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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Wonderful Mom

Another post by Jenn, Susan's daughter …

Below are the words my sister Kate spoke at my mom's service Friday, April 11th (my mom passed away on Monday, April 7th, after an 8-month battle with melanoma, and 7 months after reuniting with her original sisters, Carol and Jo, who let her know that melanoma did run in their family. We all had to laugh over the inaccurate medical record that the intermediary provided). She (my mom) was an active member of NJCare and an ardent supporter of S873/A1259, aka the Adoptees Birthright Bill, now awaiting Governor Christie's signature in NJ.

Thoughts on mom ... (Susan's daughter Kate's words at her service)

A month ago my mom told my sister Jenn and me that we were welcome to any of her jewelry, but that she really didn’t have much.  She just wasn’t into that kind of stuff.  But her recreational equipment?  Now that was a different story.  She wanted us to take those things and think of her every time we used them.  She told me to take her skis, and Jenn her roller blades, and she hoped someone would use those great golf clubs she spent all that money on.  The clubs may not have improved her game, but she had an awful lot of fun using them. 

 I am not ready to say goodbye to someone so full of life, and who brought so much joy to my own life and to the life of my family and kids.  I don’t understand how this 63 year old woman filled with energy, and laughter, and love, can be gone.  It doesn’t make any sense.  But, at the risk of sounding unenlightened, I will come back to a prayer my mom often quoted to me, especially over the past 8 months.  “If the only prayer we ever say is thank you, that is enough” (Meister Eckhart).  So mom, here is my prayer of thanks to you.

My family at the beach, early 1980s. I (Jenn) am on my dad's shoulders. Kate is in front.

Thank you for the love and patience you showered upon my sister and me as a young mom, a patience I didn’t truly appreciate until I had my own kids.  Thank you for the countless memories:   library trips, trips to Wedgewood swim club, pizza dinners at our neighbors’ houses, out on the softball field year after year, coaching our teams.  I still remember so clearly what pathetically was the pinnacle of my sports career (maybe yours as well), beating the favored team and winning the 4th grade softball championships in the last inning.  We share a competitive streak, my mom and I.  Many of you out there have witnessed her competitive streak – on the badminton court, throwing horseshoes, playing scrabble, in the ocean pushing to get ahead by a few feet body surfing, so that she could triumphantly grin at the person she left behind.   She was competitive, but more than that, she was so much fun.  Mom, thank you for teaching me to snow ski, and teaching me (and countless other kids) how to water ski, for instilling a love for tennis, for so many other things.  Through example mom you taught me.  Cherish your family and friends.  Go have fun with them. 

And of course, thank you for your laugh – thank you for using it so often, and never caring how loud it was or how much attention it brought. 
My mom with Kate, my sister, at one of her favorite places in the world -- the ocean

Thank you for putting up with me as a teenager.  I will never forget, after one particularly ugly argument, you calmly shaking your head at me and saying, “Oh Kate, I so hope I live to see that day that you too have a daughter.”  And sure enough, my first born was Emma.  I honestly don’t know how I’m going to get through her teen years without you mom.

Thank you for your friendship as I grew older.  We went on ski trips together, went on all those magical hikes through Big Sur and Mt. Tam with Dad, shared weekends at LBI, biked together, took long walks with our dogs in the woods, and talked about anything.  Thank you for showing up in San Francisco, 2 months into my first year of medical school, after I tumbled off my bike and shattered my elbow.   You were there for me, like you always had been, at a time when I was in pain and scared and alone.   

Thank you for helping me to navigate new motherhood.  You literally saved me from insanity during Emma’s colicky first 6 months.  Every day, you’d show up at my door, and order me out, just so I could get an hour of quiet.  You listened to my worries, and reassured me over and over that it would be ok, and that I was doing a good job.  You never judged, or if you did judge, you did a really good job of hiding it.  I always knew I had someone I could call to share stories with, to laugh with, to get advice from.  You gave the best advice.  
My mom running with Kate, early 1980s, or maybe late 1970s. She was so fun, but she also instilled a deep sense of justice and respect for life in us. As an advocate for adoptees rights, she kept that sense of justice and respect for life. The ACLU, NJ Bar Association, NJ Right to Life, and NJ Catholic Conference (opponents to Adoption Reform in NJ) would be wise to listen!

And what a grandmother you were – to Emma, Eddie and Tyson, and Grace, Genevieve and Joseph.  Among my many heartbreaks is that they will not have more time with you.   Thank you for the countless days you spent with me and my kids when you watched Jenn’s children.  There are so many memories there for all of us.  Thank you for the countless glasses of wine we shared after those long days with the kids.  Thank you for all the time you spent, playing board games/shooting baskets/ pitching baseballs and tennis balls/roller blading/skiing, I could go on and on.  Thank you for the weekends at the beach when you would take one of the grandkids off for a kayak, or a bike ride, or a mini golf outing (with your own putter of course).   

I do want to take one moment away from thanking my mom to thank some others.  To her friends who have been with her through all of this, I hope you know how much your constant presence and support meant to her, and means to us.  To the many people who have done so many things to support me, my dad, and my sister over the past months, we are truly touched and grateful.  To her dear brother, she cherished the times she spent with you both as a child and as an adult, and the laughter you brought to her life.   To her recently found sisters, I so wish she had found you sooner so you could have shared more, but I am so grateful that she found you as you brought her so much peace, understanding and love.  To my Dad and my sister Jenn, mom always said we had the best family.  You never failed her, not once. 

To my mom, be at peace.  I don’t know yet how I’m going move on, without you.  But I will hold on to the love you always showered me with, and I’m going to hold that laugh of yours/that passion/ in my heart forever. 


  1. Dear Jenn and Kate, your mother holds a special place in my heart that I can't really describe. I guess she reminds me of my adoptive mother in some way. I lost her young as well. The hurt never really goes away, but it does become easier to bear. Thank you for sharing your mother with us.

    And I really hope she's wielding power from on high that will give Gov Christie a well-deserved Cosmic smack upside the head.

    1. Thank you Elle, for reading and for sharing your story. I've now read a few of your posts and found "Where I'm Coming From" especially moving/informative ( I am still learning so much. It's so nice to hear that my mom holds a special place in your heart. Thank you again.

  2. A brilliant memorial to a brilliant woman. Thank you, and continued sympathy to you and your family.

    1. Thank you, Margie. I've always thought my sister Kate was brilliant too! :) One of my dearest friends (since preschool!) is an adoptee from Korea, and only now through really trying to understand my mom's experience can I appreciate her story fully. I like this from your post on the NPR interview: "First and foremost, we must remember that we cannot speak for the adoption community. It can be appropriate and helpful for us to share our experiences with other adoptive parents, and with adoptees and first parents as well, in the spirit of furthering understanding. But when the topic is adoption generally, we have to learn to hand the mike to adoptees. They, having lived adoption first-hand, can talk with credibility about the experience of being adopted."
      You say we meaning adoptive parents, but all to that "daughter of adopted mother." Thank you again.

    2. oops .. I meant ""but I'll add to that." Not sure what happened.

  3. What a beautiful tribute to your beautiful mom. I continue to send prayers to you and yours.

  4. Thank you so much, Susie. I just read some posts from "Finding Christopher, Finding Myself," for the first time and was very moved. Again, thank you.

  5. Jenn, I am sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. Your posts are beautiful tributes to your mother and your family. Learning more about the life of your mother and her interactions with you and your family are truly inspirational. I continue to keep you and your family in my prayers.

  6. Al, so good to see your smiling face here! Thank you for reading and for your comments, and for your prayers. Much love, Jenn

  7. My deepest sympathy in the loss of your beloved mother, wife, grandmother. Thank you for sharing your tender and loving tribute to her.
    Sincerely, Patricia Martinez Dorner


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