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by Sandra Martin

My mother, Lucille Katelman, always loved balloons, especially in the last few years of her life. It seemed to me that, the older she got, the more she became like a little girl, getting so much delight from such a small thing as a balloon.  She would even say, “goody,” when something pleased her, just as a child would. So, as she grew older, and especially once she moved first into Remington Heights, and then into the Blumkin Home, I always made sure to bring her one, usually on special occasions and sometimes for no reason at all. The best scenario would be if it was early in the day and her door was still closed, because then I could tie it to her doorknob and sneak away, so that she had the added fun of being surprised. But either way, she was always delighted at the sight of a big colorful balloon greeting her when she opened her door.

My mom passed away last year in February, at the age of 99 and 8 months, and as that first Mother’s Day approached, I found myself struggling to come up with a plan for the day.  Nothing seemed right. Just getting together with my two daughters and their families, as we have so often done, seemed insensitive to our new reality and not special enough, yet going to the cemetary or dwelling only on her death (and not the wonderful celebration of her life) seemed too depressing (and I don’t really believe that’s where she is, anyway). Then, it hit me! Balloons, of course! What better way to acknowledge her passing and connect with her than to continue our tradition and send something she loved to her, straight up to heaven?

So after our Sunday morning bagels on Mother’s Day, (another ritual which she loved), my family and I stood in my backyard with a huge balloon bouquet, in all her favorite colors. As each of us released a balloon to her, we each said aloud what our favorite memory of her was, or what we missed the most about her. And even as the memories brought tears of grief for what was, they also brought joy for all that we had with her, for such a long time. As I watched each balloon soaring up to greet her, I realized my spirits were lifting, too. Suddenly, I could see her smile and clearly hear her saying “goody,” as she watched our little ritual, knowing that she was still very much a part of our lives.