Sad Update

Colette Horvilleur née Ziza – May 9, 1927 – August 21, 2015

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this update that my mother died this morning in Paris at home.

She will be remembered by all who have known her as a bubbly, always happy, easy going, caring and extremely busy person. She took joy in everything she was doing: cooking, catering to others, feeding everyone in the family, experimenting with recipes, tending to her garden, moving trees and plants to make them happier, reading, writing and teaching.

She had the most loving personality and was faithful to the love of her life, whose death marked the beginning of a struggle with loneliness and search for a purpose in her daily activities. She kept her wonderful sense of humor until the end and never wanted to bother anybody.

She will be sorely missed by all generations.

The funeral will be on Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 11:00 am Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.

ברוך דין האמת

#BlogElul – Day 4 – Understand

Those days, when all of a sudden, things that used to work don’t. It is annoying. It can trigger a crisis when you have a child with autism. You just can’t get to the core of it. You have to go with the flow. Accept that you don’t understand. That it is useless to feel afraid, or frustrated, or scared, or angry. It just does not work. There is not much to understand. It goes back to accepting again. Accepting that understanding is not in reach for the moment. It is difficult but necessary.

Living within the realm of autism is living within the realm of very little to understand. I can see it in the questions that I always get around my son. People wonder how we communicate. They ask me to translate what he is saying. I don’t know how to answer to those questions. I communicate through channels that are different, that’s all.

We all like to understand. It lifts so much anxiety. It gives power. A sense of control. But understanding can be an illusion. We understand what we already know. What we have learned or studied. Understanding comes with practice and patience.lamp

Update 5 from South Salem, NY

My two boys back together Dear Friends,

It has been nearly a week since my last letter to you. I have now returned home and I keep contact with my mother mostly through my older brother, via email and hangouts, and with speaking to either of the two dedicated aids who live at home to help caring for mom, on the phone around lunch time, which is morning breakfast time here. During the weekend, my brothers have installed the laptop on the dinner table to allow a skype conference and mom was happy to spot her grandson say “hi” but she quickly closes her eyes, because she is immediately tired now.

Never one day at a time has meant more what it means than during this odd summer for me. I was so relieved to be back home after experiencing the heat wave in Paris, as well as dealing with the emotional roller coaster of caring for my mother along with my two brothers on a daily basis for a little more than a couple of weeks, during which several stages of deterioration of her functions occurred.

I was comforted in my decisions by how things unfolded, and I have no regrets because it felt right to do what we all did, and also because it was a wonderful time with my cousins, my mother’s cousins, and many friends who had a chance to speak with me directly, when this opportunity had not arisen in a long time because I live here.

It felt good because I had complete confidence in my son with autism being as happy as can be, as always, and I received so much support from the most wonderful staff, at his school, as well as at the respite house where he lived, and from the transportation department who went above and beyond to make sure that I always knew he was well taken care of. A mother cannot be more happy about that, and a citizen cannot be prouder of the town she lives in for the services and care that are offered to a student with special needs.

Then, I received such a warm and wonderful welcome as soon as I arrived home. I felt so much love and care, I could not stop talking to my friends and neighbors with a smile, as if nothing sad was happening on the other side of my life and my heart is soaring from the love that is surrounding me. Even though a life is ending slowly, and even though there is pain in witnessing such a process, it feels as if my mom is still gifting me with the gift she has always had of making the world nice and welcoming, festive and warm, friendly and full of stories to tell!

Today, we went to pick up my youngest at camp after a very successful summer as a counsellor there. Our home is back to being full and for a minute I could pretend that life is back to normal. Alas, I know that any time, I can get some news that we do not want to hear about. As we prepare for different stages in our lives, like sending off to college, or starting a new school year in a new town, or starting a New Year for those of us who are Jewish, preparing for the ultimate stage of one’s life seems very strange and uncomfortable but I think it can still be beautiful.

I hope this letter finds you all having some beautiful moments from the summer to share.

With love always,

#BlogElul – Day 3 – Search

Chrysalis It is not so much a matter of searching hard, than a matter of being open. Open to seeing and finding, open to listening and hearing, open to letting go of the search and relaxing that in the end it comes to you. There is so much to take in, that it can be overwhelming most of the time, but when you let it be out of your control, and agree that you can’t know everything, you will let the butterfly go, and remember the beauty.

#BlogElul – Day 2 – Act

Make Things Happen #BlogElul Day 2 – Act

We are all so busy. We share a lot. We “like” and “poke” a lot. We certainly talk a lot. I know I do.

In looking back at my actions this past year, I want to pass them through the lens of result. What did I do that helped things happen?

I can’t come up with solving climate change or peace in the Middle-East, but for what is in my power, there are certainly a lot I could do, and I feel good about putting my acts in line with my words.

#BlogElul – Day 1 – Prepare

Prepare #BlogElul As I did it last year, I will participate into the daily blogging activities of the month of Elul.

Elul is the last month before the Jewish New Year, a time to reflect and to do some soul cleansing, in order to prepare for the solemnity of the Days of Awe that start the Jewish year with serious liturgy. The days of “judgement” that lead to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) are serious business for synagogue staff and clergy. There is a lot of preparation involved.

I like to prepare with check lists and calendars, colors and binders. I like to read what I have gathered through years of going through the same cycle, and notice the growth as doing so.

This year, again, I can sense the trepidation, and mostly the importance for me of going through the process, as it is a time of such fragility with life, that I do not want to miss the essential.

Time for Soul Searching: Cheshbon Nefesh

Cheshbon Nefesh

Cheshbon Nefesh is the Hebrew term meaning taking accounting of one’s life (or soul) or in other words soul searching.
Traditionally the arrival of the Hebrew month of Elul is the opportunity to quietly prepare for the renewal of the New Year.
Tonight is not only Shabbat, but also the beginning of the month of Elul. The pictures in this album were taken this morning while I am starting to reflect on the past year to prepare for the next year. This is where I chose to live my life because its replenishes my soul.