Eulogy For My Beloved Mother, Gerda Blumenthal

Eulogy For My Beloved Mother, Gerda Blumenthal

We are here today to remember and honor my mother, Gerda Blumenthal, who passed away on Monday.

My mother was my personal heroine, even as just two days earlier, a great hero of the Jewish people died as well–Ariel Sharon, a former Prime Minister of the State of Israel and a hero general who fought militarily to defend his people, but who also disengaged the State of Israel unilaterally from Gaza to make peace.

Sharon’s role in history to secure the Jewish people came on the heels of the Holocaust where 6 million Jews were murdered – one of every three in the entire world!

To my mother, the holocaust was one of the defining moments in her life. She was just 5 years old, when the murderous Nazi secret police, the Gestapo, came up behind my mother and her father on the street in Germany, grabbed him and dragged him off to the concentration camps. My mother, a child, was left alone crying on the streets, until some neighbors found her and brought her home to her mother. Miraculously, her father was one of the few to actually be let out a number of weeks later, as he had already received visas for the family to come to America. He had lost 20-30 pounds in just those few weeks of brutal slave labor and beatings, but he and the family were free to come to this country and start anew.

Like many of the immigrant families who were forced to flee persecution, my mother and her family arrived here penniless, and her father who didn’t even know the language, worked as a tailor to try and support the family. My mother had wanted to pursue her education—and to be a nurse—but when she graduated high school, she was asked to immediately go to work to help the family earn a living in those difficult days. She did this dutifully and worked—mostly doing secretarial work, which was popular in those days—while raising my sister and I and taking care of my dad. My mom would put me on the school bus, rush off to work, and be home in time to make dinner for all of us. Mom was unwavering in her commitment to taking care of us. Mom taught me what family was, what it was to put family first, and what it was to work hard, very hard, always being there to take care of us, even when at times, it seemed like too much for any human being.

My older sister and I are eight years apart. But there was another sibling, Susie, born between us. However, she died as a baby leaving my mother and father bereaved of their 2nd child still in the early years of their marriage. Despite this new challenge in their lives—and what seemed like another personal test—my mother carried on with my father to build the family, and I came along four years later. I have always tried to make my mother and father proud of me, especially in light of the loss of their other child.

My mother and father—were best friends, but like all loving couples, they also argued—but they always came back together again to make up and bond. And I learned well from them that in relationships, we can argue, but we can work things out—even though it’s not always easy to say I’m sorry or I was wrong, but we come back together because we are a family–we love each other and have that commitment. The loss of my mom is magnified, because of that deep love, but also because we are a small family that has always lived a hop, skip, and jump from each other—like one extended family.

My mother and father put my sister and I through private Jewish school, all the years, and then through college and graduate school—so that I was able to get my MBA and my sister her PhD. Even in later years, she helped babysit for my children and was like a second mother to them, so that my wife, Dossy could get her PhD as well. She loved my daughters—Minna and Rebecca, and my niece, Yaffa, so much. My mother and my father even moved here to Silver Spring in 2000—soon after we relocated here to work for the government—so they could be with us and the grandchildren—even though my mother really loved living in Riverdale, NY and the community and friends there, and would otherwise never have left there.

I will never forget the endless sacrifices made for us, which contrasts to many other families in modern times, when people seem more focused on career, their own interests and happiness, and mired in the world of the Internet and social media. But my mom taught me that while we may want a lot of different things, we need to put our priorities in order and focus on what is really important—family, friends, and faith.

Like Ariel Sharon who suffered a stroke eight years ago, my mother was diagnosed with the horrible disease of Parkinson’s—also eight years ago. My mother went from being the one who took care of everyone to where my father, in his own old age, and his own illness, had to take care of her. He did this with unbelievable courage and tirelessly, he did everything for her—everything! Even when we all thought she needed to go to the nursing home, he brought her home and cared for her himself for two years under extremely trying circumstances. Until this last April, when my mother was hospitalized again and was too ill to go home again. She went to the Hebrew Home In Rockville, and later because of her severe pain was put under hospice care. My mom unfortunately suffered horribly—more than we have ever seen anyone suffer. When she passed this week, I was horrified to lose my mother, as anyone would be, and at the same time, I was grateful to G-d that perhaps she now had some rest from the all the terrible illness and suffering and was finally at peace.

She died on Monday almost immediately after the Rabbi said the final prayers with her, and so I hope that the prayers and good wishes of the Rabbi and all of us—her family and friends—are heard in heaven and usher her in as a righteous soul, loving wife, mother, and grandmother—and grant her everlasting peace and reward from the Almighty.

Mom, we will always remember everything you have done for us. You taught us what a good traditional Jewish home and values are. Thank you for the love, care, and endless sacrifices. You will live on in the children and grandchildren and hopefully, our lives will be a merit for you. We love you always, and miss you. May G-d welcome you back, grant you peace, and bless you.

Will You Be Missed?

Will You Be Missed?

There’s a question everyone always ask themselves–when they are gone from an organization will they be missed?

We all tell ourselves that we are irreplaceable–when we leave everything will fall apart, that “then they will be sorry,” and maybe they will finally appreciate us.

But when calmer heads prevail, we sort of know the truth that we are all indeed replaceable–there are others just waiting in the wings to swoop in for a chance to do our job and perhaps better than we ourselves did it.

But won’t we be missed? They’ll be a party, cards, well wishes, maybe even gifts, and people will say how much they will miss us, but then when we are gone–24, 48, 72 hours later–does anyone really care?

If we left things in disarray and without a succession plan–we kept it all in our head waiting for the day to show them all–then there will be a period that may not be so pretty for the others taking on the responsibilities we are leaving behind.

However, someone who would do that to the organization and their fellow employees, you may ask what good were they really anyway?

For the most part, when people leave, I think there is a transition period for people to adjust to change–this is normal, and then after that people go on thinking about life afterwards.

– What new opportunities are there for them? In a crude way, some may even think that there is now one less person for them to have to climb over to advance. With someone leaving, one can say even that their power flows back and is dispersed to the others in the organization to “pick up the baton,” influence and lead.

– Some may realize that the problems the person brought to the organization (and everyone brings a mixed bag–both good and bad), have now left with them. Were they entrenched in the current ways of doing things and naysayers to any sort of change? Did they have an ego and a sense of entitlement after serving for years? Had they become stale and fallen behind the times in terms of best practices, new technologies, and so on?

– Others can look forward to new people and “fresh blood” coming in–reinvigorating the organization, bringing in new perspectives, fresh ideas, or as they say, “mix it up a little,” shake the limbs, ask questions of the status quo–of course, you never really know about a new person, until the marriage equivalent of “you wake up with them in the morning”–you see how they actually perform on the job, in the culture, with the people.

Sure, there are some special people that are practically irreplaceable, because they are such visionaries, innovators, and leaders of people–that they are truly one in ten million. Steve Jobs is one of those that come to mind. These are the exceptions, not the rule.

For most people, we give to the organization and provide value–some people thrive for years or decades. It is individualistic and depends on many factors but especially the person to job fir and the person to organization fit. Factors that are in some ways quantifiable based on knowledge, skills, and abilities, but also depends on personality, culture, style, adaptability, motives, and many more things.

When a person is a good or great fit–there is almost nothing better for them and the organization then a long and productive marriage of the two!

But when the fit is bad–then it is bad for the person and the organization–there can be poor productivity, negative interrelationships, and bitter feelings.

Depending on the situation and fit…Often we wished people stayed longer and could keep giving their gift. Sometimes people know when the tea leaves are telling them to move on and the fit is no longer right. And still other times, some people overstay their visit and thereby do more harm then good.

How will people see you when it your time to leave? You want to be missed for all the right reasons. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Bernt Rostad)

Going Up To The Clouds

It’s been a week since Zach Sobiech, age 18, died from a rare bone cancer, called Osteosarcoma.

Zach was diagnosed at just the tender age of 14 and by 17 he was given less than a year to live.

During his last year on Earth, he wrote this beautiful song, Clouds.

The lyrics are amazing:

“And we’ll go up, up, up
But I’ll fly a little higher
We’ll go up in the clouds because the view is a little nicer
Up here my dear

It won’t be long now, it won’t be long now
If only I had a little bit more time
It only I had a little bit more time with you.”

Anticipating his death, Zach imagines, as a soul, flying up in the clouds–where the “view is a little nicer.”

And he knows, time is short–and “it won’t be long now”–and although he’ll be able to see his family, friends, and loved ones from the clouds, he wishes he “had a little bit more time” with them on Earth.

Death is hard at any age, but it is especially tragic when it is a child or someone who hasn’t been able to fully live–and experience so many things or make all their contributions.

But at any age, the loss of a good person, a kind person, a loving person–is a loss for all of us, left behind.

Zach, some day we’ll see you in the clouds with the other good people–it should be at the right time, merciful, and when our job here is done.

It is okay to love life and the special people around us and to miss them terribly when we go, but we all go to the same place…to be with G-d, and each other, in Heaven.

In the after life, we can fly higher, with a nicer view, and reflect on how we did with the precious gifts and time given to us–whether long or short–before being called spiritually home again to our perfect maker. 😉