“How come I always have to remind you to put stuff on your feet. Look how cracked your heels are”.

That was one of the last things my mother said to me.  It was very typical of her in life and in death. Nothing that occurred in the next week would be normal.  From my Mother’s last morning, to the end of  Shiva (which it kind of really wasn’t), Woody Allen and Jackie Mason couldn’t have written a stranger script.

What there was the night my mom died was a lot of a laughter. As strange and as horrible as that sounds we laughed, ordered pizza, and drank a lot of wine. Looking back we must have done to ease the stress.

Let me set the scene for you. My mother was trying to divorce her husband of 20 years, but because she was dying he wouldn’t sign the papers.  His stress was not helping her well-being, so she moved out of the home that she loved, and moved in with some friends.  Their house is beautiful. Like a giant Plantation house overlooking Lake Washington. I mean if you’re going to croak, you might as will do it in nice digs.

The cancer had shut down almost all her systems. She was jaundice, her hair had fallen out, and the tumor in her stomach had made her fat. I didn’t recognize her, she looked like my grandmother at 80.

The one thing that kept going was her heart and mind. She was a Marathon runner and there was no way it was gong to give out.

I spent the previous 10 days doing fun things like running for meds, finding out how to fly her body to New Jersey, finding a Conseverodox Rabbi for the funeral, and all the other wonderful things you do when your parent is about to die.  My sister and I fought, no surprise, we always fight, oil and water. Oren was angry at me because he had to be in charge of the kids. My insane Uncle was acting like the big bad wolf and kept blowing a lot of hot air. Yep the situation was a lot like Libya, something was going to blow.

Within the span of about two hours my mom’s situation went from being lucid, to being knocked out. Mary, mom’s best friend and nurse, was trying to keep her as comfortable as possible.  We were sure her death was imminent, that was around 2 pm.

By 6 or 7 all her close friends and family had gathered around her bed. Everybody was telling my mom it was OK to go, but she wasn’t having it.  She was doing this thing (my Uncle calls it the death rattle), she’d take a gasping breath and then the air comes out like a rattle snake shaking his tale. And we’d all say, “that it then”.  But no, she’d kept hanging on.

I can’t remember the exact quote, but Elie Wiesel wrote something along the lines of birth being a sacred moment between the individual and G-d. We come into the world alone, and that we go out of it alone also. A sacred moment between G-d and the individual.  And that’s how it was with my mother.

Only after everybody left, I had fallen asleep in the next room, and Mary had gone out of the room, my mother passed. That’s my mom, even in death it would be her way or no way.

It was a Friday night, and the Hevra HaKiddisha told us to call the goys, and they would hold the body until Motzi Shabbat.  They said that there would be somebody to sit with the body. So I told Mary we had to get her dressed, because I didn’t want to leave her with funeral home people naked. She wouldn’t have approved.

She was bloated and had bled from every orifice. That image still haunts me. We dressed her best we could and waited.

Enter Frick and Frack. The drove up in a Red Bonney Watson Funeral Home van, loaded with bodies.  These two Albinos get out of the van with long black coats, pointy long shoes, and long finger nails. Mary and I looked at each other and tried not to laugh.  It was like the Angel of Death and his twin brother had come to collect my mother.

One of the them was wringing his hands (I kid you not), the other was wandering the house. He went over to the panoramic windows in the living room and said, “what a beautiful view you have here”, and continued to wander aimlessly.  At one point I think they asked for something to drink.

By this point Mary and I were exhausted, and the clean up hadn’t even started. I can’t remember who told them, but somebody told them just to get the body out of the house. Eventually they loaded the body into the van, opening the doors wide enough so we could see the other bodies they’d collected.  I think the two of us looked at each, rolled our eyes, and repressed laughter.

That was just the beginning. There would be co-worker that would throw himself over my mother’s grave in the shape of a cross,  people who showed up to the funeral after my mom was buried, my uncle telling the Orthodox rabbi he’d gone to Catholic school even though he’s Jewish but actually leaning towards being an Atheists, and a headstone made by a guy named Vinnie with the Hebrew carved backwards (see my photo album called “History”).

I couldn’t make my life up if I tried.  After all Truth really is strange than fiction.