About My Mom

mom_baby_susie_4_ed-cropEveryone should have the benefit of hearing their eulogies before they die.  It is then we can know of the life we have lived and the impact we had on others.

In the movie, “It’s A wonderful Life,” Clarence the Guardian Angel, is sent to show the protagonist, George Bailey, what life would have been like had he never been born.   Clarence tells him, “Strange, isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives.  When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”  Then Clarence shows George Bailey all the lives he had touched and helped. Had George Bailey, never been born the angel reveals, how different life would have been.

We all could benefit from a Guardian Angel, like Clarence, to remind us of our contributions and what a difference they make in so many lives.

These two eulogies of my mom, Gertrude Kash, best illustrate who she was and how she touched so many people throughout her life.

Eulogy for Gertrude Kash by Laurie Kash

My sister Susie helped me fulfill the promise that I made to my mother that she would never die alone.  Susie, slept in the hospital chair for days, and in so doing, I realized could qualify as an ­astronaut.  I sent her resume to Nasa.  My brother, George stayed with my mother through the whole process of her last days and was there for her through the last trying three years of her life coming in from out of town often, to be near.

My mother was the quintessential mother, who loved and cherished all her children.   They in turn cherished her.

My mother was as I jokingly told her, the size of Tom Thumb.  She began her life in 1918, during the great flu pandemic that killed fifty million people worldwide.

This I always thought was an auspicious sign of her enduring strength.  A strength that saw her through a catastrophic burn to her leg, the loss of her beloved daughter Sara, six years ago, and the ultimate challenge to her life when she became paralyzed three years ago.

The moment I first became aware of how much I loved my mother, was also the moment that I dreaded.  That one day my mother would die.  This was an intolerable reality and caused me great anguish through the years.  That day however, finally has arrived.

george_laurie_little_boat_ed-cropMy mother was a simple woman, a literal woman.  She was a woman, who did not harbor a bad bone in her body.   She was a living Buddha, which is how I saw her.

Mom often told me that she carried me through the hottest month of August, and in these past three years I in turn carried her.   I ponder my mother’s epic life and the theme that runs through it is the number 7 bus.  She never drove a car, but she took the bus everywhere.   It was her magical highway to the world she inhabited.   When I was eleven, I was very sick at Strong Memorial Hospital, and she took the bus every day to see me.   She was a small woman, a kind woman, but I recall a tough woman on the day my ventilator machine broke and I was turning blue.  To my amazement, she reached up and took the attending doctor’s lapels in her hands, and swung him around that room so much, I became dizzy.  She demanded he do something to save me.  He did.

In later years, I would drive my car about the city and see my mother, waiting for a bus looking into the horizon, the wind blowing her hair.  I‘d stop and open the car door and give her the short cut home.

My memories of my mother are so interwoven with the struggles of her life, so vast and so numerous, that it will take years in the retelling of funny episodes, sad times, noble times, courageous times.   I so loved being with my mother that I often skipped school just so I could stay at home and tinker, and be near her, because school was so boring.  Mom was so trusting, that when I came upon the idea to buy some fake throw up at a novelty store, I brought it home, threw it on the ground, pretended to gag and told her I was sick.   She said, “You must stay home from school, “ and was about to clean up the mess, but I offered to do this.  The only time I offered to clean up my mess.   You would have thought she would have seen the ploy, but she didn’t.  Then we would take the bus to Sibley’s and have lunch, and I was so happy.

My mother had a beautiful singing voice.  When she would sing, the birds fell silent and bowed their heads in reverence.  She loved musicals, she sang for others and I recall piles of song sheets that she had for jobs she would sing at.  Sometimes, she would annoy me by asking me over and over questions I thought I had answered.  I would say in exasperation, “If you are going to repeat like a broken record, why don’t you at least sing the question to me.”  I became attuned to the female voice through listening to my mother’s songs.

Mom was inquisitive and loved life.  She trusted life completely and it was not possible for her to tell a lie.  One time, I used the excuse that I had seen a purple monster in Pinnacle Hill and was too frightened to go to school. She insisted that the letter to my kindergarten teacher include, “Laurie could not come to school today because she was frightened on account of seeing a purple monster in the woods.”  My kindergarten teacher made me tell the story to my classmates.  Thus began my storytelling days.

My mom loved my friend Carolyn, and last year we piled mom into the car and took her to a casino for her first time gambling.   She won $75 on the nickel slots.

My mother nurtured my idiosyncrasies.  She did not judge them.  If I begged to climb into bed one night, because a UFO had a heat gun pointed at me that was burning me up alive, she opened her blanket and let me in.   When I was young and painfully shy, there was rumor that my mother had a youngest daughter.  Whenever a person would approach, I’d hide under her big coat and peer through the buttonholes, with my buster brown shoes sticking out next to her shoes.  Mom nurtured my abilities to fix things; I was the fixer in the house.

The day my mother died, I looked at her navel and I looked at mine.  I thought, ‘Well, that is the history of life.  The navel is the testament that I was once connected to my mother, and she to her mother and her mother connected to my great grandmother and so on back in time.’   What a legacy.

So, I will close by saying, that two weeks ago when mom was in the ER, I whispered in her ear, that “It was o.k. to go, that she would see Sara, and her parents, and that I’d be alright.”  I kept telling her it was all right to go.  Suddenly, she opened her eyes and asked, “Where am I going? “   And I told her; “I guess I don’t really know.    Maybe a bus can take you there.”

Everything I am that is good, loyal and loving is all because of my mother.

Thank you mom.

-Laurie Kash

Eulogy for Gertrude Kash by Robert Sandgrund

mom_hollandI would like to express my thanks to the Kash family for the honor of saying a few words.

Everyone knew Mrs. Kash.  She had such a lovely simplicity and it was a mistake to underestimate her.

Mrs. Kash was not an intellectual.  But she was a thinker.  Her thoughts were not complex.  But they were deep.  Her depth wedded her to what is and she was a realist.   Her abhorrence of wrong was at the level of her gut, and she disarmed with her observation and insight.  She knew life from the standpoint of the underdog and with the underdog she was identified, without compromise; she was incorruptible. When you thought she was not paying attention, her alertness was unerring.  Her listening was astounding, a sponge for her environs, whatever they were.

She had what the Asians describe as ‘natural’ or ‘common mind.’  Not self-righteous, the good is what animated her spirit.  She was amazed by life and everything in it.  The beautiful was always new and the ugly tidied in a way, which did not require rumination.  Her life was filled with adversity, which would have broken many.  Self-pity was completely alien to her and she lived in the moment.  She was a survivor, and she was enlightened.

She had the unflinching loyalty of her four children.  My best and closest friend, Laurie Kash, Mrs. Kash’s youngest, encapsulated this devotion during her mother’s final years, tending to her daily, and identifying companions, supports, activities, areas of concern, making those years the most comfortable, secure, and safest which it was possible for her to have had.

Laurie, Susie and George tended to their mother on a twenty-four basis for two weeks when her condition became critical.  Susie reassured their Mom over and over, ‘you’re in the bosom of your family’: the greatest possible tribute to a good life.

–Robert Sandgrund