30 Years Since my Mom’s Death, and I’m…Ambivalent

Today marks 30 years since my mother died from, what I’m pretty sure is today, a manageable form of leukemia. Don’t ask me the details; I was 14.

Visiting Day, c. 1981

Visiting Day, c. 1981

There’s a lot I remember about the nine months between diagnosis and death, and even more I can’t or don’t want to. I do remember approaching it all from a practical perspective.  I don’t remember checking out of daily living, and I’m pretty sure my grades didn’t suffer.  (Yeah, you can interpret that a few ways.)

What struck me as so interesting as I sat at my table earlier today eating the yet-to-be-revealed cancer-destroying diet of French toast, maple syrup and a honking-huge cup of coffee, while reading some eulogies and letters about my mother, is how much I think I am like her.  To be fair, I’m sure my siblings feel the same way about themselves; it’s only natural, I assume, to see some of one’s parent’s attributes in one’s self. But, my age and my medical situation, along with some of the things I read, allow me to lay claim, at least at this moment in time.

Humor. My mom had that gift. More accurately, though, she had the sharpest of tongues.

Roller skating c. 1983

Roller skating c. 1983

As one eulogizer wrote, she listened intently to a grand scheme presentation, designed more to bring accolades and applause to the presenter than achieve a goal.  My mom’s response was typical: “I’m underwhelmed.”

Difficulty in suffering fools lightly. My sister related that she was keeping my mom company in the hospital prior to her marrow transplant and a nurse, unknown to my mom, came in to ask some ridiculous questions, most notably: “What are your expectations from this procedure?”

Advocating on her own behalf. She never abdicated her rights as a patient, and when a doctor she didn’t know would come in to see her for some reason or another, she’d say simply, “And you are…?” (I totally pulled that from her playbook when I was first hospitalized and the chairman of the surgery department visited me on grand rounds. He loved it and was my best friend for the remainder of that stay.)

Work ethic. My mom stayed in touch with her office (OK, somewhat easy as she worked in the same hospital where she was treated…) and continued to do what she could to be helpful in running her department.

Keeping a warm and welcoming home. My brother spoke of his perception that friends would rather sit and talk with her than with him. (Not sure my kids would agree that we have the same in our house, but we try to be as warm and welcoming as possible.)

Holding her friends’ confidence. She was a vault, said a friend.  What she was told would not circulate.


I guess my ambivalence comes from the knowledge that 30 years ago, what my mother had was fatal and it is likely not so today.  Perhaps the fact that I am in such a similar situation to where she was then is too disturbing to truly contemplate.

Please don’t misunderstand. I miss my mother and sincerely wish so many milestones and experiences could have been shared with her.  But I have spent more than two-thirds of my life without her. In so many ways, the longing is more intellectual than emotional.

One might think that it is upsetting to know something that is fatal today might be manageable (curable?) tomorrow. Maybe for some, but not for me.  For now, I continue to do what my doctor asks of me. I had a CT earlier in the week. Blood tests will follow and then there will be a discussion. Whatever the next steps, I remain confident in my proudly inherited traits and coping abilities.


About Alan

F---ing Cancer since 2011.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to 30 Years Since my Mom’s Death, and I’m…Ambivalent

  1. Albert says:

    I read your blogs for the ads at the bottom.



  2. Ari / Wesley Hills says:

    Perfectly expressed.

  3. Baila says:

    Do you make money off those doggie ads?

  4. Asher Bush says:

    Thinking about you.
    – Rabbi Bush

  5. Deborah Braverman says:

    xoxox Debbie

  6. susan says:

    I’m going to call you brave, even though you’re going to roll your eyes at me. Your ability to articulate all of this, speaks courage to me. You hold yourself up in time of struggle, and that makes me stand a little taller. So thank you for that. I needed that today.

    I also don’t know how I’ve known you for 15 years and never knew that your mom passed when you were a teenager – such a pivotal point in life. You soldiered on. You admired her, loved her and respected her and you continued. That’s not easy or small. I love hearing how you’re raising your own kids with such amazing resilience, even entering the army, spreading their wings and becoming grown-ups. You’ve given them the same tools your mom gave you. You also share that amazing legacy.

    If no one else tells you today, Mr. Braverman, you rock.

    much love and transcontinental hugs,

  7. Adam says:

    Somehow everything you write makes me think more deeply. I can’t imagine losing a mother at such a young age and so suddenly, and yet you help me understand some of my own thoughts about mine. Thank you for writing and sharing yourself with us.

  8. helen says:

    Alan, Your mom sounds like a super modern lady. I wish I could have met her. She would have been so proud of you!

  9. Ellen says:

    Love you Al!!

  10. Cheryl Munk says:

    Shabbat shalom, Alan. Thanks for sharing this. Keep fighting!


  11. Lisa says:

    I lost my Mom at 27, a bit older but in the midst of becoming a Mom myself. I treasure so much about her, but especially the ability to deal with my teenager ism with such grace. If she was pulling her hair out it wasn’t while I was watching….and now as a Grandmother myself, I am so thankful she we here (albeit, battling cancer) to meet all of my childten.
    I was adopted so my health history is a bit obscure for me but life is good because that’s what my Mother relayed to me. Hang tough and thanks for sharing your story, it’s nice to be reminded I’m not alone with hidden treasures.

    • Alan says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words! It’s so interesting…I hear so many stories of early deaths, that I’m beginning to wonder about the whole concept of “premature” death.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s