Today is my mother’s 86th birthday and we’re still so lucky to have her around! This picture of her, taken in the Galilee in Israel a year before she was married, features prominently on our family wall calendar for the month of November. I love this photo.
She is a very special mother with a big heart who was a loving and equal partner in her marriage (my parents’ marriage was a real role model for me), who raised a family of eight children (four of whom were adopted), who had even more children in her temporary care (including my oldest brother who died at age seven a year before I was born), who did volunteer work and paid work (as a librarian) on the side, who moved house with all those kids several times from The Netherlands to Israel to Germany, who is a painter and who has always been able to make a warm home and keep the family together through thick and thin. Yes, there are a few not so easy traits about her, but my goodness, she gave me a great example of how to be your own woman, how to not compromise on picking the right partner in life, how to value independence of mind and how to raise children with integrity and care.
My youngest brother is in Israel right now for a fortnight and today, on my mother’s birthday, he visited my oldest brother’s grave. A family cousin of ours, who also lives in Israel, went with him and freshened up the lettering on the gravestone. My younger brother laid down a small commemorative stone from my mother which made me wipe away a tear. She never forgets those she loved who cannot be with us anymore.
My mother has had a very full and joyful life but has also had to deal with some real hardships, such as her childhood during the Second World War and surviving a hunger winter, losing my brother, losing my oldest sister who broke off all contact for no one really knows what reason, losing my father, the difficulties of repeatedly uprooting her life and her family and through it all she has never lost her warmth and her love. Now, in old age, she still lives on her own, she is still mentally fit and healthy even though walking is not so easy for her anymore and she tires more easily than she used to. She is a true mother hen, we all love her dearly and we hope to have her around for many more years to come.
This coming weekend we will be celebrating her birthday properly. My two older brothers will be coming over from abroad and we will all be together again as a family for the first time since Christmas 2019! My mother has organized the party herself (well, delegated most of it) and it will fill her heart with so much joy to have everyone around again. It fills my heart with joy too. Happy birthday, mama!