Friday, October 31, 2014

A Great-Grandmother's Rite of Passage

While my daughter Elisheva was laboring at Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Ga., with her first child, my 90 year-old mother was laboring at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, Penn., struggling with a life-threatening illness.

My mother, Bubbe Jeanette, was semi-conscious for a week.

Every hour, I reminded her of the immediate future.

“Elisheva is due soon. Do you think it will be a girl or a boy?”

Does one soul die before another one is born? Am I waiting for a new life or anticipating losing one? Would this emerging small soul support the failing body of her maternal great-grandmother?

I waited. I held onto to my mother’s hand for her dear life. Her slow rhythmic breathing chased my inhalations of hope.

As the sun was setting on Wednesday, she awoke suddenly and whispered, “Has Elisheva had her baby yet?”

“No, mom, not yet.”

“Then go. I will be okay. Go be with Elisheva.”

Ilana Ende Funk was born while I was driving back to my home in Washington, D.C., on July 3, 2002.

My mother lived another five years and witnessed the births of her four great-grandchildren.

Last weekend, Ilana became a Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12(+) and took her place as an adult in the Jewish tradition.

Twelve years ago, Ilana and her maternal great-grandmother shared a different rite of passage: the sacred passage from life to life. L’chayim!

Shabbat shalom,

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