Celebrating Our Matriarchs This Mother’s Day

Last week was Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, a day for remembrance and reflection, a day to listen to testimonials from survivors and heroes, a day to be grateful for the many blessings in our lives. The next day I also spoke at my aunt’s funeral where I celebrated the blessing of having had Aunt Bea in my life.

Like Steven Spielberg’s USC Shoah Foundation, which videotapes and preserves the memories of Holocaust survivors and witnesses, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to remember the souls and spirits of those we have loved and learned from. Though a somber and serious project, we can take great inspiration from its mission to help people remember because once our families’ stories are lost there will be no memories to share, educate and inspire.

As I thought about what to write about for Mother’s Day, I immediately thought of Aunt Bea and how speaking at her funeral in front of our family and friends solidified her place and memories in my heart. To me she was a second mother and I will miss her dearly.

As my family remembered her and spoke about what she meant to us, we chose the stories and anecdotes that will always be a part of us whenever we think of her. She was a quietly, powerful influence on all of us.

Aunt Bea always seemed taller than she really was, her eyes sparkled and her smile was so quickly apparent. She also had a soothing voice and welcoming attitude. But most were struck by her enormous generosity of spirit..always giving to others, but never wanting or easily accepting anything for herself. She loved unconditionally, making it clear that she loved us even when we misbehaved. She comforted us and was always there for us. Her generosity of spirit was obvious when you looked around her table on the holidays. Any stray friends was welcome, even if the seating was double decker.

As my second mom, whenever things got difficult at home, I would run away to Aunt Bea’s. I would make her promise and vow not to tell my mother that I was there, and she would agree.  Of course, I think she let my mom know…in fact, I think my mom probably picked up the phone and said “She’s on her way over again.” But I always felt love, warmth and and acceptance every time I was there.

When friends and colleagues asked me if I was sad about her death because, after all, she was 94 years old, I thought, of course I am sad. But inside I also felt sad for the people that never had an Aunt Bea in their lives or never took the time to get to know her. The world would be a better place…a place more loving, generous and accepting… if everyone had an Aunt Bea in his or her life.

This Mother’s Day, I invite you to take the time to celebrate the matriarchs in your life, past and present. Write down or record their stories, and enjoy those special moments together. If no longer in your lives, gather with  family and friends to look at pictures and share stories. This holiday may only come once a year, but knowing the stories of our matriarchs can bring great meaning to our lives all year long.

Celebrating Our Matriarchs This Mother's Day

My Mother and Grandmothers