I was buried beneath six layers of blankets, cuddled up close to her. My baby sister was asleep on the other side of the bed, sucking her thumb. Her little hand rested on the ear, which she had caressed until falling into a deep slumber. Every few minutes, I would come up for a breath of cold air – to watch the breath escape from my mouth and linger through the house – and to look at her in admiration. Her hair was long and glimmered from the reflection of the kitchen light. Her skin was flawless and radiant. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She was perfect. She was my mother.
Today, she is no less beautiful and radiant today than she was 20 years ago. To be sure, her light and joy continues to glimmer upon the hearts and souls of all those who surround her. She brightens and illuminates the lives of her co-workers, her husband, her friends, her family, and especially me, her eldest daughter.
My mom’s name, Karen, קרן, means a ray of light in Hebrew. Just as her light, her love, kept me warm that winter under six layers of blankets, she has always brought me joy, even in times of hardship and desperation. When my legs were too weak, and I would fall to the ground, she would pick me up, and wipe away my tears. When my heart was broken, she picked up the pieces and made me laugh. In times of darkness, she has been my ray of light.
קרן can also mean a horn in Hebrew, an instrument by which we can make music and celebratory sounds. Whenever I have achieved great things, succeeded in accomplishing my dreams or reached an incredible milestone in my life, my happiness is exceeded and enhanced only by her pride and celebratory exclamations. She sings, dances and shouts praise and excitement for who I have become. She will, no doubt, be the person to dance the most at my wedding. She is the horn that plays the music of my life.
Her birthday last year, significant to me, fell during the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, the festival of lights. We, the Jews, celebrate the miracle of a single jar of oil, sufficient only to burn for one day, burning for eight in the Temple. The Sages designated these eight days as a festival, with songs of praise and thanksgiving. So, this year, today, while I recite “al ha’nissim,” I will also thank God for the miracle of my mother – my ray of light, my song of praise.