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I Understand Why I Am So Sad

JEAN COOPERBERG – MY MOM

I understand why I am so sad. Your mom is your very first love. From the moment you are born, she is the one. So this is like the biggest break up you will ever have. 

My mom, Jeannie, usually started her day with coffee and reading at least 3-4 newspapers cover to cover, often in her robe and with the craziest fuzzy bed head hair-do you can imagine. It always made me laugh.

When I was young, she was very involved in raising funds for Hadassah with her North Shore friends. I reported to my grade 1 class my dad is a doctor and my mom sells lottery tickets in Park Royal! I had no idea this was one of her many volunteer jobs, I just remember thinking how proud I was and how special it was to enter Park Royal and see my mom in this prominent position in the center of the mall.

She was one cool cat. Her deep voice, her smile, her calm demeanor, her intellect and her dry sense of humour. These qualities attracted so many people to her. And these people followed her and became life-long friends through nursing and her 30+ years as a docent at the Vancouver Art Gallery. 

For me, she was my side kick in life. She wanted to know everything that was happening to me. She was my living diary. She needed to know what the kids were up to, my friends, every detail about my work. Who was buying what, what were they thinking, what was our strategy - are they crazy? They should have taken the offer!

And she was as joyous about things happening to me as though they were happening directly to her. She was my number one fan. What did we do together? Everything. And we laughed. Neither of us had to finish a sentence and we were laughing before the end. 

On a spa trip together, we decided to get fully body wrapped in rosemary and oils and then they wheeled us into a dark space with others quietly relaxing. My mom panicked feeling a bit claustrophobic. “Ruthie, Ruthie, she whispered, where are you I need to get my arms out?” As I lay there mummified myself, I started laughing, Mom what would you like me to do about this, we are both stuck. We giggled uncontrollably until someone saved us.

Many of you have seen those stunning photos of Jeannie when she was younger. Those cheekbones, blue eyes, long blond hair – she was smart and beautiful. It is no wonder my dad was smitten. 

My mom adored my dad. She was so proud of all his professional successes, admired his endurance for his sports and passions and enjoyed letting him be the center of attention. Their love was bursting. My mom was far from athletic, but with perseverance my dad got her to enjoy skiing and then golfing and that made up a lot of their time together. They were a couple that just worked – they were independent in many ways yet loved doing so much together.

And through all this illness, Dad, you were her pillar of strength. You cared for her, you took on her worries and for that I thank you.

Michael, your life at Whistler together and seeing Lev each weekend were highlights of her life. She hated driving downtown, but she would drop everything to pick up Lev in Squamish. You were her baby and she always wanted to make sure you were ok.

Danny, you and my mom were good friends. She confided in you, sought your advice and she guided you (on how to live with me). And for that I thank her too.

For me my greatest joy was watching my parents love for my kids. My mom was fiercely supportive of Talia and Cooper. Watching my mom cheer for Cooper in basketball was fun and nerve wracking at the same time. Cooper was THE BEST in her eyes and if anyone else made a mistake she would comment on it. Her last words to Cooper via facetime from the hospital were all about his traveling adventure he is on with a friend. They had discussed Pompeii and she insisted he would love it, so that is where he went, and she was thrilled. 


And Talia was her soul sister. They are the same. Both calm, both funny, both loyal, smart and both with old souls that saw life through a different lens. They shared a love of Shakespeare, art, travel. They both lived in London and shared the same passion for the history, the galleries and the theatre. Strangely, having Talia with me, makes me feel like my mom is close by.

And lastly her friends. Wow – does she have a lot of devoted friends. They go back to her sorority sisters from UBC. She has her Vancouver Art Gallery docent friends, those from Hadassah, her Mariner’s Walk courtyard friends, the North Shore and West Side buddies, long time Whistler friends and those from her 46 year old book club.

My mom was a loyal friend to those she loved and they loved her back intensely. The group of friends and family who have been on the cheerleading squad while she was sick are the most attentive and caring group of women. Each one has reached out in one way or the other to me and they all claim Jeannie, my mom, as their best friend. Yesterday, even Rosalina, her house keeper of 30 years said Jeannie was HER best friend, like a sister who always had the time to listen. Each one of you have your own memories of my mom and I would bet there was a lot of laughter involved. She truly loved you.

I was born in Israel and that was one of my mom’s favourite places. She understood Hebrew, lived on a kibbutz and loved returning back often. The day before she passed away, I was lying beside her and decided to play from my phone some Israeli music. She and I sang along to Yerushalyim Shel Zahav. We came full circle.

A wise friend told me it wouldn’t hurt so badly if the loss wasn’t so big. Mom, I love you and I miss you. See you again one day.

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