• Celebrating the Greatest Hero of All Times: Mom
  • Post author
    Ayala Sender

Celebrating the Greatest Hero of All Times: Mom

Celebrating the Greatest Hero of All Times: Mom

This is my first Mother's Day without my mom, who passed away last summer. This milestone in my life leaves me reflecting on motherhood with much gratitude for all that she has done for me. Additionally, the past four years, coping with my daughter's many health challenges has literally stretched my boundaries and pushed me to the ends of my limits, teaching me the power of motherly love, and what it truly means to be a mother. It is a lifelong mission, and a constant test to my my strength in every possible way, both physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It has taught me to never lost faith or give up hope, and to embrace and accept my most vulnerable moments of grief and despair.

No motherhood is ideal or perfect, and sometimes we only reckon with what our mothers have done for us after they're gone. Likewise, we sometimes only understand our shortcomings and limitations in these dire times when facing extreme existential conditions such as illness and war. And we've had plenty of both in the past few years.

Although my daughter is physically with me 24/7 for the past few years, demanding constant care, I can identify the most right now with the mothers of the Israeli hostages, who have been stolen from them by a merciless enemy, and there is no way of telling what's going on with them at any given moment. My daughter has been struggling not only with physical illnesses but also with post-trauma following her medical treatment, which made very little sense to her from her neurodivergant vantage point (she is autistic). Add to that neurological effects of multiple successive epileptic seizures and yet another traumatic hospitalization - and you end up with a person that is very hard to understand and at times even recognize, and seems to be captured by a psychotic enemy as unpredictable as a terrorist group. I had to witness her in that state of suffering, wrestling with her demons right in front of my eyes, within my arm's reach, yet unable or not permitted to help her. It's been a real torture that I can't express with words how awful it has been, and how helpless I was. 

For an entire week during Sukkot (the Jewish holiday leading to Simchat Torah, in which the October 7th massacre took place), my daughter refused to eat. On October 6th she refused to drink as well. It was as if she was fasting to beg for mercy and forgiveness and attempt to prevent what was about to happen. For months I have been living at the edge of a cliff, with her body mass reaching lows that I have only seen in photos from the holocaust. To be honest, there were times when I not only feared for her life but also started preparing myself mentally for that awful possibility. That is how much in despair I was.

Yet, even in these awful times, I have still not lost hope. Or perhaps that is faith I'm talking about. Its hard for me to differentiate between the two. In the moments when I felt the most helpless and in despair, I have prayed hard and surrendered to the awfulness of the situation, the possibility that our life will never be what it was before, that we shall never experience happiness let alone mundane joy of all the small things we shared in our short life together.

Alongside this grief and deep sadness, there was also a Knowing that I have done all I could do to keep her well and alive and help her get out of this awful crisis. I have cried and prayed and asked for strength to carry through whatever more obstacles I may need to overcome. Fortunately and most gratefully, I'm writing this with a much lighter heart, as there was finally a breakthrough a couple of months ago, and my daughter started improving, taking gradually more and more responsibility over her own well-being and her life, and as a result feeling more agency and power. This gets a person on the positive cycle of thinking and doing that feeds positivity, hope and continued improvement. There are still many very taught days, but we are no longer in the depth of despair that we've been inhabiting for ever so long. And I can finally say she is beginning to recover from this awful ordeal that lasted four years. 

I know these are hard times for many people right now, and I do not want to sound preachy or positivity-toxic, which is why I have given you so many personal details so far. We still have many rough days, and moments where that despair is beginning to resurface. Yet I know from experience, as someone who has been in those depths and have come up after a long dive into the depths of despair, and I know we may end up back there again... I sort of can say that I now know the way. Or at least what may help one get back on track to get at least a breath from time to time. So what I'm saying is from a place of love and compassion, not as a preachy know-it-all (which is probably how I sound when I speak very passionately about somethings I discover in my life).

It is extremely important especially in times like this to shine light and be grateful. It is not easy to be grateful, and to many of us human it does not come natural at all. We should be grateful not only for what we receive and what we have, but also for what we've lost or we feel is missing in our lives. The way to wrap one's brain around that is to try to understand what is it that we learn from this thing that we need to place great effort to find any sense of gratitude about it. What can we learn from it? What does it force us to do that we would otherwise not dare to?

We must learn how to be grateful for what we have received, and also for what we are able to give and help others with, despite the many personal challenges we may experience and struggle with at the moment. So on this Mother's Day, I would like to thank my daughter, my mother, my grandmother, my aunt and my entire maternal lineage for all that you have given me in this lifetime, and beyond.

To my daughter, Tamya: 
It was truly for you that I have founded my perfume business and shared this gift with the world. It enabled me as a young sole-parent to not only put food on the table, but also be happy switching to my motherly role at the end of a long working day. I always wanted to work doing what I love. And you gave me no choice but to accomplish this dream pretty early in life. 

My mother, Ada:
You taught me how to be truly grateful and not take anything for granted. I was a very bad student at that... I thank you for instilling in me the love for plants and flowers especially, and for raising me close to nature, teaching me about the healing properties of the local plants as well as faraway spices. The loss of your the sense of smell also gave me the opportunity to sharpen my sniffing skills from an early age, to be confident with what I know, and to help her you navigate through this scentless world.
But the most important lesson of all that you've taught me was to never judge people, always give them the benefit of the doubt, always see the good in people. Yes, even or especially in times of conflict and when they've hurt me the most.  Through your eyes, the world was always full of miracles and beauty and I will always miss your perspective and childish wonderment at the most mundane things that I still tend to take for granted. I'm still trying to learn that, so thank you for being so patient with me.

My grandmother Ruth:
I'm eternally grateful for your inspiration, worldliness, attention to detail and the written language, and for always believing in me and giving me a strong foundation of confidence and support through the toughest times, and not any less - through the happy and triumphant times. I hope to carry your relentless optimism combined with an urgent lack of patience for any injustices, big or small, and to always put my actions where my words are. I really hope that I could still make you proud after all that our people have gone through since you've passed. I also hope to be always able to be as generous and warm as you have been to me all my life, be someone that my family can count on when in need. 

My Aunt, Liora:
You live your life to the fullest and fiercely defending what you believe in. I was fortunate you didn't become a mom till much later in life, and had you all to myself! You taught me discipline, hard work and determination, and standing up for my rights. I hope the next generations  of women and girls won't need to fight as much as you did for that! 

  • Post author
    Ayala Sender
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