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"If You Go, You'll Never Come Back..."

By Susan Leibtag

Posted on 10/28/15

When I was in high school, considering which college to apply to, my first choice was to go to Bar Ilan.  The thought of studying in Israel was beyond thrilling to me.  I promised my parents I'd only go for one year, then come back to a US college to complete my education.


"No, if you go, you'll never come back."


These were my mother's exact words. My father didn't say a word because I think he really wanted me to go but knew it would break my mother's heart. Because he knew, as well, that if I went I would not return to live in America. And I think he would have been okay with that, and incredibly proud.


So I didn't go.  I went to Barnard, then went to graduate school for my library degree, and in the meantime got married, yadda yadda yadda.


I ended up coming to Israel for the very first time in 1978, just after our fourth anniversary.  The country stole my heart from day one.


Well, a mere 44 years later here I am living in Israel.  MUCH better late than never, I say.


More importantly and more significantly, today is my mother's 25th yahrzeit.  She died on 15 Cheshvan/ November 3 1990.


How do you explain what it feels like to lose a mother?  Someone who is really the essence of your life, your teacher, your moral compass, your soul, your heart?  To know you'll never hear that voice or feel that hug, never be able to call and say, "Guess what the kids did today" or "What is a good recipe for..." or "Can you believe what she said???"


It hurts in a visceral way that can be understood only by those who have experienced it.


My husband lost his father one year after we married.  For 25 years I could not understand his pain, not really. When I lost my own mother, I was in awe at his having been able to function after losing his father at such a young age, just when our life was beginning, and knowing he'd never know our children.


I have to treasure the "at least's":



  • At least she saw my three children born

  • At least she had a relationship with them

  • At least she saw us be able to buy a nice home close to her (ironically one week before she was diagnosed with leukemia and one year to the date before she died)

  • At least I remember the "ketzeleh" song, as well as "Little Brown Jug" (totally inappropriate but funny) and sing it to my grandchildren.

  • At least I remember her most important lessons - "Whatever happens, keep going" and "Make the best of it"  - those two have literally gotten me through hellish times


So I guess now "if you go, you will never come back" has a sad double meaning in my heart.


To my mother, Mary Weintraub, z"l, a brilliant, funny, kind, loving woman who touched many lives. I know you'll never come back but you are inside me and (this is not a cliche)  I think of you every single day.