2011-05-04 / Features

Mother’s Day Tribute: Wish She Were Here

BY WALTER KANER

(Walter Kaner wrote the following tribute to his mother, which we reprinted each Mother's Day. Although Kaner has passed away we feel it is a touching tribute to all mothers on Mother Day and reprint it now in his name.)

W hat I wouldn't give to have my mother back again.

I would give up all I have if I could turn back the clock. If, just once more, I could take her out to dinner today. Or send her flowers. Or wish her a Happy Mother's Day. But, I can't. My Mom's gone.

For me, this is the saddest day of the year. A day of heartache. A day of painful memories. I can remember it as if it were only yesterday. The hospital… sitting by her bedside…as night turned into day…holding her hand…as life ebbed from her body. And my lips, wet with tears, pleading: "Mom, don't die. Please, Mom, don't die." Mom died on May 5—my birthday.

The year, the day, the hour are burned into my memory.

Regretfully, children—of all ages—take their Mom for granted. We think she'll always be there—loving care, worrying.

Then, one sorrowful day, she is gone.

And we're lost, bewildered, heartsick. And then it's too late. Too late to say the words you wanted to say. Too late to do the things you wanted to do. What I wouldn't give to have my Mom back again. To say the things I felt but never said.

"Thanks, Mom, for giving me life. For healing my hurts…for kissing away my pains…for the nights you nursed me through a sickness. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me right from wrong…to respect others…to recognize the real values of life.

"Thanks, Mom, for your love…your understanding… your sacrifices. Thanks, Mom, for being my Mom."

I'll say those words today. At her grave. When it's too late. And I'll wish I had said them to her when she was alive. Maybe, I'd like to think, she knew anyway.

I'll stare numbly at her grave, an ache in my heart, and try not to show the pain and tears. Mom wouldn't want that. She wanted only happiness for her children.

I'll remember how it used to be when Mom was here.

Mom used to say how she wished she could afford to give her children more. She gave us plenty. She gave us love and understanding and a happy home.

My Mom was raised in Europe. She never went to school. Yet she was educated. The school of hard knocks was her classroom; common sense was her teacher.

My Mom lived by simple golden rules. Work hard, raise your children properly, help those in need, thank God for your blessings.

My Mom didn't have electrical kitchen appliances. Or a washing machine. Or a baby-sitter. Or somebody to come in and help with the cleaning.

Mom worked and slaved to put her kids through school so that they would "amount to something." She wanted them to have more than she had.

I realize—now—what she gave us, the sacrifices she made for us. The way she woke at dawn to press our clothes so we'd look neat for school. How she would light the coal stove so it would be warm when her children got up. How she would scrub the floor on her knees, wash the clothes, cook the meals and clean the house.

She asked nothing for herself. Her children were her life. Our happiness was her happiness. Our pains were her pains. Our success was her success.

I remember how my Mom would put us to sleep, then stay up late and sew our clothes, starch the curtains, bake for hours and wrap the ice in newspaper.

Sometimes I'd lie in bed silently watching her. Tears would moisten my pillow and I vowed that someday I'd try to make up for the sacrifices she made for us as kids.

Once I told her "Someday, when I'm grown up and rich. I'm gonna buy you the biggest house and the best clothes in the whole world…"

Mom smiled, hugged me and shook her head, saying: "A mother should give to a child, not take."

My Mom's gone now. Nothing will ever take away the wonderful memories she left me.

I remember how she smiled when I blushingly introduced her to "my girl." I was 9, the girl was 8. I remember how proud she looked when I graduated from school.

I remember the worry etched on her face and the pain in her eyes when I went off to war. And the reborn look when I returned. And worrying about me had turned her shiny black hair to gray.

I remember going shopping with her on Manhattan's East Side, though we lived in Corona, because the food was cheaper. The hot summer days at Coney Island, with Mom sitting under an umbrella, taking off her shoes and stockings and wading up to her ankles. And watching Mom cry as she listened to everybody's problems on the A.L. Alexander and John J. Anthony radio programs. I couldn't understand it, but Mom said she "enjoyed" the programs.

I wish I could talk personally to every child— no matter how old. To tell him how lucky he is to still have his Mom. To tell him to love, to appreciate, to respect his Mom.

To say it. To show it.

Not just today—Mother's Day—but every day.

Before it's too late.

Because some day, like me, and so many other children—of all ages—who have lost their Moms, you'll be standing at a grave on Mother's Day.

And your hearts will be filled with hurt and your eyes filled with tears.

And you'll be thinking over and over:

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