By Jennifer Rudick Zunikoff
Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day for giving flowers and cards, a day for spending time with family. But for those whose mothers have passed away, Mother’s Day can be filled with grief and reflection.
“I’m not normally a poet, but after my mother died, I looked for ways to express my grief,” said Roslyn Zinner, a local therapist and artist.
In 2011, when her mother, Betty Jane Ehudin, was in her late 80s, Zinner created a colorful mosaic to depict her mother. But after Ehudin passed away in 2012, Zinner wanted to speak about her mom through words rather than through stone and tile.
While Zinner regularly writes lighthearted verse, it was not until three months after her mother passed away that she wrote “Endurance,” her first serious poem. “I decided to put down on paper what she had been through,” Zinner said, reflecting on the first stanzas of her poem. “I wish her last years had not been so difficult.”
After adding more stanzas about her mother’s younger years, Zinner felt that her poem offered the reader a true and thoughtful picture of her mother.
“I try to keep her alive by [thinking] about what she would say and how she would react to things that are happening,” she said. Three years later, “I think of her a little bit every day.”
Zinner advises others to creatively express their thoughts about their own mothers.
“Don’t worry about whether you have talent,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. The important thing is to express yourself.”
Zinner suggests that adult children “keep the memory alive anyway you can, by talking about [your mother], writing, sharing stories and doing something that would make your mother proud.”
Endurance By Roslyn Zinner
In memory of my beloved mother, Betty Jane Ehudin, Nov. 26, 1924
to Aug. 30, 2012
Soaked, softened, and shucked,
padded and shimmed,
battle weary from skirmishes with orthotics
My mother’s feet.
Pried opened and unclogged,
stented, cauterized, catheterized
My mother’s arteries.
Scanned, monitored, measured, calibrated,
coaxed into playing nicely with the lungs,
My mother’s heart.
Tested and retested,
needled into tubes.
Thinned and thickened and thinned again.
Life sustaining and dangerous
My mother’s blood.
Incised and gutted of disease
The rosy remainder bullied into
working with the heart.
her breath medicated,
nebulized, and oxygenated.
My mother’s lungs.
Long before she endured
the declines of her body
a young Jewish girl named Betty
growing up in a
poor, secular, loving family.
a New Yorker, a little sister, an A student.
A father with heart disease.
The family moved to Miami
where she met
a handsome soldier on the beach.
They wedded in the rabbi’s study
moved to Baltimore and
planted their sapling marriage where
she was embraced
by his Yiddishe momma and papa.
Always first to each other
Dad birthed and nurtured
an ad business.
she birthed and nurtured
My mother, the family’s nerve center.
An early Federal Hill homesteader
shop owner, real estate agent,
world traveler to
China, England, Switzerland,
and many islands
My mother’s adventures.
After nearly 50 years together
When Dad died
she felt like
half the tree of her life was
But small, new buds sprouted.
At nearly 80 years
painted her walls lavender
worked a little job for extra cash
and enjoyed cocktails
with new friends.
My mother’s resilience.
She spoiled us with her apple cake,
But in her mirror
the traditional bubbie never appeared.
Cooking, said my mother
is so overrated.
While her peers avoided email
she tracked her funds in Quicken
shopped online and
wore bright batik jackets.
My mother’s modern spirit.
Bruised by chronic disease
like an overripe pear
whose sticky juices start to drip
while the whole remains solid and sweet
My mother’s heart.
Outspoken yet kind
When the flow of her breath
Her reservoir of tact
began to dry up
But even then
ever present in her gut
coiled and ready to spring forth
My mother’s love.
Jennifer Rudick Zunoff is a Jewish storyteller, educator and coach.