My Mother

The text below was shared during shivah with the visitors who came to comfort me.

My Mother

She was born May 9, 1927 in Algiers
She died in the morning of August 21 in her bed in Paris.
In between those two dates, she had run the course of a luminous life. On that last morning, she woke up, said she did not want to take her breakfast nor her medication and simply wanted to go back to sleep. Then the heart that had beaten with passion and love for all those years simply stopped.

Colette was the type of sunshine that warms you all the time. She was constantly active and had only started slowing down and losing some of her enthusiasm for life after her beloved husband died April 8, 2014. They had been married for sixty years and my father Francis was her only love. While he was still alive, he was the one keeping her on her toes intellectually. Otherwise nothing could stop her in her busy tracks, always bustling with errands, planning of all sorts, redesigning, shlepping furniture in between rooms or between her houses – the country cottage and the Parisian apartment – or constantly relandscaping  her garden. Her joy in life was to feed everyone and she would cater the most refined and original tables with a taste for always new recipes. She would jump at any opportunity to throw a festive meal and she would even invent some bizarre celebrations just to have a chance to set a full table of guests to rejoice.

Besides her amazing table, she will be remembered for her gardens. Hers were set in the country of Monet, the impressionist painter, and could definitely sustain the comparison with the best of his paintings. She was constantly perfecting it. Hands in the soil, or hands in the dough, my mother was always busy, and you could find her either in the kitchen, or in the garden, day and… night. She was happy to infuse plants and flowers with her enthusiasm. If they happened to suffer from the inclement weather and die, it was a pure catastrophe, and she would display genuine and utter sorrow over their demise for days.

Colette could not understand evil. There was nothing mean that she not see the good in. She adored people, her family, of course, her brothers, her friends, her cousins, her nieces and nephew, and each and every child born to all of them. She knew each and every birth date – and we are talking of a time when there was no facebook to remind you of sending a happy birthday greeting (and she would never approach anything technological anyways).

She loved making lists, wrote hand written letters that looked like heavily edited first drafts and would never clean them up because of her enthusiasm that would not allow her to stop long enough or regret anything that she had written. She always wanted to proceed with the next thing to be done, not delve on mistakes or shortcomings.

My mom adored that she be loved and everyone always got charmed by her, and rightfully would start loving her. She never wanted to bother anyone. She was a free spirit. She loved literature, had an absolute passion for the English language – which goes back to another long story that I will tell bli neder another time.

She loved making presents and would always give more than what you actually needed. She would send me care packages as if I was living in a war zone, and sometimes those packages were pretty explosive themselves. When I would scold her for overdoing it, she would cry and make me feel awful and guilty. Then it would inevitably end up in hysterical laughters from both of us, and the mishaps would become part of our family lore for ever.

Colette was who everyone dreamt of having for a mom and she actually would allow all who wanted to, to adopt her as such.

She thus became the mother of many, so many that I can’t count. She also became the grandmother of even more, including the children of my brother’s wife who came to France when they were 9 and 11 from Brazil. Family myths have it that she taught them how to speak French in less than three weeks.

To end this for tonight I would like to tell of the very special bond she had with Joseph. I believe the bond is made of their shared traits: their unadultered passion and enthusiasm without any filter, their total inability to think evil, their complete independence, their preference for doing things on their own and their utmost desire to then have the others partake in their joy and marvel at the results of what they do all day long.

Neither of them liked cuddling very much, but they were always ready to cuddle each other. When I told Joseph that his Grannie had died, he looked up and said: “sad“…

Grannie and Joseph cuddling


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French blogger in the US writes on cultural differences, disabilities, religion, social media and politics.

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