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Thinking of My Mother on Mother’s Day

Thinking of My Mother on Mother's Day

Sadly, I am unable to celebrate Mother’s Day today with my mother Ellen (pictured here in 2004). She passed away more than five years ago from ovarian cancer. Despite being only about 5’2″, my mother had an incredibly large presence. Why was this? Well, there were several reasons. – She lived each day as if […]

Personal Issues

Sadly, I am unable to celebrate Mother’s Day today with my mother Ellen (pictured here in 2004). She passed away more than five years ago from ovarian cancer.

Despite being only about 5’2″, my mother had an incredibly large presence.

Why was this? Well, there were several reasons.

She lived each day as if it were the best day of her life. There would be so many times I would hear “my sandwich was the greatest” or that she and her friends “had the best time.”

My mother truly savored every minute of life, a trait which she inherited from her father, my grandfather Max.

Her happiness and exuberance would completely transform the energy of a room.

She had a trademark laugh that could be heard from the other side of the house. Everywhere you went with her, it was just a matter of time before that laugh would come out. And everyone knew her by it.

Laughing, smiling and enjoying herself embodied who she was. Both friends and strangers were very drawn to this.

Being a great listener, my mother knew how to make people feel good. She took tremendous interest in the lives of other people and was always the person asking the questions. This selfless attitude continued until the day she died.

When many people get sick, the typical questions are “Why me? Why did I have to be the one who got sick?”

Her questions were “Why not me? What makes me so special that I shouldn’t get sick?”

Other things about my mother:

– When I was growing up, the phone in our house would ring off the hook. She had tons of friends and they all wanted her time. The person that they called for advice or guidance was my mother.

– She loved to throw parties and entertain. Having friends over and getting together were her most enjoyable times.

– She loved to dance. Whenever she was at weddings or parties, she was one of the first people on the dance floor.

– Each summer in Nantucket, she would invite several of her close friends to spend a week at her house for Camp Mahjong. They would play Mahjong, go out to dinner, take walks and, most importantly, laugh for a week straight.

– My mother was an absolutely voracious reader. There was never a time when she was not reading and stacks of books could be found all over her bedroom.

She was also a New York Times Sunday Magazine crossword fanatic and always finished the entire puzzle.

– She only started eating organic food after she got sick. Even then, it was with great reluctance. She was a huge food person and would enjoy everything, unlike her only son who is quite selective (difficult).

– At a local private school in Boston, she started out as a part-time tutor to kids. Several years later, she wound up as Head of the English Department. Then, she went on to Harvard where she would get her Master’s in Education.

– From scratch, she created a multi-million dollar division of my father’s wholesale carpet business.

My mother didn’t like to ask for business and hated to put on the “hard sell”. While she had great taste, people wanted to do business with her because they wanted to be in her presence. That is why the business grew.

– Two weeks before my mother passed away, she was told that the end was imminent. Knowing that there had to be food after the funeral, she called the caterer to come to her apartment in order to arrange the menu and flowers for that day.

My father, my sister and I were in absolute shock that she was doing this. We couldn’t believe our eyes.  But that was my mother.

My mother was the shining star and guiding light of our family. And that brightness is still very, very badly missed, particularly today.


  • marge201 says:

    Boy, your mom sounds like a pistol. Damn that she didn’t get more years. Wonderful tribute.

  • Bill Lyons says:

    Hi Max,
    This is a wonderful remembrance of your Mom – and captures who she is incredibly well. I do treasure my many conversations and time with her – from those first conversations mostly about you (!) to later conversations about English, teaching, life, the world and a myriad of other topics – and many, many of those conversations with your Dad as well.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Thank you, Bill. You had a huge impact on her life, and I miss those conversations with her as well. Yet, I was very, very fortunate to have had this wonderful person shape my life. All the best, Max

  • Angela says:

    Thank you for sharing. touching, warming, made me smile

  • Rose says:

    How beautiful! Brought tears to my eyes!

  • Ray says:

    Wow, A very touching story. We need more people like her in this world. I can see your passion for caring about people also came from your mom as well. Thanks for sharing your story


  • Nora says:

    So beautiful! Your love for your mom is so apparent. It really is a blessing to be loved and to be able to return it. One should never take it for granted. Thank you,too, for being such an inspiration.

  • Linda says:

    Dear Max… Your mom would be so proud or the way you “got” her essence… this week is the anniversary of our CMJ week … it’s always a bittersweet time… for the amazing memories we shared – the endless laughter, the joy of the sumptuous meals she prepared (even when sick), the sheer delight of being together for those 5 days each June…
    I look at a beautiful picture of the 5 CMJers every morning, and remember what a dear and special time it was for us all to be with Ellen … and although I will always miss her, I know she will always be with me…
    thanks for your beautiful words…
    xo, Linda

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Linda,

      It must be a very bittersweet time for all of CMJ. It is very touching to hear how she is so dearly missed by all of her very close friends and thanks so much for your kind words. Her memory definitely lives on, which speaks volumes to the impact she made on people.

      Live well,

  • Carylee says:

    This just got to me–better late than never. There is never a day that goes by that some “ELLENISM’ does not come up. Her words and wisdom were like gold.Thanks for sharing your writings with everyone. I have read and reread it many times. I miss her and think of her often, She would be so very proud of you!! Love, Carylee

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Carylee,

      Again, thanks so much for sharing. I, too, have read and reread it many times, and each time it brings a tear to my eye.

      Thanks so much and love to you as well.

      Live well,

  • Not a day goes by that I don’t wake up, greet the day and say good morning to my darling ellen. While our conversations may be one sided I know she hears me and is smiling down on me. What a great way to start the day with happiness? I miss her terribly but just knowing she is with me every step of the way makes me feel I didn’t truly lose her. She was one of a kind and she is sorely missed. I could go on and on but want to keep some memories private. glad to hear you’re doing ok. Losing a parent is awful at best and devastating at worst. You’ve grown up a lot . Ellen would be so proud of you

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Paula,

      Thank you for the words and it is incredibly touching that you greet every single day with her. Wow! Yes, she was one of a kind and very missed.

      Live well,

  • carylee says:

    There is not a day that goes by that some”Ellenism”” does not come up. She had the ability to make you feel that you were her best friend and so very important to her. Next week is M.J. week, and was feeling very nostilagic at this time. We all miss her. Thanks for sharing your thoughts–She would be so very proud of you. Love, “camper” Carylee

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Carylee,

      Thanks so much for your kind words about her. Yes, she is very, very missed.

      Live well,

  • Jane Forman says:

    hi Max , I just read your words again as well as some of the comments . There are only two people in my life who have passed away that I continue to have conversations with : my Dad and your Mom . I often find myself in certain situations and I wonder what advise would she have given me . I know what she would have said and I take that path . She was so wise and loving and I learned so much from her . She helped me to be a better person by her example . She was truly one in a million , no 2 million ! She was a treasure . Your words are just beautiful . XOX, Jane

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Jane,

      Thanks so much for your beautiful words. My mother was a special individual and her absence continues to felt by many, many people.

      And, yes, many of us depended on her wisdom to guide us. She remains very, very missed but still greatly loved and often thought of.

      Live well,

  • eileen salmanson says:

    I look at Mom”s picture almost every day . I often ask her questions, almost surprised that she hasnt answered back! Her life force was amazing and still lives in me, Max. I often imagine what she might say, and this iften gives me the strength to move on! She is irreplacable, and I still have an empty space in my heart for her. Now I focus on how lucky I was to have her in my life for the time I had. You said it perfectly Max, “that was your mom!”

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Eileen,

      Thanks so much for your kind words about my mother. I love the fact that you still talk to her. I guess I need to do that more often. And I agree 100% – she is irreplaceable. Definitely!

      Hope to see you soon.

      Live well,

  • Georgette Boucai says:

    That is so beautiful and so well said. That truly is your Mother!! Every word of it. She was indeed a very special person, mother and wife and missed by all who loved her. I will never forget her never ending laugh nor her smiling face. When she spoke to you, you truly felt you were at the center of her heart as if you were the only one that mattered in her heart. That is how caring and giving she was.
    Great picture of her!!! and you too of course! Well written, Max

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Georgette,

      Thanks for your beautiful words. She was a very, very special person indeed and we all miss her dearly.

      See you soon in ACK!

      Live well,

  • You captured the essence of Ellen. Her joie de vivre and her kindness. She is missed by all. Randy

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Randy,

      Thank you and I appreciate the words. Yes, she did have that joie de vivre for sure. A big loss.

      Live well,

  • Gail says:

    well done Max. Miss her too!

  • Gigi says:

    Hi Max,

    What a beautiful post about your mom. My mom is still with me but my dad is not. I felt about you did about your mom. Thanks for posting this truly inspiring heartfelt.. post

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Gigi,

      Thanks so much! I am sorry to hear about your father. It is a tremendous loss to lose a parent but this is part of life I guess and something that we all must face one day. Thanks for sharing.

      Live well,

  • Edna says:

    Your mother was so beautiful–and so fit! You look just like her. Thanks for sharing–she must’ve been a truly amazing woman.

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