On Friday, March 17, 2017, Marcia Turesky Rooks died. She had lived a wonderful life, and she died just six weeks past her 100th birthday.
She was my mother.
And while her death was a blessing, as she’d gone rapidly downhill after her momentous birthday, her dying on that day was also remarkable, coming just a couple of hours before the 29th anniversary of her beloved husband’s (my beloved dad’s) death: March 18, 1988.
We all wonder if she was waiting for that specific day to join him.
But the date also gave various family members time to properly mourn and still go on with plans that had been made months ago. It was a kindness no one could have scripted or expected.
There is a family wedding (my sister-in-law’s family) being held this coming weekend in Philadelphia, and had my mother died much later, many of their family would not have been able to attend. As I write this, I know they’re all packing to head to Philadelphia and rejoice at the happy occasion.
My second daughter, Ketzirah, was in Connecticut attending and teaching at a Kohenet training (of future Kohanot), and she had planned to return to D.C. on Sunday. Due to the timing of the funeral (Monday, March 20), she was able to simply stay here one more day and officiate at the graveside service.
But getting from western Connecticut to Marblehead, on the northeast coast of Massachusetts, meant renting a car, something one of her Kohenet friends — Mimi — didn’t want Ketzirah to have to do. So Sunday afternoon, Mimi drove her up there, going about 45 minutes out of her way each way (she lives near Boston) to drop Ketzirah off at my brother and sister-in-law’s (Jim and Nancy’s) house.
Sunday night, Nancy and Jim’s younger daughter, Emily, who also lives in Marblehead with her husband and two kids, held a pre-funeral dinner at their house, a sort of Shiva before the funeral, something that is normally done afterwards for seven days. She cooked, and we all ate and drank, telling stories of our growing up with my mother, and enjoying being together. Cousins who hadn’t seen each other in years had time to catch up, and the four great-grandkids played in the living room and blew off some steam.
Sunday night, since Jim and Nancy’s older daughter, her husband, and their two kids were staying there, Ketzirah and I stayed at Nancy’s sister’s summer house, just around the corner. We had the gorgeous water view, the calm of just two people being in the house, and time to reflect on the recent past and the future without my mother.
The weather was spectacular for the funeral, sunny and almost warm. Having my daughter officiate was heart-warming and more special than I can say. Jim gave a great eulogy — and got us laughing a couple of times — while my eulogy got me and a couple of others crying, something I did not expect. The four great-grandkids, ranging in age from about 4 to 8, behaved wonderfully. While they couldn’t have had a clear idea about what was going on, they recognized it was a solemn time.
After the short service, the other adults took the kids on a much-needed walk around the cemetary, looking at headstones of those in our families. Ketzirah and I stayed behind, watching the dirt being shoveled onto the casket, and for whatever reason we sang a hymn we both knew called “Oseh shalom bimromav,” one of those I always loved and one of the few I could do from memory. It’s traditional to sing it at funerals, so we had a special few moments together.
We all shared a good meal afterwards, and then the last act of kindness — at least for me — happened when Jim and Nancy drove Ketzirah to Boston’s Logan Airport so she could finally catch a plane home. Why is that a kindness? Because I purely hate driving anywhere near Boston, and this was a Monday so there would be a lot of traffic. Thanks to them, I was able to drive straight home (a two-hour trip), arriving more-or-less calm and collected.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I know it takes a family coming together to bury a loved one and care for those remaining.
I am grateful for all the kindness shown over those two days.