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Living Maxwell


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 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.

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