What’s in a name?
Parents possess divine inspiration (ruach haKodesh) when naming their children. In instances wherein a child is named after a departed loved one, we take great care in our choice – in the belief that the best character traits of the person we are honoring will be reflected in our precious progeny’s actions.
The seventh yahrzeit of my beloved mother, Mrs. Rose Tunis (Raizel Mirel bas Elchanan Mordechai), a”h, was approaching and naturally my thoughts about and longing for her were more intense – if that were possible.
Baruch Hashem, since her passing I have been blessed with three precious princesses who carry her name. But my youngest daughter-in-law, Ariella, never met Mommy, and having named her little one for Grama Raizel, as my kids referred to her, Ariella asked me if I could please write down some stories about her to be shared with little Roza Chaya.
First, I found some photos of Mommy that I hoped would reflect her personality. The first one I found accomplished that goal. Although frail at that point, Mommy’s hands were outstretched in a loving gesture towards her great-granddaughters, Chaya and Miriam. The photo brought to mind the portion of Eishet Chayil, wherein our husbands praise their women of valor who open their hands to the poor.
Mommy’s raison d’etre (atzmus) during her lifetime was opening both her heart and both hands to anyone who needed help. Grandstanding was never her way. Everything had to be done quietly. Like the loving mother that she was to her family, she even took the challenges of her children’s friends to heart, offering assistance with a kind word or with financial assistance. In addition, she was secretary of our yeshiva’s simcha and memorial funds. What could be more beneficial than marking life-cycle events by making a donation that would benefit a mosad of learning while simultaneously honoring a ba’alat simcha or providing a zechut for one’s dearly departed?
(One can certainly apply her example today, when so many of us are financially challenged. Smachot, Baruch Hashem, are plentiful. It is very difficult to gift every person who wants our presence but not our presents when we participate in numerous smachot. A donation to a worthwhile charity is a lovely way to celebrate as well as to benefit others.)
Family mattered so much to my mother. From the tender age of 11, she cared for her mother, “Mama” Chaya Ita, a”h.
And our home was the address to which all members of our extended family were drawn. One could say without exaggeration that Mommy was the yesod (foundation) of her entire extended family.
Recently, we marked the yahrzeit of my paternal cousin, Billy, a”h. During his last weeks he got it into his head that he had to eat one final time at his Aunt Rose’s table. Against better judgment, he drove cross-country – on painkillers – to accomplish his goal. And he succeeded.
Not only did his Aunt Rose nourish his body, she also offered his soul the ultimate comfort. She delicately explained to Billy, who was non-observant, how important it was to make certain that Kaddish would be said for him. Having no survivors of his own, Mommy asked him if she could arrange the Kaddish. He readily agreed. He passed away three weeks later.
While sitting shiva for Mommy, my childhood friend came to visit and reminisced about Mommy’s famous chocolate chip cookies. My daughter’s friends used to refer to Grama Raizel as the “Cookie Bubby.” If one were fortunate he or she would be the recipient of her amazing cookies that she stored in those Quaker Oats cardboard containers.