My mother, Alice Elizabeth Adelman Lowenstein, turns 72 today.
Named for the two grandmothers she never met, she continues to live fully, to teach and to inspire.
Although it’s important not to define one’s life by a single event, it was striking to me that today’s birthday meant that Mom has celebrated fully a third of her birthdays since her near fatal auto accident on February 17, 1986.
It also caught my attention that her birthday comes shortly after the passing of former Phillipine President Corazon Aquino.
Aguino’s People Power Revolution that swept dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his compulsive shoe purchasing wife Imelda from power and her to leadership of the thousands of islands that make up the world’s thirteenth most populous nation happened at the same time that Mom was healing from her injuries at Massachusetts General Hospital.
In addition to losing so much blood that she was only given a 1 percent chance of living, Mom also suffered a massive closed head injury and the type of aphasia whereby she used language in a way that often made sense only to her. That is, she used the most particular sense of a word without much, if any, connection to words’ larger meaning.
In the hospital, then, G-d was brillo.
Pain was in the negative.
And Corazon, if I understood then and remember correctly now, for Mom meant heart and hope.
Heart and hope.
Mom’s particular type of brain scrambling meant that she spoke in smatterings of the five different languages she had known to varying degrees before her accident.
She could give the Latin name of the tree outside her room at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and continued to live.
When I asked her, “Comme ca va,” in French, she replied without hesitation, “Tres bien, merci. Et vous?”
Her Brooklyn accent returned with a vengeance.
Although Mom did not speak Spanish, she did somehow understand the seismic cultural and political shift that was happening thousands of miles away and connected deeply to the widow of the dictator’s assassinated opponent.
Mom has lived with heart and hope in the years since then, working to help other people live, in her words, a vital, active life after trauma, continuing to heal-Joan Borysenko wrote about Mom’s successful use of meditation techniques in Minding the Body, Mending the Mind-writing prodigious amounts of poetry and prose, and successfully navigating both the attendant challenges of adult onset diabetes and her more recent but substantial difficulties with her hip.
And so, on this day, not only do we celebrate the anniversary of Mom’s birth in 1937 and her remarkable recovery from her near fatal collision with a car with a plough extended on the front of a car that slid into her lane, but we also honor her heart and her hope.
Happy Birthday, Mom. Rest in Peace, Corazon.
We honor and learn from both of you.