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Lori Ann

For most of my life I was more than my mom’s son. I was also her confidant, her chief negotiator, and, too often, her psychologist.

Yes, your parents are amazing, I would assure her. Yes, so and so does like you, I would affirm. No, you cannot send that email without beginning World War 3.

She would send the email anyway.

I fought, for 30 years, to protect my mom. From the world, and from herself.

And she would always say, “What would I do without you?”

What would I do without you?

I was there at the beginning, the day she learned – through the most horrific chain of events – that she had been lied to; that her cancer was not barely stage one but very much stage four.

That was the day she learned she’d die.

And, I’ll note, that was also the day she called back her doctor, a few hours later, with a small sense of pride, to ask if he’d ever had a more dramatic patient.

I sat with her her, outside UCLA hospital, her head on my shoulder, and held her. There were no words to convey. It was just heart-breaking.

What would I do without you? She said.

But then, only a few days ago, when I rushed home to watch my mom die, I sat with her in the ICU, telling her I love her, telling her we’ll be with her until the end, telling her goodbye.

She moved in and out of lucidity, but a moment came, tears began to stream down her face, and she said, “What will I do without you?”

That was the moment I died inside, the moment I realized I could not protect her anymore. Not from the world, not from herself, certainly not from cancer.

But it was also the moment I finally internalized that, as ugly a toll as this disease had taken on my mom in less than six months; as unfair as it was, as meaningless as it seemed, I would not let my mom’s memory be defined by the way she died.

It takes a special woman to be eulogized – positively – by two husbands. It takes a special woman to – only hours after she died – have her home filled with her ex-sisters in law, women who still love her, women who cried over her suffering and her passing as much as anyone else.

It takes a special woman to be cared for day and night by friends as committed to her as family; bringing her food; painting her nails; gossiping good gossip with her even in the ICU. Over the last few weeks I’ve taken moments to thank them for being such good friends for my mom; each one responded the same way – “You mom was so easy to be friends with. We are only doing a fraction of what she would do – what she did do – for us.” Apparently, my mom was a good friend.

And apparently, she carried weight in this community – laboring for the betterment of our people and our institutions. I never knew the extent to which she was adored, the extent to which she was successful. She was too modest. Too focussed on the import of her work to worry about building her name.

I only knew her as a mom.

And she was the best mom a son could ask for.

My mom was fickle, but never a fair weather friend. My mom lacked confidence, but never conviction. My mom lacked pride, but never poise.

And the center of her world, the whole reason for her existence, was us.

She spoiled Shanna rotten.

She loved my dad till the day she died.

Family was what concerned her when, in July of each year she started planning Thanksgiving, and in October she started arranging Passover. She gave everything for me and Shanna, everything for her parents, everything for her brother, everything for Julia and Eliana, who she loved like her own kids, everything for Howard, everything even for my dad.

And home was where she sustained her family. Home was her castle. Her security blanket. She loved it as much as family itself. She would be so excited to be having so many guests coming over to see her impeccable design.

A story.

Three years ago we were in Tahiti celebrating my grandma’s birthday. We were in heaven on earth, on a boat adorned in decadence. And on that first night, I sat in a beautiful dining room with my mom and Howard, overlooking the most perfect beaches in the world.

My mom started crying.

She was homesick. In Tahiti. On a cruise. Surrounded by those she loved. She was homesick.

And so, it offers a level of solace that mom got to come home before she died. She left behind the wires and probes, the sounds and surroundings, and spent one last day in her castle.

She saw friends. She sat with family. She even managed a few smiles.

In one moment of lucidity she looked up at us and asked – “Is today the day?”

“Only when you’re ready, mom.” I said.

A few hours later, my vigil was done for the day, and I went to say goodbye. I gave her a hug, and a kiss on her bald head, and told her I’d see her in the morning.

She was quiet. Tired. Exhausted.

I walked toward the door and a voice said loud and clear, “Good night sweetie.”

Good night mom. The world will not be the same without you. Nieman Marcus and Nordstrom and Diet Coke and Lifetime Television will all be worse in your absence. I don’t know what I’ll do without you. But I know that you’ll never be without me.

Good night.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sivanne #

    David, I never knew your mom, but your heartfelt tribute moved me to tears. I hope you are able to find solace from the beautiful connections your mother left behind and know that your words touch many – strangers and friends alike. I am sending blessings and warmth to your family and the hope for better days to come.

    December 24, 2012
    • Jane Fantel #

      David, I can not feel your loss. I can not know your pain. I do know that Lori was so lucky to have you, Shanna, Howard and the rest of your family in her life, and likewise, you were so blessed to have her for your mother. We’ll all miss her very much.

      December 24, 2012
  2. Misha #

    David, that was so beautiful. I’m deeply sorry for your loss, amazed with how you’ve expressed your feelings and relationship, and confident that you were the best son your mama could have.

    December 24, 2012
  3. Danya #

    Rabbi Singer,

    I am very sorry for your loss. I wish you and your family comfort and peace.

    December 24, 2012
    • Leslie Caspi #

      I miss her so much already. I will miss our movie nights, Nordstrom and Neiman lunches and our very honest and deep talks and everything else. What you wrote was beautiful and I’m so glad that I got to read it. Being in Israel and missing out on the service and shiva and not being with all of you and Lori’s friends to commiserate on our loss is so hard. Your mom was so proud of you and Shanna. She virtually sparkled when she spoke of you and your sister.

      December 24, 2012
  4. Very moving David…take care of yourself…

    December 24, 2012
  5. sheryl baron #

    I knew Lori from the time we were on the UJF Women’s Division board. She always had a smile. That will be my memory of her. I am so sorry for your loss….I felt like I got to know her better through your beautiful eulogy. Your mom raised a great son.
    Sheryl (Slayen) Baron

    December 24, 2012
  6. Randy Savarese #

    David–Although I don’t know you personally, I did know your mom and you have captured the very essence of her in your beautiful eulogy. I met Lori many years ago when we served on the UJF Women’s Division board together–so we do go back a long way. You did such a wonderful job of keeping us all informed on the Caring Pages site–thank you. I am so sorry for your loss.
    Randy

    December 24, 2012
  7. Barbara Ziering #

    David, While I only knew your lovely Mom through Laurie Spiegler and other friends I feel like I know her a little more now from your beautiful tribute. I know her friends were completely devoted to her, not just during her illness, but always, and that is a great tribute to the kind of friend she was. Our deepest sympathies to you, your sister, Howard and your entire family.

    December 25, 2012
  8. Laura Katleman #

    David,

    You were just starting to walk when I met you. It was at your grandparent’s condo in down town San Diego. You immediately reached out to be held by me because I looked a bit like Lori, with long dark hair. Your mom and I used to play tennis together when we were in high school. She was a couple of years older so I felt honored that she deigned to play with me. Lori was so much fun! She always had an interesting story to tell and advice about how to behave and posture around the opposite sex. Sometimes we would sit in the car chatting and forget about the tennis altogether. She was a constant source of entertainment and I was delighted to be her audience. I looked up to her like an older sister. Then, life took us in different directions. We lost touch during college and I moved to the east coast right after graduation. A few months ago, my step mother, Marge Katleman, shared with me that Lori was sick. I reached out to her through Facebook and it was as if no time had passed between us. We reminisced about the fun we’d had playing tennis together so long ago. David, your mother was a hoot, a real fire cracker. I am happy for you that you and she shared such a rich relationship and were such a blessing in each other’s lives. At the same time, I am so sorry for your loss. I will miss Lori. She touched so many people and we were all lucky to have known her. Even now, I can’t help but smile when I think of the determination in her eyes when she was preparing to serve, her sisterly advice and admonitions, and most of all, the look of adoration and wonder on her face as she held you.

    December 25, 2012
    • Ann and Roger Pinnington #

      David your thoughts of your Mother Lori were so moving and heartfelt we were moved to tears. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with you all at this sad and difficult time. As close frineds of your grandparents Sandy and Arthur we bleed for them and as parents and grandparents ourselves we cannot comprehend the pain the loss of a child brings no matter how old your children are they are your babies and you never forget the first moment you held them in your arms take care of them David like their daughter Lori they are very special people and we love them dearly.

      Love Thoughts Prayers and Memories

      Ann and Roger Pinnington ( UK)

      Love and thoughts Ann and Roger Pinnington (UK)

      December 30, 2012
  9. Marla (Stearn) Jennings #

    David,
    My parents called and told me about your mom. I am so so very sorry. It made me recall the many many years we knew each other. I was almost 5 years old when we moved to San Diego and met the BIDS crew. I started to recall all of the car pools, birthdays, holidays, plays, vacations to Palm Springs, and even the time we attempted to put on a performance of ‘The Wizard of OZ’ in your backyard. Your mom was an amazing person, parent, and friend. I was a difficult child (as I’m sure you can recall) and Lori had no trouble putting me in my rightful place. Funny, I just realized how much I appreciated that. Not many people have the strength that she possessed. I can never express how much my parents loved and valued their friendship with her. I could never thank her enough for hosting my amazing bridal shower. I can only give thanks that we grew up together, and that I got the pleasure of knowing her and having her watchful eyes on me as I was growing up. I havn’t seen you in close to 15 years, and boy, did you sure grow up and turn out amazing! I can give thanks to Lori, for raising an amazing person. Again, I’m so very sorry for your loss.

    December 30, 2012
  10. Robin Crosby #

    Dear David,
    I am a friend of your grandparents. I had only met Lori a couple of times.
    One things I know for sure it takes a wonderful mom to have a wonderful son (and friend) like you.
    I know, I am a mother and I have one of those special sons too.
    I also know it is a pysival “Good Bye”, but your mom will ALAYS be with you.
    Robin Crosby

    January 1, 2013
  11. Michael and Nancy Rosenberg #

    Dear David,
    Over the years, we have been lucky enough to have spent several wonderful family gatherings with your Mom and your family. We’ve always loved your Mom — for her honest and direct wit, a beautiful woman who was extraordinary, both inside and out. She had a tremendous pride in you, and deep love of family.
    We feel equally blessed to have shared time with her, and know she stays close by your side, forever.
    Michael and Nancy Rosenberg

    January 4, 2013

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