I must admit, I don't need Mother's Day to remember my mother. She's etched in my memory and heart forever. But, a few days ago was the 15th anniversary of her passing, I thought it would be good to share her with the world. (Yes, this is Mom and me in the photo). My biological mother passed away two weeks after I was born from a rare infection. At the same time, a woman named Adela was visiting her two sisters in Israel from Sweden. She was at a party and the talk of the town was all about the widowed man and his two-week old baby boy. Adela felt an unexplained urge to meet this man and his son. She did so the next day and as she told me years later "it was my destiny to meet and care for you".
Adela asked my dad if he would allow her to stay and care for me. They were complete strangers, but for some mysterious (and lucky) reason, he said yes. A year later they were married and Adela officially adopted me. I have the adoption papers and they have always symbolized to me what a mother's love and sacrifice is all about.
Imagine visiting a non-English speaking country on a tour, meeting a widowed man with an infant child, then deciding to take care of that child and never going back to the US? Literally, leaving your life behind and trading it for a strange country, new language and culture, suspicious family and whole lot more.
People often wonder why I have a strong connection with my kids and a burning desire to always help people? When you have a childhood that is filled with love, devotion and the type of motherhood I experienced, you can't help but emulate your mother.
My parents never revealed the "truth" until years later. I didn't know how to react. My immediate reaction was "but I have a mother". Throughout the years, my mother would drop hints like "you know, I love you more than a real mother would" . I had no clue what she meant until years later. She was right. She had to prove herself and fight continuous suspicious behavior from a family that wasn't accepting of the "stranger" that walked into their life.
My mother and my father were very different. My father came from a small village in Poland and was poor most of his life. My mother had a worldview, loved classical music and was a people- person. Adela was a holocaust survivor. She was a on a "gas-train" but was able to breath through a crack in the floor while everyone else was dying above her. She was thrown into a pit in the woods and managed to make her way to a major city, living in the sewers and ultimately reunited with her brother in Sweden.
My mother never revealed to any of us how old she was. She would drop occasional hints " If only you and your father knew how old I really am". Her passport had the wrong birth year. After the World Wars, people were allowed to "declare" their age. Her "official" birth year was 1913. My babysitter, who later became the attorney general in Israel, was the only one who knew. When my mother passed away, I found out. I was certainly a handful like many boys are. She was also not well from the years she spent hiding in the woods, sewers and always on the run for fear of being captured by the Nazis. Unless you spent a full day with my mother, you would not know of the internal pain and turmoil she carried after that experience. She had unending energy reserves and was hiding whatever was ailing her, physically or emotionally. She passed away at 93.
We are all lucky to experience motherhood and too often we take it for granted. For those who have lost their mothers at an early age it is apparent and painful. I always pride myself about being strong and resilient, but when my mother passed away, I fell apart. I was devastated at the gaping hole in my life that no one could fill. We take so much for granted as we grow up and never imagine that it could end one day. Yes, my mother was right - she was much more than just a biological mother.
I am not sure whether Adela came into my life because of divine intervention or "luck". My wife is a big believer in "things happen for a reason". Rather than argue the merits of either, I choose instead to remember my mother and realize how much I miss her. Happy Mother's Day.