Me, my mother and death


or how Gitta‘s attitude to death is still influencing me.

To listen to this post in French, click below

I don’t write much in the blog these days, too lazy, but Ronni’s post, And When I Die…where she also announces the death of Olive Riley, the Australian blogger who died at age 108, got me to remember.

Gitta was scared, I think, of anything relating to death, to the point that she considered it bad luck to even talk about it.
If you spoke badly of a dead person, which I enjoyed doing, just to rile her a bit, she’d do her spitting three times act, to ward off bad things.

Pooh, pooh, pooh! she would go! You don’t speak evil of the dead!

If I sat on the floor, which in my youth I loved to do –wish I were nimble enough to do it–, that was bad too and she’d grumble until I got up. It took me years before I understood that to her, sitting on the floor was wrong because of the expected behaviour of religious Jews, who will not shave or sit on a chair for a certain amount of time after a death in the family.

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

She firmly believed that cemeteries were not places for children and I had to fight her to go to my beloved grandmother Lea‘s funeral, even though I was far from being a child when she died, since I had reached the ripe age of 16!
As for writing a will, the only reason that made her accept it was that she felt that thanks to that will, she could still control her children after her death.

I have told my daughter jokingly that when I die, she’d better make sure to keep my blogs online or else, my angry ghost would come and tickle her toes at night. I have even told her the general idea about my funeral –very general, mind you, as I don’t intend to organise anything myself. I hate organising parties, much less funeral parties!

And in a very remote corner of my limbic brain, I can hear Gitta whispering that it would indeed be bad luck to write a last post, while I am still alive.

Mais Maman, I won’t be able to do it once I’m dead!

and I can hear her say:

Pooh, pooh, pooh! You don’t TALK about these things!


12 thoughts on “Me, my mother and death

  1. Claude, I just loved listening to your post. I didn’t realise you do this, since the mp3 file doesn’t appear on my Google Reader. Just loved your and your mother’s counter philosophies. Though I find it interesting to talk about death and dying, I also have your mother’s superstitions about not mentioning things if you don’t want them to occur. That comes from being raised by a very superstitious. How did you avoid being stained by your mother’s superstition?

  2. Lilalia, my father was much more rational, I guess, and I was not brought up religiously at all. But I have not written a last post and don’t think I will
    So there, I’ve said it, my mother is having the last word 😉
    And about the recording, I only do it for the Diving Into The Past section. It would be too time-consuming to do it for everything. And I don’t think that many people are interested!

  3. Interesting, Claude!! I haven’t given much thought to dying despite events in my life. I only know that when the day comes, it probably won’t matter too much what anyone does with my remains or even if there’s a service. If I truly believe what I profess, I’ll be somewhere better — or worse and there’s not much I can do about it. Cynical? Maybe.

  4. claude, my spouse has described how own mother who came from the “old country” would do the same three-time pooh. thanks for the link to the jewish virtual library which was new to me.

    reading ronni’s wonderful post, i was struck by how comfortably people could discuss arranging their final post. when i’ve tried to engage readers in talk about moving to retirement places the response is less free. of course, the real test would be an ability to write as well as ronni!

  5. My mother-in-law was just the same, so she and my father-in-law both died without wills in place. To write a will was to invite death (to them). What a backward attitude! and how much extra strife it can cause in a family.

  6. Your mum reminds me a lot of my former friend’s Sicilian mother ! My parents were not so “superstitious” about death, but found difficult to talk about it though. Notes like yours, and the way people think and talk about death help me cope with the losses I have had to suffer and with the idea of my own death. I had never thought of writing a last note (well I’m not 50 yet, and that may be slightly pessimistic), but I have written an official will. This is all the more important than I have no children I think.

  7. Having only one child, I haven’t written a will. Not that I find I’m too young, but as I only have one child, all I own will, I guess, go to her. And maybe I am sort of superstitious… 😉

  8. Superstitions are powerful things to overcome. But I still urge people to write a final blog post. It’s an opportunity to say what blogging and blog friends have meant to us and, as I said in my post, it hard to resist – at least for me – having the final word…

  9. In the US, if you don’t have a will, your assets go into probate, which means that the State, not your children, determine how your estate is divided. A trust is an even better way of ensuring that your children and loved ones actually receive what you want them to have. I recommend minimally having a will.

    I didn’t know your mother was so superstitious, Claude. I still hold a fond memory of her warm invitation for me to come by for dinner at your parents’ apartment back in June 1971, I believe. Both she and your father were always very kind to me.

  10. yes, Ronni’s post got me wondering about a ‘last post’ but I have no idea what to write. I think I’ll just have to instruct my daughter to let everyone know.
    My mum and grandmother were superstitious about the subject of death so it’s left me a bit uneasy about the subject even though I realise it’s not logical.

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