Compassion on Mother’s Day
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers.
I want to acknowledge and show compassion to those who have lost a child, grandchild, or mother. My wish for you is to find some peace on the day, take some time for you, and know you are not alone. Perhaps there are memories to recall, navigate a new tradition, or find a space that works for you. My go to place is ice skating, my mediation. I glide across the ice and troublesome thoughts melt away.
I want to share some thoughts with you on how I feel about Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day is present on the calendar the second Sunday of May year after year. A date to celebrate mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers. Retailers have captured the opportunity to promote and increase sales with advertisements beginning months prior to May. No one can forget Mother’s Day.
Why do we need to focus and emphasize attention on one day? If you are a mother, you are a mother three hundred and sixty-five days of the year. If you have lost a child, a grandchild, are experiencing challenges conceiving a child, or your desire to be a mother is not happening, Mother’s Day is a date you want to erase off the calendar.
For me, many mixed emotions flutter for Mother’s Day and anxiety looming up to the date. I am a mother, grandmother, and a surviving sibling of two lost siblings. I have a pit in my stomach knowing what the day means for my mother, try to be there for her, overshadowing what I feel as a mother. I cannot imagine how horrible the day represents to my mother having lost two daughters. Children and grandchildren are a diversion, but the underlying sadness prevails. Somehow, we muddle through the day. At the completion of the day, we heave a sigh of relief it’s over, exhausted from the emotional upheaval.
My wise grown children suggested we have another day to celebrate Mother’s Day to take some of the pressure off. I appreciate their love and caring. I do not need to celebrate Mother’s Day. I am grateful to be a mother and a grandmother and cherish time with family.
I recall precious memories of celebrating Mother’s Day with my beloved sisters Margie and Jane dressing up in our party dresses going out to dinner or feeding the birds on The Boston Common with stale bread. Today, I hold on to the boxes of handmade cards from my two special daughters.
Motherhood is the greatest gift I acknowledge every day. I hope that anyone who has experienced losses will find some peace on Mother’s Day and know others share their compassion.
A Father’s Words of Wisdom
My late father Ben gave on me countless years of advice and wisdom. I hear his voice and the words allow my actions and decisions throughout my life.
The night before I left home to venture off to a new life and career to work for Bloomingdale’s in New York City as a member of their Executive Training Program, my father sat me down and gave me parting words of advice, “Judy, there will be days you will love it, and days that you will hate it, but you must roll with the punches.”
Young, naïve, and aspirations to set the world on fire, I heeded these words. Devastated when a promotion I was certain to receive did not materialize, or when offered the exciting opportunity to move to Washington, DC, and the time I wanted to throw in the towel and quit after the death of my sister Jane, I tried to hear Ben Lipson’s words.
My nature did not always allow me the freedom to roll with the punches. Too sensitive, I take things personally. Often emotional and crying, my father there, a phone call away, cheering me on.
I left Bloomingdale’s in New York, and an offer to return after fifteen years materialized. Do I return in a support position not an executive position? Torn with whether to return to the store I had fond memories, and my life at a different point, I discussed the options with my father.
“Judy, I’ve learned two things in business, go with your instinct, and take a risk.”
I listened and remained at Bloomingdale’s for ten years. The opportunity proved to be the perfect fit as a single mother raising two daughters.
Naturally, I’ve made mistakes throughout my life. We all have and that is how we grow and learn. Despite the best guidance, we can steer on the wrong path.
One of our favorite Ben Lipson sayings to comfort in many times of upset, “Let not your heart be troubled,” or “this too shall pass.” How many times do we repeat these words of wisdom of Ben Lipson? Words that comfort me, my daughters, my grandchildren and hopes to keep his legacy alive.
I am grateful for his words and miss his daily calls. When my daughters ask my opinion, I can hear my father’s voice in my head and I often say, “this is what your Papa would say.” I will never be as wise or own such coin phrases of wisdom. I am left with the gift of the special man, my father.
The Pure Joy of Ice Skating
After four months of recovering from a broken foot, I have returned to ice skating, to a sport that is my passion, joy, peace, and connection to my beloved sisters. Elated to be back on the ice with my skating pals and teammates, I know the process will be slow. Per advice of my coach, I wore my skates around the house and got used to the feeling of the skating boot. My foot and legs are weak after months of low activity and will need to build up my strength.
I stepped on the ice, huge smile, pushed one foot, then the other, glided on the beautiful slick surface, felt the breeze through my hair, and off I went. Surprised by my agility albeit slow, I stayed a short time. Encouraged by my fellow adult skaters, I was back home on the ice. Not wanting to leave, I knew it wise and take the process step by step. The uplifting feeling cemented back in my soul!
Four months is not long, but for me, skating is such an important part of my life on so many levels. Ice skating provided the piece to share my sisters with others that forbade me to do for so many years. Celebration of Sisters, the ice-skating fundraiser, offered the backdrop to envelop my sisters back into my life, complete and continue my journey of comfort, continue my circles of comfort.
The skating arena opened many doors to me with introductions to people from all over the country and world. The lessons learned from skaters of all ages pushed me to do things I never though or believed myself capable of. I skate for me, Margie and Jane, and the crucial centrifugal force skating ignites.
When I skate, my head needs to be clear of all my old insecurities. My head must be clear of questions of doubt. How do I look out there? What do others think? Another piece is letting go of judgement I felt whole life transferred to my skating ability. I need to focus on how I feel. That is the moment I skate with freedom, fun, and confidence.
From the moment I carry my skates out of my home, into the car, the feeling of serenity and excitement surrounds me knowing I am going to any rink to ice skate. As I place my feet into my white boots with the shiny blades and lace up my skates the calm, and tranquility continues. Sometimes I am alone or often with fellow skaters chatting about a sport with shared passion and support. As the Zamboni clears the ice to make the smooth surface for our session to begin.
As I step onto the ice, it is life a magic like the song from Aladdin, “A Whole New World,” shared by my sisters and me. My happy place, my sanctuary, my safe place.
Ice skating afforded a theme throughout my life. Wherever I seemed to be in my life, ice-skating fed the central line to my comfort, my identity, and my peace. Ice skating is the connection, the chord, and the strings that bind me to my sisters. The smooth, shining ice is a mirror to look in and vividly see my sisters and me.
This is the month of hearts and love, we mark February fourteenth with Valentine’s Day. It is my hope that everyone feels loved by someone in your life – a family member, a friend, or a coworker.
Love can be expressed in multiple ways - by a box of chocolates or flowers, phone call, a visit, a special memento, or a hand written note. Love does not need to expressed on February fourteenth but any other day or whatever feels right for you.
This year, I have a new love to send a Valentine card. A new addition to our family, a new grandson. I had fun selecting special cards for my children and grandchildren. I recall eating red hots and sweet hearts with my beloved sisters. We carefully chose the specific color or message and had many laughs eating too much candy!
When I think of love I think of hearts and remember my beloved sister Margie. She loved all things hearts. Red hot candies, assorted heart necklaces, heart decorative pieces, and she signed every letter and card with her signature colorful hearts. Most importantly was her heart – loving, generous, and large.
I treasure the hearts that once belonged to Margie. Thanks to Margie and my daughters, my home is surrounded my hearts and love, constant daily reminders that despite what I have lost I forever have love. I treasure Margie’s Limoge hearts and the ceramic hearts crafted by my daughters at camp with the inscription, “Love you.”
Another piece of love is music. For my first performance in Celebration of Sisters, I selected Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” I chose music that reminds me of my beloved sisters Margie and Jane, and resonates our deep love. When the music hits the deep beat of I Will Always Love You, I jumped onto my partner’s knee, outstretched my arm sharing my love with my sisters and all bereaved and lost siblings.
For those of us who have lost loved ones our hearts are filled with love and many other emotions. Where there is grief there is love. Where there is pain there is love. Where there is joy there is love.
What does love mean to you? Who are the loves in your life? How will you share love with your special person or people? We would love to know and hope whatever you do, you feel special too.
A New Bundle of Joy
Our new bundle of joy arrived five weeks early in the middle of December! A beautiful baby boy after a history of girls. We are over the moon and grateful he is doing well and certainly surprised everyone ready to come into the world before the end of the year in time to celebrate Chanukah.
As a mother my heart overflowed watching my daughter hold her child. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I stood and watched the two in awe, the baby’s nose a carbon copy of his mother’s. She sat so natural beaming, glowing her husband holding her hand. The two, wonderful loving, parents navigating this journey with strength and courage.
For the first night in weeks, I slept through the night, at peace knowing everyone was healthy and happy. My mind did circle wishing my beloved sisters Margie and Jane around to share this beautiful time with me. A little pang knowing how lucky the baby will be to have a cousin (my other grandson), an aunt (my daughter) and uncle (my other son- in- law) to grow up together making special memories. He is loved unconditionally from extended family on both sides. The gift of technology and FaceTime allowing us to be part of this wonderful journey.
Day by day we watch the progress monitored by a magnificent team of devoted NICU nurses who warmly nurture the babies and parents through the process. Nini, the name I am called, had the pleasure of reading my grandson his first book. Every moment I was able to visit the NICU, my eyes did not leave him, a true miracle, the lapis blue eyes, a hand gesture to the face, a smile, a frown, a yawn, a stretch, and a peaceful sleep all snuggled up. Our little boy making progress every day and look forward to his welcome home.
I am so proud of my daughter and son-in-law who championed the unexpected early arrival, with love, and a positive attitude. The time has allowed them lessons in parenting. When the baby is ready to leave the NICU the two will be pros on how to handle a newborn. I watch them in awe.
My daughters filled a void and brought sunshine to my parents after the loss of my beloved sisters. Grandchildren remind us of a new life, a new focus, an innocence, and a new joy. We never forget what we lost, they are forever with us, part of us, and now our legacy continues, and we can meld our past with our future generations.
Last month I suffered a reaction to the COVID booster, fell and broke the fifth metatarsal in my right foot. Unable to walk the doctor instructed me to call an ambulance to take me to the emergency room. Horrified at the thought and presumed ambulance are for extremely sick people, I reluctantly called and within five minutes six EMT/firemen arrived. I apologized and they told me not to this is their job.
This is typical for me not reacting well to most vaccines. The recovery will be three months – no driving, no skating, and for now no weight on the foot. I am lucky I did not hit my head or break a hip.
I am grateful for my family who stepped in to take care showing unconditional love and devotion. I am used to being the strong one, taking care of everyone and this is not the case. I will need to be patient and ask others for help, something I am not comfortable doing. In addition to crutches, I have a scooter which is a game changer allowing me to cook, do laundry, and bustle around.
My three year old grandson was very curious about the details of the accident and listened carefully and responded, “accidents happened.” He decorated my boot by drawing with crayons and selected two of his truck stickers. I now have a distinct stunning boot!
With all that I have lost, as my late father used to say, “this too shall pass.” I am grateful I skated my final performance in Celebration of Sisters to honor my beloved sisters Margie and Jane the week prior to my fall. I am grateful I am good shape to be rocking on the crutches. I am grateful to be surrounded by people who love and care about me to assist me during this brief blimp in the road. I am grateful to be strong and resilient to handle a little adversity. I am grateful for my writing as a means to keep my mind active. I am grateful because this will make me stronger.
I hope to embrace this time to catch up on some reading, work on my second book, plan marketing and events for year two of my memoir, and will be forced to take a break. For someone who is used to high energy and always on the go, for the next few months I have no choice but to slow down.
The prize is the arrival of a new grandchild in January. I need to be patient. That, and my desire to me on the ice with my skating pals. I know my return to skating will be slow and need to kind and forgiving. I will get there!
I wish you and yours Happy Holidays and all the best in the New Year!
I loved being an older sister to my younger sister Jane. For the first fourteen years of my life we shared a room. I loved the closeness, the talks, the sisterly fights, the unspoken words and knowing we shared a history. When we moved to a bigger home, each with our own bedroom, I missed Jane.
On November 7, 1981 that changed, I changed. After forty one years a hole remains in my heart, but not my love for my cherished sister.
Jane and I were polar opposites. When she was younger she tagged along with me, I babysat for her, protected her and in her own way she looked up to me. One of the biggest thrills was the summer she came with me to overnight camp. For the first time I got to ride the sisters bus. I had a little sister at camp. She drove me nuts coming to my bunk every day and crying about not wanting to take horseback riding. We resolved the issue but secretly I missed her visits and felt important watching out for my little sister.
Banished to the kitchen for her sweet 16, not cool enough for her friends, I took it in stride and knew Jane would outgrow the behavior. Sadly we never had a chance to watch Jane grow up. What I do know is the unconditional love based on the cards and letters I still have and cherish and read and reread. Jane told me she was proud of me when I landed my job at Bloomingdale’s out of college.
In looking at the pictures, I was astounded to see the resemblance between Jane and I. She is standing in the living room in a long navy dress, hand on the piano. It could be a dead ringer for a picture of me in college where I stand in a long navy dress. Jane had a dimple on her right cheek, but side by side no mistaken we are sisters. It warms my heart to look at this picture.
I will never know who Jane would be today and dream of her often. I had the gift of her for twenty two years. A special sister I love then, today, and forever.
Birthdays A Time of Reflection
October is my birthday. A day for the past forty one years filled with many mixed emotions.
I recall birthday parties with Margie and Jane held in our basement. All dressed up in our party dresses, white ruffled socks, Mary Janes, sitting at long rectangular tables with paper party hats secured to our heads with a thin elastic, eating Hoodsies with a small wooden spoon and birthday cake. Different themes of party – Come dress like your father, Come dress like an animal, or basic birthday parties with pin the tail on donkey. Margie wearing my father’s suit jacked draped over her shoulders dragging on the floor. Jane dressed up as a bunny, eyes squinting never liked having her picture taken, surrounded by adorable friends in assorted animal costumes all smiling.
I hold onto the birthday cards received from Margie and Jane – precious words of love amongst sisters read over and held close to my heart.
Birthdays in our family traditionally celebrated with a cake, candles, and happiness marking the day.
The last time I saw Jane I came home from New York to celebrate my twenty fifth birthday. For decades my birthday held a cloud of sadness. Unable to disassociate a celebration with the harsh reality of the loss of my cherished younger sister. I put up a front for my daughters and parents marking milestone birthdays with large birthday parties, trying to mask the sadness and hollowness inside. When I met with one of Jane’s friends who told me Jane would want me to celebrate, I tried to switch the directive of my birthday. I attempted to find some happiness for several years. Sometimes a new plan distracted the heartache but always in the subconscious.
Now I am conflicted. I know in my head I need to celebrate the day. I have much to be grateful for, but my heart remains with a hole and missing my sisters. There is much I want to share with my beloved sisters as our beautiful family grows.
Birthdays are a day to be celebrated. When my grandson calls and sings Happy Birthday to me I melt and how can I not smile? The joy on his little face, the innocence, and love.
I do not know how I will feel this year but I have grown in allowing myself permission and compassion to feel whatever the day or week leading up to my birthday may bring. I will skate on the actual day, something that brings me joy and peace When I step on the ice and think about how Margie and Jane would be laughing how their sister Judy is now on a synchronized skating team and still as timid as she was at eight when we all started skating. I know Margie and Jane are with me as I glide across the ice, wind blowing in my hair, each one on my shoulder, forever in my heart.
The weather turns a bit cooler, the morning sunlight sleeps a little longer, daylight a bit shorter, we celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Translated, Head of the Year, a time of prayer and self-reflection. We review our actions during the past year, and we look for ways to improve ourselves, our communities, and our world in the year to come. The holiday marks the beginning of a ten day period High Holidays or Days of Awe starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
A day I remember my sisters, Margie and Jane, traditions past, with the attempt to orchestrate new traditions cementing a balance of the two as we welcome new members of the family. Finding the right mix is not an easy fix and requires years of tweaking, challenges, and a constant work in progress. The staple are the apples and honey in the hope of a sweet new year.
Reflecting on the past year my heart beams. I am grateful for the gift of family, friends, time, dreams, and hope. A milestone birthday of sixty-five and joining the ranks of many enrolled in Medicare, a decade of the Celebration of Sisters ice skating fundraiser, the publication of Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve, a move out of the city after eleven years, and the opportunity to meet new and wonderful people after a global pandemic. There is work to be done and more to learn and grow each day.
This past year not without challenges and mistakes, hopefully lesson learned and progress made, and where opportunities lie to do better.
To you and yours, I wish you a Happy, Healthy and Peaceful New Year!
I recently attended The Compassionate Friends annual conference. It felt like my premiere attendance. Why? Number one, as a presenter the nerves off the charts; number two traveling today precarious at best, number three as an introvert how would I survive the crowd of 800 attendees and share our grief all weekend, something I had suppressed for so long?
A fellow bereaved sibling from The Sibling Grief Book Club graciously picked me up from the airport. Good travel karma and all went well. Checked into the hotel, across the street from where the Houston Astros play, picked up the collateral – two bags including a TCF sibling T-shirt and peanut butter crackers (yeah!) and got through the first day okay. The program had a different feel and the sibling presence and programs grown since I attended the conference many years ago. Good to put a face to people I chatted to online and seen on Zoom. Still shaky and jittery over presenting – would the subject be received and elicit conversation? Would anyone show up?
Day two I attended the sibling orientation and honored to stand with fellow presenters. A tribe of siblings who understood and spoke my language. A gift I never experienced in the early years of grieving. I sat down in the grand ballroom to hear the opening speaker and when he told the story of his daughter, the floodgates opened. I left the room. The old Judy would have retreated and faced the sadness alone. I messaged the sibling group and said, “I’m having a meltdown, I’m in the sibling hospitality room.” Within minutes, the messages blew up. “I’m on my way, do you want coffee?” Surrounded by sibs who talked me off the ledge, provided warmth, comfort, talked, laughed. For years of being alone with my grief, I cannot articulate into words the sentiment of not being alone.
I attended several sibling workshops, and the day flew by. I met wonderful people of all ages, all varying years of loss, all with the warmest of hearts. The nerves did not escape me. I attended Friday evening’s karaoke night for a short time astounded by the talent amongst the group! I know the limits of being an introvert and found the group overwhelming. I stayed for a short time and exhausted went to the quiet of my room.
Saturday morning unable to attend the first session with my presentation scheduled for the second session. Elated the presentation went well, not using any notes and spoke off the cuff. Conversation ensued and siblings shared. Relieved the task over, comforted to be able to share Margie and Jane with others after prolonged time of silence, I could now breathe. Grateful for the kindness and cheerleading from fellow sibs. As my late father said, “With one rear end you can’t dance at two weddings.” I missed out on many sessions from fellow siblings due to the overlapping of scheduling. To protect privacy and confidentiality none of the sessions are recorded. This is our sacred shared space.
As a newcomer, I forgot to pick up the button everyone wore of their lost one(s). When I got home, I received an email from the company offering to send the button to us. Again, the generosity and kindness spread throughout the group warmed my soul. I will miss my fellow sibs. My heart is full. Until next year when we get together again!
I also learned to say instead of I lost my sister Margie and Jane, I am Margie and Jane’s sister.
The grand finale of the conference is the candle lighting ceremony. My previous experience did not bode well left heart wrenched and sobbing, a difference journey this time around. This powerful ceremony enlightened and moved me. The vision of eight hundred candles illuminated a room for all lives lost. Five large candles lit for everyone representing Grief, Courage, Memory, Love and Hope. I shook and my face wet with tears, a warm arm around my shoulder, Margie, Jane, and all siblings we will always love you.
Judy Lipson, is the Founder of Celebration of Sisters, an ice skating fundraiser established in 2011 to commemorate the memories of her beloved sisters to benefit Massachusetts General Hospital. Judy has published articles for The Open to Hope Foundation and The Centering Organization. Massachusetts General Hospital and SKATING Magazine featured numerous pieces on Judy’s philanthropic work. Judy appeared as a guest on The Open To Hope and The Morning Glory Podcasts. Her passion for figure skating secured the recipient of U.S. Figure Skating Association 2020 Get Up Award. Judy’s memoir, Celebration of Sisters: It Is Never Too Late To Grieve, released December 2021 by WriteLife Publishing.