Day 44

Nothing is going to plan today. I’ve written this post three or four times and each draft has been wiped out. I’m tired, so I’ll leave you with this excerpt from Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. Rabbi Kim showed me this when we were planning Mom’s memorial and she read it at the burial. I’ve been thinking a lot about these words.

Nature often offers metaphors more elegant than any we can manufacture, and Muir Woods is no exception. Redwoods have evolved to turn disaster into opportunity. In these coastal forests, death produces life.

This is what I mean: in the redwood ecosystem, all seeds are contained in pods called burls, tough brown clumps that grow where the mother tree’s trunk and root system meet. When the mother tree is logged, blown over, or destroyed by firewhen, in other words, she diestrauma stimulates the burls’ growth hormones. 

The seeds release, and trees sprout around her, creating the circle of daughters. The daughter trees grow by absorbing the sunlight their mother cedes to them when she dies. And they get the moisture and nutrients they need from their mother’s root system, which remains intact underground even after her leaves die. Although the daughters exist independently of their mother above ground, they continue to draw sustenance from her underneath.

I am fooling only myself when I say my mother exists now only in the photograph on my bulletin board or in the outline of my hand or in the armful of memories I still hold tight. She lives on beneath everything I do. Her presence influenced who I was, and her absence influences who I am. Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay. Loss is our legacy. Insight is our gift. Memory is our guide.


  1. My Mother’s yahrzeit was this Shabbat, and this is a beautiful way to remember her. Thank you for sharing it.

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