Shirley Seligman - Our Mother
You stoically suffered over the past two years through ghastly treatments only to be beaten by a cancer that failed to take your dignity. Even when the end was clear, also to yourself, you made few complaints. If, as we all know, you hadn't viewed religion as no more than bobbe-meises, then we could say you almost took the last few months fatefully, as if it was merely God's will.
Growing up with stories of the longevity of your centenarian grandmother Augusta, and visits as children to our almost centenarian Granny Lily and Grandpa Issy in Johannesburg, we simply knew that we would be nursing you as sixty year olds ourselves. In the end it didn't work out like that and we were not ready for your passing, as if we ever would be.
Indeed though the flesh was weak, your mind remained sharp, intelligent and active till the very end. Even during your painful final days in hospital we were constantly reminded through sudden wry comments that you were fully aware of our presence around your bed and were very much with us right to the end.
Rather than talking about death let us celebrate your life, a life filled with success, disappointment, interests, and love.
You were born in apartheid South Africa, and spent your childhood with friends in Habonim. Habonim would help formulate your humanistic world view of Judaism, Zionism, and Socialism, ideals you maintained and instilled in us, your children; ideals that till now would leave you exasperated whenever we discussed how Israel too often failed to live up to the fundamental values of human decency and Jewish morality you held dear.
Your analytical abilities, intelligence and broad general knowledge were founded on one of most well read minds we knew. You were frustrated by not going to university, and the potential of your singing voice was not fully realized.
In Habonim, almost 60 years ago you met Dad; and after your marriage you planned to leave South Africa to settle on Kibbutz Tzora. How different life would have been, though I don't really see you milking cows in the Refet. However Gideon would later do exactly that.
But life took a different turn: two years in Paris, where Dad studied French horn in Versailles, also gave you the opportunity to travel around post-war Europe on the back of his scooter. I remember as a child a few rides standing between Dad's legs on the blue Lambretta, but the scooter disappeared after several years gathering dust on the driveway in London.
London was home to many South African Jews who like you found apartheid repugnant. London was the place you lived much of your life, not through an active decision to do so, but rather as part of the rhythm of life. Nonetheless, you made the most of the vibrant cultural life the city offered, and passed that love of music, theatre and the arts on to us. We were born into the London of the sixties and your life at first revolved around ours - school, Dror and the Woodcraft Folk.
Later you would return to the workplace as an editorial secretary at Education magazine, possibly the most boring publication ever produced and read by even fewer people than Atikot!
And then there were the years in New Delhi, and the surreal production of Fiddler on the Roof in the Indian capital, where you had an opportunity to demonstrate your singing ability as Goldeh, opposite Dad's unique Tevye.
As we left home and all moved to Israel to study, develop careers and establish our lives, your grandchildren were born and life would move you on again, this time to Jerusalem.
The large Friday evening meals and huge Pesach seders of our youth became a feature of our lives again, this time with the grandchildren singing the Kushiot - How you enjoyed being with Daniel, Ella, Tomer, Maya and Yael.
You took special pleasure in reading with them and the love you gave them was demonstrably reciprocated.
You made such a special effort to be both happy and healthy for our last seder together this year. We know it wasn't easy for you; it was clear both to you and us that it would be our last family gathering with you.
How sad you were when Gideon and his family returned to England, fearing that it could be the last time you spent with them.
In the end, we were all able to make our farewells to you over the past weeks, weeks where we slowly watched you slip away, but weeks where our family could strengthen our bonds through our love and thanks to you, our mother and grandmother.
Mum, rest here in the Jerusalem hills with the views you so loved. We love you and already miss you.
Jon, Gideon and Timna
Copyright © 2009 Jon Seligman. All Rights Reserved.