The years go by and I still want to pick up the phone and tell you something, Ma. Ten years don’t really mean anything to me. I still remember the last day of your life. My husband, Ivan, had just died and I was packing to take him on his final trip to Israel, the land he loved so much.
My sister, Hindy, called me on the phone and said, “Mommy doesn’t look the same. Do you think you could just come over and take a look.” I immediately drove the two blocks from my house to hers. When I came in, I understood exactly what Hindy meant.
My mother’s eyes were wide open and she was looking all around, seemingly with comprehension. For the last year, she had not been herself. Her eyes were always closed and she gave no indication that she was aware of anything. Hindy visited her every day and sat with her and talked to her, but there was never any response or expression.
Seizing the moment, I said, “Ma, Ivan died and I am taking him to Israel to bury him.” Instantly, my mother started to cry and her breathing became very rapid. She had loved my husband, and every Shabbos when he would go to her house to make Kiddush for her, she would say, “Take my pulse, Doc, and he would comply and say, “Like a teenager mom.” And then they would see who could quote more Shakespeare. Mom usually won.
Hindy said, “Maybe, you shouldn’t have told her that,” but I was overwhelmed. She had heard me and she had understood me and she knew who I was and she was reacting. I started to cry and Hindy did also, but she also called Hatzalah.
They came and were very concerned about her rapid breathing and took her to the hospital. I went back home and prepared for the funeral of my husband. I was very sad. I knew that he could not continue to live the life he was left with after the second debilitating stroke. He, who had always taken care of everyone, had become totally disabled. But it was still very hard for me to part from him.
After the service, we left for the El Al terminal and awaited the flight. As I was boarding, I got the call from Hindy, Mom had just died. In spite of all the heroics they tried on her, she was ready to leave this world and join my father who had died 10 years earlier. I think she felt that with Ivan in heaven, she would be taken care of.
What can I write about my mom that I haven’t already written these past 10 years? I was recently cleaning out a drawer and I found a typewritten paper “WOMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD, IRENE KLASS.” I have no idea when this is from and who gave her the award, though she was honored a number of times. She never sought honor or awards, but when it was for an important tzedakah, she couldn’t refuse. I started to read and decided that they said it perfectly and I will print what they said about her.
“A journalist with an interesting, unusual, benevolent life-style that stresses relationships with other human beings, a woman possessed by Torah and G-d, Irene Klass says that her greatest ambition is to continue writing columns, editing the Woman’s page of The Jewish Press, aiding Jews in every part of the world, and being a good wife, mother and grandmother. She does all well.
Irene Klass has published hundreds of articles, stories, poems, book reviews and column biographies of unusual men and women. She has said again and again ‘you don’t live in a world all alone. Your brothers are here too.’
Speaking of her feelings for Israel, Irene says, ‘my heart always beats a little faster, and I experience a moment of inner joy, when I land in Lod Airport and feel the ground of Israel under me.’
She has reiterated that Israel is a wonderful country and that all Jews should refrain from negative emphasis, and take a more meaningful and positive attitude for our Holy Land. These feelings of hers are often reflected in the pages of The Jewish Press.
It is interesting to point our that Irene is a happy person because she enjoys her role in life and constantly preaches and lives the theme that happiness is the only commodity that multiplies by division.
Married to Sholom Klass, Publisher of The Jewish Press, Irene has always enjoyed a close-knit family. Her dream for the future is to see Israel obtain permanent peace and enjoy its place in the society of nations.
Her selection as Woman of the Year is well deserved.”
There you have it. My mother was all that and so much more. She was a big baalat tzedaka (charity giver) and she was deeply religious and modest in dress and speech and conduct. I have tried all my life to model myself after her and to make her proud.
Her memory will live on in all who knew her and the many who benefited from her generosity, but especially in the hearts of her children and grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren who knew her. And for those great-granddaughters, little girls named after her, she will serve as an inspiration. May her memory be a blessing.
If anyone recognizes the event described above, please contact me and tell me about it.