Reflections on My Mom

On the left, Shannon Sarna as a child with her mom. On the right, Shannon & her daughter.

Courtesy of Shannon Sarna Goldberg

This year it’s been 15 years since my mom passed away from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and I think this past year has actually been one of the most difficult without her.

When my mom first died, some people warned me how difficult it would be not to have her down the road, especially during lifecycle events such as weddings, children, and other moments of joy. Well, they were right.

It’s been a blessing to bring a daughter of my own into the world. But I have also missed having a mom to think about me and take care of me these past two years. You see, moms just know what you need— like care packages, one of my mom’s specialties. Like a home-cooked meal. Like mix tapes. (Yes, my mom made me mix tapes). Or a conversation that is about ME (yes, me! I am still a person over here!).

I have also missed asking all those questions about what I was like as a baby, or what decisions my mom made and why. My dad is great at lots of things but his memory is not super sharp. Maybe it has something to do with his hippie ways?! Hmmmm.

But I digress.

This year, while I celebrate and give thanks for my brilliant, bright, beautiful, healthy little girl, I also experience sadness— sadness for the things I will never do with my mother; the conversations I will never have; and the grandmother my daughter will never meet. My mom was so silly and fun and interactive— I wish so badly that Ella could sit at my mom’s feet while she plays Debussy, taking a book of Monet art off the shelf and explaining dramatically, “THIS is your inspiration!” as she did with me. At the time I thought she was crazy, but now I am just proud of the uber-nerd legacy I was born into.

Now when Ella and I ride the rocking horse at Gymboree, I sing the William Tell Overture and talk about why Rossini was not well regarded for his music and was considered the Britney Spears of his time.  I am ok if the other parents think I am nuts because they don’t even know what Rossini is. It’s likely Ella won’t know who Britney Spears is either, but I am ok with that.

I am plagued with an irrational fear that I will be taken away from my family too soon. Will people say nice things about me? (Hope so). Will they tell my daughter I was a crazy, bulldozing bitch? (Hope not). I think about this perhaps more than I care to admit.

There is one conversation in particular on the topic of motherhood that has stuck with me since my mom got sick.

My mom was a very talented classical pianist and yet I could not understand why she didn’t pursue more grandiose performance and teaching opportunities.

She gently explained, “When you are a mom you will understand.” At the time I was like, “um whatever, you’re nuts. I am going to be on Broadway and I am definitely not letting kids get in my way.”

When she got sick and eventually passed, and much of the care for my siblings fell onto my shoulders, I started to understand. And having my own daughter makes the conversation even more real, more relatable.

I still hope to achieve great things, to achieve my full potential. But like my mom, I know the greatest accomplishment I will boast one day will be raising children who are good people; people who are reaching their full potential out in the world, whether that’s parenthood, music or gd forbid, law or finance.

I hope my mom is proud of me and my siblings. And I hope I can live up to the example she provided of a tough, loving, silly mom who always expected us to do out best.


 Mom, I’m trying.

Topics: Children, Motherhood
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Get JWA in your inbox

Read the latest from JWA from your inbox.

sign up now

How to cite this page

Sarna Goldberg, Shannon. "Reflections on My Mom." 10 May 2013. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 29, 2024) <>.