My friend and coworker recently approached me at work, put her hands on my now-large belly and said, “How’s Mom?”

My immediate reaction was, “Still dead.”

After 10 seconds (which seemed like 10 years), I suddenly realized that she meant me. I was going to be Mom.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not in denial that I’m pregnant or about to have a baby (in about 6.5 weeks, give or take). I’m so excited and absolutely in love with everything happening with my body – even though, as Maroon 5 said, it’s getting harder and harder to breathe. I’m excited and scared and can’t wait for Baby to come – and not ready for her at all. But I guess I didn’t think of the verbal repercussions of this life-altering event.

For most women, when they become mothers, the (capitalized) word Mom suddenly has two meanings: Them and their mothers. In my case, though – it’s just me.

I’m not sure how to make the 100% switch – as opposed to joining and sharing the title. This is probably the hardest post I’ve written, not emotionally, but expressively – I can’t quite figure out how to put into words what I am thinking. This coming from the girl who owns a t-shirt that says: “I’m talking and I can’t shut up” – and I’ve earned that shirt fair and square.

Of course I think about my mom a lot now, though I have had very few breakdowns (to the point where I fear that I haven’t dealt with it enough now that Baby is so close to coming). I wish I could share with her everything going on, and my fears (to which she would say that I’m being silly and of course I’ll be a good mom).

And of course everyone says that – my family, my friends, etc. – but I don’t feel reassured. I probably wouldn’t believe her either, but for some reason hearing her say it would be different than everyone else saying it – maybe because she would probably tell me if I would suck, and no one else would.

When I found out I was pregnant, and it had actually sunk in, I suddenly began to cry one day, out of the blue. I was asked by a coworker who walked by what happened, and I said nothing, I just wish my mom were alive so I could tell her, and she said I need to find someone to replace her. She didn’t mean it in a bad way – she meant someone I could go to who I could talk to and ask questions. I do have great people in my life – including my mother in law who I trust blindly – but you can’t replace telling your own mother you are pregnant.

I couldn’t find the words to explain to her how I felt and what I meant – much like now. A friend told me about her mother  who wants to be in the delivery room with her and asked me if I would agree – I have no idea. When my mom died, I couldn’t even fathom being in a relationship, much less be married and with a child. And with her gone, I can’t even imagine what I would want. At this point, it would be like asking me if I would wear boxers or briefs – it isn’t a situation I have ever – nor will I ever – be in, so I can’t even venture a guess. It’s unbelievable to me that I am not sharing this incredible experience with my mom – but I can’t imagine what it would be like to share it with her either.

I look at pictures of her (it’s easier than it was at the beginning, though I still haven’t gotten rid of the images from the last year of her life) and I try to imagine how she felt and what she thought when she was expecting me (I am the oldest). Sometimes my sister can share stories with me that our mom told her, but it doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t coming from her.

In a few weeks’ time, I will start calling myself Mom(my) to a tiny little person (who I will be expecting to keep alive). I won’t be alone in any way – I have the most amazing husband (who thinks these 9 months are way too long) and great sisters and incredible in-laws who I know I can count on 100%, but it doesn’t change the fact that I will still be missing someone huge – the other Mom who should be there, too, sharing the capitalized word with me.

Hi Mom,

It’s been a while since I’ve written. My last post, when I just got engaged, pretty much described everything leading up to the wedding. I survived it all and even had a great time. A lot of people have been talking to me about it, asking me how it went, so here’s the list of what I thought I wouldn’t survive – and what ended up happening:

  • You won’t be there for me to tell you I am engaged. You weren’t, but I survived.
  • You won’t be there to help me with the preparations. But Grandma came with me to be fitted for the dress the first time (the seamstress offered her a job), my baby sister the second, and my good friend the third. Shanainai tied it for me and everything. I survived.
  • Your name will be listed as z”l (deceased) on my wedding invitation – or is it not supposed to be listed at all? I have no idea. A non-issue. We didn’t list any parents on the invite, we just made the invitation from us. That was easy. I survived.
  • You won’t be at the signing of the Ketubah. Neither was any other female. If anything, you were there, but I wasn’t. I didn’t even know when it happened. Survived.
  • You won’t be walking down the aisle. Grandma went with me instead. The rabbi suggested it, and I loved the idea. So did she. Definitely survived.
  • You won’t be under the chuppah with me. Grandma was. But then again, so were you. I know it was you that made that wind blow and knock everything over. Definitely survived.
  • You won’t be beaming down at me. Ever. No, but there’s nothing I can do about that. I guess I accepted it, so I survived.

The truth is, the  most stress I had about and from the wedding was that I was afraid of the attention. I was hoping no one would mention you when they saw me, and thankfully just about no one did, other than a few of the elderly. But I had that invisible “pretend you are someone else” wall up, and it worked perfectly.

In fact, everything went very smoothly, from the planning (which I hated, but I would have hated it if you were here, too, to be fair), all the way through the wedding. I had more offers of help than I knew what to do with, and The Boy and I knew what we wanted and wouldn’t let anyone bully us into something we didn’t want to do. Well, we did invite a few people I didn’t want to invite, but The Boy was right, it wasn’t worth the fight.

I had the sleeves from your dress removed, and the back opened up with a corset-type thing to tie it with, and the dress ended up being great. I would have preferred to be a few pounds lighter, but who wouldn’t… Dad’s best friend growing up actually asked me at the wedding if it was your dress – he somehow remembered your dress from 36 years before!

I’m so happy I got to wear it. There were a few times where I felt I  missed out on the choosing-a-dress part of the wedding, but the truth is it doesn’t matter – who wouldn’t rather wear their mother’s dress if it was as gorgeous as it is? There were times where I would suddenly think, I can’t believe my mom danced in this and ate in this and got married in this. I thought it would make me cry, but I loved it. By the way, I hope you didn’t take it personally that I changed clothes when we were dancing. I was just jealous of The Boy and wanted to be part of the t-shirt fun, too.

The wedding itself went by in a second and a half, like everyone said it would. I survived the family picture taking (mostly because people were already coming, so I just wanted it to be over), the reception was great, and the hike to the chuppah was a lot of fun. After a brief 10 minutes when we couldn’t find Grandma, she appeared, and the ceremony started.

It was the fastest 10 minutes of my life. I felt like an actress playing a part, just I was surrounded by people I love instead of random actors and stand-ins. At one point, the rabbi said that Jewish tradition says that 3 generations back come to visit at the chuppah, and that we have to mention your absence. I swear, he could have been talking about sauerkraut if you were to judge by my reaction. I can’t believe how calm I was. The only time a few tears fell down my face was when I heard Grandma sniffling beside me. Of course, The Boy is amazing and took  me hand the second he heard it, just to beam some extra strength into me (which worked, of course).

And then she asked when do we kiss already, so that was over.

The rabbi picked up one of the glasses of wine, started the first prayer, and then an insane gust of wind blew in and knocked everything over – the other glass, the ring, etc.

My reaction: Yey, The Boy broke the glass succesfully

The reaction of the 175 other people at the wedding: That was Talia’s mom.

Thankfully, I made no connection. I didn’t think about it at the chuppah, I didn’t realize it during the wedding, and only later when I got home, people started talking to me about it.

And as it turns out, everyone thought it.

So I’ve accepted it. Even though I am not mystical in any way, I kind of like the idea that you made a statement and said, “Ahem! I am here! I am in the dress and the wind and the glass of wine that just shattered on the floor.”

So the wedding went by smoothly, and honestly, it couldn’t have been more perfect, that is other than you actually being there. Everyone laughed and danced and ate and had a great time.

I waited a while to write about the wedding because I was waiting for a nervous breakdown. A week passed, another week passed, and another, and I was OK. I don’t know how. And then suddenly it was just over; Reports of the impending emotional storm were greatly exaggerated.

A few weeks after the wedding, I started feeling really weird. Not sick or anything, but just weird. After a few more weeks of weirdness, I decided to take a small test.

It had 2 definite lines on it. I am pregnant.

A few weeks later, the doctor was able to tell me exactly what day we conceived.

It was 5 days after the wedding.

On your wedding anniversary.

Dear Mom,

The Boy proposed on Saturday morning and we are now engaged. You would have loved him. If you are looking, then you already know how great he is. I just hope you aren’t watching at inappropriate times.

For the longest time, I wasn’t ready to get married, not because I wasn’t sure (let’s face it, I pretty much knew by week 3), but because of all of the logistics involved:

You won’t be there for me to tell you I am engaged.

You won’t be there to help me with the preparations.

Your name will be listed as z”l (deceased) on my wedding invitation – or is it not supposed to be listed at all? I have no idea.

You won’t be at the signing of the Ketubah.

You won’t be walking down the aisle.

You won’t be under the chuppah with me.

You won’t be beaming down at me. Ever.

It took me over a year to even bare the thought of figuring out what happens with the invitations, and that’s probably the least important of everything – I mean, we can just email everyone and get it over with. For the last year or so, everyone and their dog has been bugging me about when I’m going to get married, and I brushed it off with a swift, “when we decide.” It even got to the point where people were getting angry with The Boy, through no fault of his own.

They just didn’t know. And why should they? It’s not like I told them. Luckily for them, they haven’t been in this situation and can’t even fathom a wedding without their mother.

It got to the point where I wanted to elope. Forgo all of it, after all, it’s the act that matters, not the execution. But The Boy was right, our families would be hurt.

When Saturday happened – and believe me, I couldn’t have been more surprised (we have been talking about it, but I wasn’t expecting it Saturday) – I was pleasantly surprised. While half a year ago, the thought of not being able to call you made me cry, when Saturday happened, all I wanted to do was talk to my sisters. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk to you; I think it’s just that my brain knew I couldn’t, so it just sent me on the right course.

So I got the girls together and told them, and of course they screamed (and the kids asked why they’re screaming). And then I called Dad. And then I told your parents, Saba and Savta. And then I called my friends. And I did really well. I didn’t cry once, I didn’t get depressed once, and I seriously don’t think I would have been this way half a year ago.

I was doing so well, and then I wasn’t.

I went to look at rings with my friend, The Swiss, and the sales lady at last store we went into used to work at the mall where Dad had his restaurants. And naturally she asked about you.

Since it’s been two years since you left, I haven’t had to tell people you’ve died in a while; at least not people who knew you personally. I was able to get through the story fairly easily, omitting the most painful parts, like the last 4 months, and by doing what I always do when I talk about you now: Disconnect completely from the words coming out of my mouth.

But no, this encounter was made to make me cry. And I haven’t in a long time. I did a bit at night when your two-year anniversary came by when we were in Japan, but other than that, it’s been forever.

It started with her being shocked. And then telling me what an amazing woman you were, which I know. And then she had tears in her eyes, saying that the righteous die early, and I couldn’t hold it in anymore and I started to cry. And once I got my breath back, all I could say was, “She could have died in 20 years, and that still would have been too early.”

But that ship has sailed. You are gone. I am embarking on a major life event without you.

But you will be with me. You know how I always wanted to wear your wedding dress when I got married? I tried it on, and it fits me almost perfectly. So welcome to my wedding. You would only be able to be more present if you there in person.

Hi all!

So I haven’t written in a while for two reasons:

1) I’ve been working my buttox off (I look really hot right now). (Not really.)

2) I am preparing to go on a long trip.

The Boy and I are about to leave on an almost-four-month trip to Thailand, Australia, China, and Japan. Normally, I would not advertise going on vacation – I usually only talk about it when I get back, what with anyone having access to my blog. I’d rather not experience another break in – one was enough.

However, we have friends who will be staying at the apartment, and the husband works from home, so I don’t have a problem talking about it.

This trip is SO exciting, but pretty stressful to plan. As I plan the trip and get the visas for Australia and China, and get the bills in order, and make sure I know what’s going to be where and when and more and more and more, I haven’t been forgetting that this Thursday is the Race for the Cure in Jerusalem.

I spoke about it on my last blog post, but now that it’s crunch time – 3 days and counting – I thought I’d give it one final push. I will be attending the Race with my two sisters, The Boy and his mother, sister, and aunt, and a few friends and their friends. All in all, there are 14 or 15 people in our group so far – it should be fun.

So what can you do help? I’m glad you asked.

I do not want to list the reasons for why I am participating in this race again in memory of my mother and uncle – you can read the original post. But here is what you can do:

1) Participate in the walk. It will be in Jerusalem just outside the Old City. Sign up to join the Klein Family and Friends team here. Click on “Join Talia’s Team.”
2) Sign up as a virtual participant. You won’t be attending (most likely because you aren’t in Israel), but you’d like to help us reach at least 10 people so we can have the minimum team size, and make a donation while you’re at it. You can do that here as well.
3) Donate whatever you can. Honestly, even if it’s just $5, every bit helps. You can done through my page here.
4) Spread this blog post to your family and friends and see if they can help as well.

Thanks to everyone who has already made donations. I am so far at $385, which in today’s economy is a lot (most of the donations were under $20). I send everyone individual thank yous, but just in case I’ve missed you – thank you SO much for your donation.

I’ll do my best to take some pics and post about the Race this weekend.

Thanks everyone for all your help!

Update: The last day to register as a participant online is tomorrow, October 25 by midnight, but you can register at the event itself as well.

Aryeh Klein (z"l), left, Rachel Klein (z"l), right

When my friend Shanainai sent me the link to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure about a month ago, I didn’t want to hear anything about it. I didn’t want to be reminded, I didn’t want to know, I wasn’t interested.

But then I got to thinking: Yes, my mom and uncle died of different cancers, not breast cancer, but does it really make a difference? Each cancer is different, granted, and research for each type may be done separately, however finding a cure for one can lead to a cure for another, no?

As we speak, chemos found effective for one form of cancer are being tested on other forms. I know – my mom was one of those people. It clearly didn’t work for her, but one day it will.

So I decided to listen to Shanainai and asked my sisters if they’d like to join – they immediately jumped in. Then I published the link on my Facebook wall and Twitter account, and a few friends said they’re interested.

So I hereby announce the Klein Family and Friends team. We will be doing the 5K (walk, not run) on October 28, 2010 in honor of our mom, Rachel Dagani Klein, and our uncle, Aryeh Klein, who just passed away a month ago.

There are 4 ways you can help if you are interested:

1) Participate in the walk. It will be in Jerusalem just outside the Old City. Sign up to join the Klein Family and Friends team here. Click on “Join Talia’s Team.”
2) Sign up as a virtual participant. You won’t be attending (most likely because you aren’t in Israel), but you’d like to help us reach at least 10 people so we can have the minimum team size, and make a donation while you’re at it. You can do that here as well.
3) Donate whatever you can. Honestly, even if it’s just $5, every bit helps. You can done through my page here.
4) Spread this blog post to your family and friends and see if they can help as well.

I haven’t ever asked anyone to give me any money for anything, at least not past high school fundraisers for dance team. I don’t want anyone feeling obligated in any way, and just because I may know you in person, doesn’t mean I will be angry or hurt that you chose not to donate. But if you can, I would really appreciate it. And if you can join us at the race? The more the merrier!

Hope to see you there!

I usually write when I’m down, but I had a bit of a delayed reaction. 2 weeks ago, my beloved (paternal) uncle died of cancer. He was sick for 14 years, lived well beyond what was predicted, yet this comes as little comfort. The fact is, my uncle was in his early 60s, by all accounts entirely too young to die.

His death comes less than a year and a half after my mother’s. Two blows in such a short period of time. I can’t imagine being in my father’s shoes: Losing a wife and a brother within less than 18 months of each other. My paternal grandparents gone, the last connection to his core family is now gone as well.

My uncle was awesome. He was incredibly loving. My father was always this huge superman in my eyes, the Man Who Could Do Everything. The man who, when I was 7, I proudly boasted would “beat you to grits” if you dared mess with me. But when his big brother would be with him, he looked like a 5 year old boy who looked up to his brother. And that is one of my favorite images in the world.

One, among so many, that I will now have to bring up in my mind, for lack of opportunity to see it in person.

My uncle’s passing was not a shock by any means. He had been touch and go for over a year. Luckily, we were able to see him 2 years ago when he came to visit my mother. A week or so before he died, he had a surgery that was supposed to alleviate some of his pain. What came out of the surgery was a This is It conversation, and a euthanasia wish.

A wish that was granted.

My uncle chose his future, or lack thereof, as it may be. On Sunday night a few weeks ago he called his (grown) kids and my father to say goodbye before he was given enough pain killers so he wouldn’t wake up, and on Thursday morning we got notice that he had passed.

For those few days, it was like my mom all over again, just waiting for the phone call/text message that would say it’s over. I got the message and it didn’t really hit me that he was really gone. For a few weeks. If with my mom I saw her decline, my uncle lived in South Africa, so I did not see him in the hospital, did not say goodbye, and did not attend his funeral. So really, for all intents and purposes, it’s as if he were still here.

But it has begun to sink in, and I can’t help but thank what the heck are we here for? People die so young, before they had a chance to do things, to make a difference. What was the point in my mother’s death? She hadn’t had a chance to teach me and my youngest sister how to be mothers, help us, calm us down. Am I supposed to think “She raised me, and I will raise kids who raise kids who raise the kid that will find the cure for cancer?” Because I have to say, I don’t really see any purpose here right now.

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not suicidal or about to hurt myself in any way. But I feel resigned to the fact that we are just here to “be” and that’s it. I can’t help but feel sometimes that The Boy will be better off without me, and other than him, I haven’t made an impact of significance on any lives.

To some, this may be the inspiration to do something big. But I don’t think I have anything big to give. I don’t see how I can make my mother’s life – and death – worth something. Nor do I see any point in my uncle’s suffering. Unless their deaths help others understand how precious their parents are, I honestly don’t see the purpose.

And you know what? I would have rather not made those sacrifices to begin with.

Another day, another dozen emails by people whose loved one are dying. And again, I write and reply, wishing I could help, but knowing I can’t. But in the hopes that I can somehow help those of you who don’t email me and don’t comment, here’s what I wrote earlier today.

I have gone through every single thing you can imagine as well. Gone through the anger and sadness and guilt. Every last one. I know completely, 100% how you feel. I really wish I had wise words to say, but I don’t.

Except you can’t regret something you can’t change. I’m sure your mom still loved you as a rogue teenager, and what matters is that you grew up to be a wonderful adult.

I also felt my mom was taken from me long before she died. I still feel that now. The day my mom couldn’t remember our names was even more devastating than her death. Seeing her look at me and try to remember my name (she still knew who I was) is one of the worst memories I have.

Just before my mom got real bad and we had to put her in the hospice, she called me. I was in a dance class and I got so mad because she wouldn’t stop calling me and asking me for things. And then literally the next day she couldn’t talk anymore. And I have 2 options. One is to feel guilty about this for the rest of my life. And the other is to forgive myself. #1 is infinitely easier than #2. And sometimes I have to struggle with this decision several times in one day.

The only way for me to go on living is to not dwell on those times. Not think about the times where I just wished for everything to be over. Because those were thoughts of desperation. Thoughts of “I don’t know how to make it through the next hour or day or week.”

I have to believe that my mom knew that I didn’t mean it. Just like many teenagers yell at their parents that they hate them, even though it’s not true. They know you love them, and it may hurt, but they let it slide.

I also feel that I still need her almost every day. And every time a day ends, I’m in shock that I made it through it without her.

Focus on the good. I know it’s hard. It’s all I can do.

Focus on what you did have. She raised you completely. She made you this wonderful person that you are. She knows your husband. She was at your wedding. I know right now all you can focus on is that she won’t be here for the rest. My mom never even knew The Boy. And that is potentially a huge regret for me, seeing as he and I had worked together and known each other for 3 years before we started dating, and had I just agreed to go out with him 3 years earlier, then he would have known her and she would have known him and he would have known what my family had been like B.C. Before Cancer.

But I just can’t think about that. That’s not living. That’s just going through the motions. And while I’m currently going through some kind of an existential crisis (between my mom and my dying uncle), I have to believe that somehow her 56 years here had a purpose, even if I don’t know yet what it is, otherwise there’s no point to anything.

We all felt like terrible people when we put my mom in the hospice, and we each felt bad when we “went on” with our lives as she lay there dying. When we had someone sit with her so we could work, or the mornings that I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed to go visit her and I would go straight to work, I always felt bad.

I break down all the time. I don’t mean that I have break downs thrice weekly, but they do come unannounced. And all I want to do is talk to my mom, even if it’s not about “it,” except the irony is that I need my mom because I don’t have my mom. Otherwise I’d be OK.

I know it’s hard, and everything just looks black, and you can’t see anything except black ahead of you. When I was in your shoes, just 18 months ago, and people would say that time would make things better, I couldn’t believe them. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t see how time would make things better.

But it did. Unfortunately, you still have quite a road left until you get to the end, and I’m sure the feelings are mixed for you like they were for me. You want it to be over, but you cling to a tiny piece of hope that something will suddenly change and she’ll be OK. You just want to move on with your life, but you feel guilty. You want to see her all the time, but it only makes you feel worse. And since she isn’t communicating with you anymore, when you sit with her all you have are your thoughts, and they are so much worse than reality.

Time hasn’t made me need her less or miss her less, it’s only made me realize I have no choice but to move on. When I was in your shoes, I didn’t even have that.