All There Is….

A blessing in my life for 34 years.

My sister Sharon and I lost our mother 24 years ago today.

Twenty-four years is not a landmark anniversary. There’s nothing special about 24 years, other than it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has changed.

My mom’s name was Fay. If you Google her, nothing comes up. Google was founded September 4, 1998, almost exactly a month before she died. But even if she lived, it’s doubtful she would have done something that would have made her “internet worthy”. She lived a simple life. A good life.

Sometimes I feel people like my mom get lost. But they lived. And they matter. In my world, and the world of my family, nobody mattered more. She was indispensable.

And then she was gone.

Even now, the permanence stabs at me.

So much has changed.

My mom’s granddaughter Samantha is well into her career as a special education teacher and her two little grandsons will both turn 30 soon. They were little kids when they lost their grandmother. She’s a faint memory for them and that alone is enough to break your heart.

The years pile on, the world moves so fast.

A friend of mine lost a beloved sibling a few years back. She recently marked another year of loss and said that while the lump in her throat is gone, she still grieves— quietly.

I do too.

I think grief is the love you have inside that goes unexpressed. Your loved one is gone but your heart is still full. What do you with all this unexpressed love?

Our mother was 59 years old when she passed away after a brave and brutal 50-week battle with cancer.

I just turned 58. I am deeply aware that I am approaching her lifespan and it’s on my mind.

The age we lost her was front and center in my thoughts during my near fatal bout with Covid in July-August 2020. During my darkest moments—and there were many—I couldn’t help but think: ‘I will be younger than my mom when she passed, and she was so young’. She missed so much.

Happy times, stone washed jeans and Long Island nights.

Lately, I have been dreaming of her. Those dreams come and go. While I think about her every day, I sometimes won’t dream about her for months at a time.

But these days, she’s a frequent presence in my dreams and a recurring one has me sitting in a park trying to explain to her what’s happened to everyone since we said goodbye at Hospice by The Sea in Boca Raton.

Her granddaughter is a devoted teacher. She loves her students, and they love her back. I revel in the stories she tells me about a child who makes progress, overcomes an issue, gains confidence, reaches a goal etc. I couldn’t be prouder.

Her grandson Ben…who was a wild child… “all boy” as they say, grew up to be an accountant. We didn’t see that coming.

Back when my mom was around, we were happy if we returned from the mall without losing him. You’d turn around and he’d be gone. But these days, he’s mature, smart and thoughtful. An old soul. Her other grandson, Andrew, is a Ph.D., candidate in Washington D.C. researching the Holocaust on his way to becoming a professor. He’s a wonderful writer and a traveler too. We didn’t see that coming either.

Had she lived, mom would have added two more grandsons to her brood; my stepsons Alex and Viktor, fine young men who would have enriched her life immeasurably.

My mom never met the love of my life, Diane. She didn’t get to see my dad age gracefully. At 84, he still turns heads and remains my go-to guy for life advice.

So much has changed.

Never miss a chance to dance.

America is a different place. I wish I could say that we are a better, closer country but I can’t.

Delray Beach and South Florida have also changed. Some of the changes are good, some are not so good.

None of it would have mattered much to my mother. She liked it here.

She was happy enjoying the simple things in life with family and friends. If family was around, she was cool. What a great example she was, if only I could follow her lead. If only…

So here we are mom…24 years down the road, 24 years without you.

We are doing well, blessed in so many ways. But there’s still that ache, there are still waves of grief that engulf me. The waves hit when I see Sam smile and see your smile in hers. When I talk to my sister and realize that she has your exact voice and so many of your best qualities.

I now realize that grief is the price we pay for love. And we should be grateful for both because you can’t have one without the other. If you are going to love, you are going to feel loss someday.  It’s a price worth paying. It’s taken me a lifetime to understand that. A lifetime to accept that trade.

For years after losing you, my sadness lurked in the bushes like a stalker. I could be having the best time only to be reminded of your absence and I’d find myself overcome with sadness. When the rainy days would come, as they do for everyone, I’d find myself wishing to be transported back to the days when everyone I loved was still here.

There you are with your friends playing Mah Jongg at the pool club, with grandma and grandpa and nanny speaking Yiddish and sneaking us chocolate kisses. Life seemed infinite. There was so much road ahead of us.

Those days are long gone. The losses pile up, like so many leaves.

But loss serves a purpose as well. The losses make us appreciate the here and now which is really good if we strip away the noise and distractions.

And we realize we carry pieces of those we lost in our hearts and minds—for all of our days.

So much has changed, but that never will. The love we feel endures.


  1. Peter Arts says

    What a wonderful tribute piece.

    I imagine everybody who reads this can identify as a shared experience

  2. Frances Bourque says

    My Father was 61, my brother ,41❤️❤️❤️Tears and love and gifts far outweighing loss… you look just like her!

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Frances, your dad and brother were much too young. I’m so grateful for you in my life. More than you can ever know, Jeff

  3. Jackie Slatkow says

    Hi Jeff,
    What a beautiful tribute to your mom. It brought tears to my eyes and put a big lump in my throat. I lost my mom 17 years ago and will miss her every day for the rest of my life. You’re right about the cost of love. But who would change that? Keep writing. I know your mom would be so proud.
    Best to you and Diane,
    Jackie Slatkow

  4. Betti Adams says

    Jeff, I have fond memories of your mother and your sister. And how devastating your Mom’s illness was for all of you. She and Sharon were more like sisters than mother and daughter. I’m so pleased, and yes, a little surprised, to hear what Ben and Andrew are doing. I knew Andrew when he was a pre-schooler at Temple Sinai! I already was aware of Samantha’s career, but love hearing how devoted she is to her students.

    Please say hello to your sister from me, see if she remembers.

  5. Patricia Sciarillo says

    Beautiful legacy to your mom. I sometimes forget what my mother and father looked like! I was 14 when I lost my dad on his birthday, watching a Yankee game! My mom passed 6 months later. I was sophomore in high school. I have sister 3 years older who graduated the day after my father passed. Had already secured a job in NY City and became the head of household. But we survived. Now almost 60 years later I struggle to remember..they too have missed milestones our weddings, their three grandchildren, and now 5 greatgrandchildren! The circle of life. Nice to have our memories though!!!

  6. Scott Porten says

    That was beautiful. I miss my father everyday. The permanence of losing a parent is really something you can’t imagine until you have to live with it. Though, I could not agree more that loss really does remind you how important it is to live.

    Your mom would be proud!

  7. Gloria Adams says

    Wonderful tribute to your special
    Mom. Sweet memories of a loving lady. My dad was 61, my sister, 71, Ron, 75, and in June, my daughter, 48. Life goes on, but is never the same – too much love no longer shared. My mom lived to be 100+ And the memories are there but the deep grief is easier to bear – she lived a long life. I know you have a lifetime of memories to cherish. May she rest in peace💕

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