Sunday, October 19, 2014

i've said it before and i'll say it again....FUCK CANCER!!!!!!!

It's been three long years and it's not gotten any easier that Mommy is gone.  People say that time will heal the pain...that it will get easier.  It's all lies and bullshit! Mommy's death will forever be a part of who I am.  This isn't to say that I introduce myself like "Hi, I'm Dina and my mom died of cancer."  But it's hidden beneath all my layers, like a war wound, invisible to everyone around me.  But, oh I can feel it.  It reshapes who I am as a person, as a mom, as a friend.  It changes how I view the world and where I go from here. 

We're all familiar with the stages of grief...Denial.  Crying.  Anger.  Bargaining.  Rage.  Freaking out.  Begging.  Pleading.  And eventually reluctant acceptance.  I had a mother for 45 years and then suddenly I didn't.  How is that fucking possible?  How is it possible that she is never going to return?

Losing Mommy was and still is nightmarish!  But I have to be grateful for the changes it triggered in me.  It softened my heart.  It opened my eyes.  It elevated my soul.  It made me a stronger person.  It made me realize that some things in my life that I had accepted as commonplace were not acceptable at all.  My life has changed dramatically since Mommy died.  And through her death, I realized that I wasn't living the life I deserved.  So I changed it.  And I'll keep changing it until it's my perfect life!  Mommy would be proud of me.

This is the eulogy that I delivered at her memorial.

I should apologize in advance for what will probably be an awkward delivery of the hardest words I have ever had to write.  Dr. Seuss once said "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened!"  Let's all try to keep this in mind today as emotions and tears are flowing.  I know Mommy would have wanted me to be brave and do this; she would have wanted me to thank you for coming today, and to tell you that she loved you all.   

So thank you all for coming out on this rainy day to commemorate my mom's life with celebration.  Many of you are here today because you knew my mother personally as a friend or co-worker.  Of course, all of my mom's family were lucky enough to know her in a closer way…as a wife, a Nana, a sister, an aunt or a cousin.  I, of course,  knew her in the most unique and special way and in a way that no one else knew her…she was my mother.

And as I reached adulthood, I also knew her as a friend.  Mommy always shared all of herself with me teaching me all there was to know.  She taught me all the important things that a loving parent wants their child to know.  She taught me to be kind and loving and to be sensitive of other people's feelings. She taught me to listen without passing judgement and to never tease or make fun of people.  She taught me that life is not to be lived alone, it is to be enjoyed and be shared with others!
And she taught me to love!  And to use the word "love"!  Growing up, I never left the room without saying "I love you".  This is one of the greatest things she passed on to me and it's something I've fostered within my own family.  In our house, there is no shortage of "I love you"s and mutual respect.  That is Mommy living on through us. 

Now I have to tell you just a little bit about the kind of mother she was. She was permissive and indulgent... exasperated and worried..."worry wart" was a name she called herself.  She was eternally generous and altogether too trusting.  When I did stuff that was really stupid --- and let me tell you, there were some real humdingers, she scolded me and then immediately forgave me. She was outrageously funny and smart, and she thought I was too.  That's really ironic because most of my life I have felt like a pale reflection and an inadequate copy of her.

In addition to all those qualities, I also inherited many other awesome things from mom.  Her love of ALL different kinds of music comes to mind.  Mom had the BEST taste in music and I grew up in a home filled with lots of Stevie Wonder and LOTS of dancing.  The blood lines on the Logan side of our family are a bit sketchy and Mommy took our questionable heritage and ran with it, insisting that the family rumors MUST be true and we are part black.  After all, we have big booties and love dancing. 

Mom's musical influence on me is the reason her granddaughters love to sing and dance…and when my 6 year old hears "Lonesome Loser" and says "Hey!  I love the Little River Band!"…THAT is because of Mommy!

I was also fortunate enough to inherit her unique ability to size up a serving dish of leftovers and pick out the perfect size tupperware in which to store said leftovers.  Laugh if you will, but you all know you've tried fitting leftover mashed potatoes into a container that's just a little too small.  It's frustrating and you've probably just eaten what wouldn't fit just to avoid dirtying another size container.  This NEVER happened to Mommy or me. 

I also acquired her talent for uber efficient dishwasher loading capabilities and can always fit in absolutely every dish at Thanksgiving in one dishwasher load.  THIS is a very good skill to have! 

And she taught me to cook!  She was an amazing cook and every visit she made to Portland included the teaching of another one of her classic dishes.  She taught me to make the BEST chicken noodle soup from scratch!  And I'd be happy to challenge anybody's Jewish grandmother to a chicken noodle soup cook-off! 

But to enjoy the privilege of utilizing all these savvy skills, i had to also genetically accept Mommy's bad traits too.  If any of you ever had a meeting with her, whether for business or just for lunch, I'd be willing to bet that she was late.  She perpetually ran 30 minutes behind for everything.  Because of her tardiness, I was late to my own wedding and to the hospital for the births of both my daughters.  She just couldn't be on time for anything!!  

And everyone knows my mom could never tell a short story.  ANOTHER fine quality she passed along to me….and which I am demonstrating for you all now.  Mommy would be so proud.

Before I can go on to celebrate my mother and what she stood for, I must share with you the reality of what life was like for her near the end. Of course, as hurt as we all feel, agonizing and feeling sorry for ourselves, no one was suffering more than my mother. Most of the time, I was in denial of her illness.  I'd question the doctor's findings and disagree with the course of action the doctors would take.  I'd take the information I knew of my mom's disease and run with it, researching into the wee hours of the night to try to find something different her doctors could try, something SHE could do to be proactive with this ugly disease and change her own destiny.  But Mommy would always try to reassure me that the doctors were doing all that they could do for her, given her complicated case. And she always kept a positive attitude.

For this and many other reasons my mom was my hero.  In all of my 45 years as her daughter, I never felt ashamed or embarrassed to hold her hand or be seen with her…even in my teen years.  My friends used to say that my mom was the most beautiful.  Boys would come over to visit me…or so I thought.  It was often revealed that they were actually there to gaze at mommy's beauty.  Stupid little boys!  I'd watch these hormone filled little jerks, totally mesmerized with her, sure...maybe a little envious that they weren't looking at me, but also delighted that I had this really good "bait" that would probably lure them over again.  The effects of her beauty would spill over into my school life too.  Every year I had a male teacher, I'd think to myself "please be married, please be married!"  It was totally annoying when my single male teachers would swoon over her, practically throwing themselves at her feet.  Like I said, stupid little boys!  And she was so aloof about their behavior, pretending not to notice their absurd flirtations.  She handled it all with such grace.  School conferences were agonizing, watching these grown men stumble over their words in some attempt to impress her while I sat there rolling my eyes and shaking my head in disbelief.  But I learned to use their lunacy to my a superpower! And often I wondered if THAT could be the reason I was an honor society student.  Easy A's!

The thing everyone noticed about Mommy, other than her fabulous hair and her awesome personality, was her smile. She had the most beautiful smile I've ever known, and it has been embedded in my mind, no doubt, since I was a baby and she looked down over me.  Through the years her smile never dimmed.  Now, as I write about her, that smile burns through this fog of sadness and this haze of tears, and it reminds me how much she loved me and everyone in her family.

My mom was my hero and my very best friend.  And her devotion to me was truly extraordinary.  I always absolutely, unequivocally came first.  She knew me better than anyone... and she loved me anyway.  She always encouraged me to do my best, and she always was proud of me when I was able to pull that off and supportive when I didn't.  I tried to follow in her footsteps; to be
kind and pragmatic and resourceful and compassionate and smart and creative about everything.  I hear all the time that I look and sound just like her, and when I hear people tell me that I remind them of my beautiful mom, I have to smile and feel honored because she was such an extraordinary woman. But there was only one Suzi.  I can only aspire to be a replica, and hope that I'm maybe a little bit successful.

She played many roles throughout her life; not only she was a devoted mother and patient and loving wife, she was the absolute best Nana, a cherished sister, and a dear friend.  You would think my Mom won the lottery the days my daughters were born.  She loved her granddaughters more than anything in the world!  She was always right there to guide me and answer any questions I had.  There were many sleepless nights in the beginning.  I called her, crying because I didn't know what to do with this screaming creature the hospital made me bring home.  Mom would chuckle and mutter something about "payback" and help the best she could by phone.  But over the next couple of days, she'd have emailed me links to a dozen "new mom" websites, and had Amazon overnight 6 different books and 3 dvd's on the subject.  It was often overkill, but I ALWAYS appreciated it! 

I feel so lucky that I was able to know her as a grandmother, if only for a short time.  So much of who I am, and who my children are, is a direct reflection of Mommy.  She had an enormous heart filled with passion, compassion and empathy and it was her heart that drove her every act throughout her life.

She had relentless perseverance and the ability to forge ahead regardless of what life dealt to her.  As a single mother raising a child in the seventies, she faced many obstacles ranging from financial constraints to the judgment of others.  But she never went around an obstacle; she went right over them, maintaining her dignity and pride throughout it all.  She was a single working Mom well ahead of the times.  The dignity and grace by which my Mom sailed through life has left a wake of beauty across the many hearts she touched.

I came across a letter she wrote to me on my 21st birthday.  She wrote "No matter what you do in your life, or how you think or what you say, you can always depend on my support, guidance, friendship and love, every minute of everyday.  I love being your mother."

I am just so utterly thankful for the privilege of being with her in her last weeks, I just can't believe that my beautiful Mommy is gone.  She was a great being and we are all better people for having known her and been touched by her kindness.

I'd like everyone to raise your glass to toast her...and when you think of my mom, don't be sad that she's gone, be grateful that we had her at all!  I love you, Mommy, and I have loved being your daughter!

Monday, January 27, 2014

a love letter to my sweet girl

celebrating your 13th birthday has made me reflect and want to share some well-earned wisdom with you.  i am no expert when it comes to parenting.  i mess up a lot, i don't enforce rules and punishments as strongly as i should.  sometimes i don't set good examples.  and honestly, sometimes i feel like a total let down as a mama.  but what i do have going for me is that i am lucky enough to have you as my little girl.  you are growing up so fast and i often look at you and wonder where the time has gone.  as much as i delight in watching you grow, sometimes i just want to yell "STOP!!".  you are my baby, and you are getting closer to not being my baby anymore.  as you grow into the beautiful young lady you are becoming, there are some things that i want to tell you.

I LOVE YOU!!!!  and i cherish every thing about you!  from the top of your beautiful head to the tips of the toes on your smelly feet, i love it all.  from the moment you were born and i held you in my arms, i knew that you were going to be amazing!!  you were so tiny and magnificent and i just knew that you were going to rule the world!  you are smart and beautiful and you have a way about you, this calm, levelheaded way that i admire mostly because i don't know where it came from.  you will always be my baby and you deserve to hear the words and feel the words I LOVE YOU AS YOU ARE every single day!

try not to criticize yourself, second guess your feelings, doubt your abilities or be too hard on yourself when you think you've failed. the world does all those things for you and it is your job to stand up to it, not give in to it.  i know we live in a time that feels like image is everything.  with computers, anything can be altered.  the good can be made to look bad, the bad can be altered to look good.  and social media presents it all with narration for the world to see forever.  my wish for you is that you can step back from that and enjoy more of the real stuff.  don't be so critical of yourself (or others).  i want to teach you that while taking good care of yourself is important, other stuff matters.  the size of your heart will always be more important than the size of your clothes.  think about living up to the adjectives strong, smart, wise, powerful and kind because you are all these and more.  love your body, take good care of your body, it's the only one you have.  and let go of the words skinny, cute, perfect. you are perfect to me!


you were born with your own dignity and no one can take that away from you!  when the times come, and they will, that you feel ridiculed, betrayed or sad, i want you to remember that dignity you have inside of you.  it belongs to you and no one can ever take it away.  you own it and have the right to defend it.  i want you to grow up feeling confident and proud of who you are.  you deserve it.  as you grow older, i hope you will live your life fearlessly with spunk and enthusiasm.  use those gifts every chance you get and never let them stray too far away from you.

be grateful.  gratitude will make every other part of your life better.  it will make you more positive, you'll be a better student, you will make more of a difference in others lives.

be kind with your thoughts, gentle with your words, generous with your actions and forgiving with those who love you and fall short from time to time. none of us is perfect and more attention and gratitude should be given for trying.  think before you speak, you will gain more respect with a well thought opinion.


don't put your energy into judging another but rather into being a good example for them to be.

know that failing is a required curriculum to life. without it, it is doubtful that you will ever truly succeed. don't be afraid of it. you don't have to like it, you just have to get good at it. you will always learn from your mistakes.

don't ever do drugs.  they will destroy you and the relationships you have.  they will make you feel ashamed, alone and lost.  don't ever give in to this.  a friend who offers you drugs is not a good friend.  no good ever comes from taking drugs and they will make your life unhappy.  they will make you feel bad about yourself and cause many regrets for what could have been.  JUST SAY NO!!  say yes to your dreams, to an education. to experiences that will make your heart full and your future rewarding.  i know that sometimes you hate my rules, but just remember that my rules love you.  my rules i set for you have nothing to do with pride or power, but they are rooted in love and safety.  take chances. be bold. be silly.  It's ok.  living in the box has never been where the magic happens.  align yourself with the unordinary, the risky and the spectacular.  it's where you were born to be.

friendships and popularity are not the same thing!  i know this is a struggle for a girl your age.  you want to be accepted and liked.  friends will come and go, but the good ones stick.  value them.  and while family will always come first, never lose sight of those friends that have seen you through some of life's roughest times. you will need them again, and they, you.

love your family.  we would like to think that our family is forever, but it's not.  we grow old, we get sick and we die.  it's the natural course of things.  we are just visitors here.  make sure that you don't pass up too many offers to spend time with family, to laugh, joke, sing, dance, play, eat, drink and make memories.  you will treasure those memories, and one day they will be all that is left.

i am the biggest fan you will ever have!  i value your opinion.  you are important.  and as you grow, i want to be sure to tell you to make the right decisions based on thoughtful consideration and wise judgement instead of emotions.  i will always be here for you, to listen to you, to share my experiences.  i will continue to encourage you to so that you know that you can be anything you set your mind to. there will be times that you find yourself impatient or angry with me, but please understand that i am doing the best i can and for all the right reasons... for the love of you.  at times, i know we can be exasperating.  but there will never be anyone that walks this earth that loves you like your mama.  respect it.  it will one day be you.

as for me, my precious, wonderful daughter, i have loved you with all of my being since the moment you were born.  being your mother hasn't always been easy, but it has always been good.   before I end my euphony of wisdom, let me say thank you.  for so much.  for your loyalty, your choices, your sweetness, kindness, compassion and humor.  for trying even when you didn't think you could make it.  for making me proud every single day that you live.  i know that you're not perfect…none of us are.  but truth be told, to me, you are pretty damn close.  spread your wings, take the world head on and be strong.  read books, laugh often, cry when needed, lick the bowl, use good mascara, have fun, stand up for what is right, complain less, be grateful more, find beauty on everything, work hard, apologize, return love, never break a promise.  be the strong, independent young woman you were born to be and you will never feel alone in this world.  you will always have me and you will always be my baby.

i love you so much, my sweet baby jaymes!!!!

love, mama
26 january 2014