009

My mother (in law) is dying.

SIL called to say two days to a week.

My appreciation for having this woman

In my life

Far surpasses the son she brought into the world

Whom I was lucky enough to marry.

Erika became the mother I never had.

And to many that will seem unfair, as I had

A perfectly good mother.

Maybe I never appreciated my own mother enough.

But Erika gave me something I never got from my own mother…


Erika appreciated me out loud.

Maybe it’s sad to think that my EGO needed a mother

Like Erika,

But it did.

And Erika gave me that…she appreciated everything I did

Everything I created

Everything I wrote, or made or did.

She made me feel special and good at what I did

I love her for that.

When I first met Erika she lived in Cambridge, MA

In a small apartment. I knew she was born in Berlin, Germany

And grew up during WWII

I worried how she would accept me

Her Jewish Daughter in law.

I think it was when I saw a Jewish symbol in her home

One early Christmas visit

That cinched it for me…that I was okay

and that neither my Jewishness nor her Germanness would be a problem

And it never ever was.

Erika and I used to write letters to each other

We’d write weekly

In long hand

(This was before computers)

I eventually switched to the keyboard

But Erika never did. Always in long hand

And often on legal sized pages

Her letters and mine could be many pages long.

Erika still has (or my SIL has) boxes of all the letters

I wrote to Erika…

I saved some of hers too.

Erika kept notes on large calendars

So every Jewish New Year I’d send her

Another Jewish calendar

And at Christmas I’d send her German Marzipan

Her favorite

And German cookies.

The last few years dementia kicked in for Erika

And the letters stopped coming from her

I tried to write on occasion anyway and send photos

Of us and our grand kids

She said she was the grandmother to my children

Even though they were her son’s stepchildren & she never

met them in person.

And therefore she became a great grandmother to my twins.

We went every Christmas to visit her.

And in summer too.

I will miss this feisty woman

Who had a mind of her own

Who was smart and kind and loving

And who took me in as her “other daughter”

And who is/was my “other mother”.

Go in Peace Erika, Shalom. I love you and will miss you.

I wrote this January 30, 2009 to family and friends: Erika fell ten days ago and broke her hip. (This about a month and a half after breaking her other hip and having surgery for it) She had surgery but did not come all the way round after the surgery. We have been watching from a far and waiting and today we have heard that she died peacefully at six o'clock this morning in her nursing home in Minnesota. Needless to say we feel very sad.

Erika had a long life, tumultuous in the beginning (growing up in Berlin, Germany; becoming widowed in her first young marriage; surviving the war ...meeting my husbands’ dad, an American Soldier there...marrying and immigrating to America. She followed her military husband all over the globe. She raised two children. She worked as a Librarian at Harvard University. She became widowed a second time when my husband’s father died. She was lucky to live with her daughter and help raise her grandson, until he left for college four years ago. She was much loved by all of us. She was my "other mother". Erika and I had a special friendship over the past thirty years that was first lived through long weekly letters back and forth...the acceptance and praise I got from Erika has sustained me in my adult life in ways that is hard to explain but helped me in many ways. I will miss her.

I will miss that.

I know we have been dealing with a lot of deaths of blog friend’s loved ones lately…and I hesitated to add mine to the mix.

But many of you got to know Erika from my previous postings about our visits with her, especially this past summer and winter holiday time in the nursing home…I guess it’s the end chapter to that part of my story. Sorry to add to the sadness today…thank you for reading this and being my ear and shoulder.


  1. I came to your blog via Suki's and reading your words, your tribute to Erika made my heart sad that she is gone, but happy that you had her in your life. What a wonderful thing that is and always will be.

    Warm Thoughts,

    Teri and the cats of Furrydance

  2. Oh Lynn, this is a beautiful tribute to Erika, just beautiful. My heart goes out to you and all who will miss this wonderful woman. I'm so happy you got to have one last visit but she will always be in your heart.

    Hugs and more hugs.

  3. This is a beautiful tribute to your MIL or "Other Mother Erika" She seemed like such a jovial person even in her last days. I am glad you posted about it as she deserved to be honored this way.
    My heart goes out to you and DH and I hope that time will lessen the pain of the loss. Lots of Hugs Cris

  4. Lynn - I had heard that she broke her hip and thought that it might heal, - I know how much you loved her and did the Erika's quilt for her with such love, I'm so sorry for you and for your family.
    This really is a beautiful tribute to her, you obviously had a wonderful relationship and were a very loved daughter to Erika.
    many hugs, Mim

  5. How wonderful that you had such a person in your life, she was a blessing. I am so sorry for your loss.

  6. Oh Lynn, I am just so sorry to hear about Erika. My love to you, your husband and family. Chris

  7. somehow this post just fits with the others we have had recently, not because of the deaths, but because of the wonderful words of tribute and honour and love enclosed in it. RIP dear erika and I wish you and your family a very 'long life'.

  8. It's great that Erika had such a full life, that you had that special connection with each other and that she died peacefully and gracefully. May you and your family members share love, strength and comfort as you celebrate and give thanks for her life.

  9. Dear Lynn,

    I came here to thank you for the CD which I just opened but have not played yet. I will do that tonight.

    My heart goes out to you and all the people who will be touched by Erika's passing. How wonderful the two of you had such a special bond. She's a perfect example of not judging others by your life experiences. Instead, it sounds as if she embraced everyone and eveything life had to offer. How wonderful!
    Peace to you and your family as you reflect and celebrate her life.

  10. Sorry. She sounds like an amazing woman.

  11. What a beautiful story Lynn!
    I am sorry for your loss, she seems like a wonderful lady!
    I have seen het before in one of your posts.
    My fathers farewell today was a wonderful warm one, I´m thankful for that.
    You were one of my shoulders these last few days so I gladly offer mine to you now!
    Take care Lynn, I wish you a lot of strenght in dealing with this loss and sorrow.
    Big hug Marianne

  12. oh yes Lynn... i remember that post... and your gift to her... one of your amazing artworks... a birdhouse... am i right?

    accept my heart-felt condolences, please...
    think her inner beauty never dies... it is shining through you -- a real human being... loving others no matter how different they are...

    i'm one of many friends basking in the sun of your unconditional love...
    this is for you:

    love... hugs... kisses

  13. Thank you all so very very much for your kind thoughtful heartfelt words for us over the loss of Erika from our lives. She remains in our thoughts, words, and hearts forever more. Yesterday we walked by water, held hands and talked about our sweet memories of Erika...we shed a few tears from time to time but know it was time for her to go...when the quality of life leaves one so confused and frightened as the mind deteriorates and the world no longer makes sense then the body knows it seems to let go and hers did. We are glad she is no longer suffering in any of those ways.

    Your words all help heal our grief. At least make it a little easier. Thank you again.

    Yes, Cris last summer Erika was still laughing with us...
    But by December there was more confusion and fear than laughter...

    Yes, Human Being the quilt with the bird house now hangs in my Sister in laws home, the room that was once fact she took home all of my art work so in essence I now have a little gallery in Minnesota! ;-)
    She gave the shawl I made Erika to another elderly woman in the nursing home who had admired it.
    That makes me happy to know.

    Again, thank each and every one of you for your kind words, they help me greatly.

  14. Thank you for telling us about Erika's passing and how much she meant to you. The world always needs those people who know how to appreciate out loud. They are a grace to this Earth. My heart goes out to you both as you miss her and say goodbye.

  15. Dear Lynn: I'm so sorry to hear about the death of your mother-in-law who was so dear to your heart. The description of your relationship and how it evolved was touching ... and I'm sure she heard those words, in one way or another. It also brings a different kind of closure when someone we love who has dementia passes on. Like you, I did not want to share widely, but a dear aunt of mine died last week who had Alzheimer's for five years before she died. She was such a dynamic storyteller and loved company ... it was hard to watch the decline. In my case, when her life ended, I felt like she was restored back to her self, no longer caged by the life/body that was here on earth. So, I felt relieved in one sense -- that she could be free and I could be free to love her as she was meant to be.

    blessings to you and your family during this time, Lynn. thank you for sharing.

  16. Kelly thanks for your words...she was your family too via your cousin you know!

    Honour, my heart goes out to you too for the loss of your dear aunt. Alzheimer and Dementia are such difficult diseases to sit witness to. I watched my grandmother and mother decline this way too and one aunt still living who will be 90 in May G_d willing, has it too. As my dear uncle who loves her so much says "It's wearing"...

    I'll share a recent experience with my aunt.
    We were talking just the other day on the phone and she told me my uncle was in the garage doing such and such...and then she said "I just made all that up, I have no idea where he is or what he is doing. I have what your mother had you know, I don't remember anything." We both laughed together then, but in truth it is oh so sad. You laugh so you don't cry.

    Please accept my condolences for the loss of your aunt as she once was before Alzheimer and for her loss now too. Hugs to you from one who knows how it is.

  17. thank you dear Lynn for your words and for that sharing of that story with your aunt. it is difficult to think of how hard it is on those we love ... when it's so wearing on us ... isn't it? I'm sure your shared laugh with your aunt brought her much joy even for that one moment.

    I will accept the hugs gladly ... they are much appreciated ... :)

  18. Oh my I am so sorry about Erika. I am so glad you posted these beautiful words about her. Yes, I felt I had come to know here through your blog and all the wonderful photos and visits. The beautiful quilt of her life. Tears came to my eyes as I read about her life and all the wonderful warmth she gave to you as her "daughter." All those letters you exchanged, all the laughter and singing. May she be in peace. Hugs to you, dear Lynn. Suki

  19. Thanks Suki...I know you understand.

  20. This kind of love is what I believe we are here to do. Blessings to you Lynn (and to your family) as you grieve the loss of this special woman in your lives. But know that having shared so much, you will carry her memory and love with you for all your days.

    Peace and love to you.

  21. Lynn, what a beautiful tribute and one meant to be read. We can all learn a lesson from Erika and the meaning of love. You too are a very giving soul, what a wonderful gift you gave to Suki. Even in our sadness I have found there is always beauty out there among our blog friends and I always manage to find the ones to fill my heart. So sorry you had to face this goodbye, I wish you much peace and to all those who are missing her now.

  22. Thank you Ladybug and Karen M. Your words warm my heart.


Thanks for leaving your comments as I love hearing from you. Your words of encouragement are why I continue to draw!