America's Moms: No Holiday From Hunger

The balloons have all deflated by now. The lilacs have pretty much lost that wonderful scent. The jewelry has been relegated to a drawer in the dresser, and the card has probably been replaced on the mantel by the vase that ordinarily belongs there. Yes, Mother's Day is over for this year. We celebrated mom again this year with a trip to the mall, the card store, the florist and even the iPhone store, hoping that a little technology will bring us that much closer to mom. For those lucky enough to still have a mom, the day brought a nice dinner or a breakfast in bed. For those of us without a mom, it brought a rush of memories of days long gone but not quite ever forgotten.

I light a candle for my mother on Mother's Day. I still mourn for the woman I could always depend on for a laugh, a good pot roast and a lap to crawl into when it was just one of those days. If I'm really honest about it, I'm still mad at her for leaving me just when my life was getting interesting. She would have enjoyed much of what was to come. She lived through the Great Depression and World War II and 9/11. She said 9/11 was the worst because she didn't know where her children were on that day -- as though we were a world apart. But, perhaps we were. She was living alone, as a widow, in Florida and one of her children was working that day in Manhattan; the other worked in Washington, D.C. She felt more alone that day than she had in a long time. She was alone that day; she was vulnerable, too.

My brother and I tried desperately to contact her on that Tuesday. We knew we were okay; we wanted to make sure that she was. Funny how we all felt that we needed to be secure in the notion that our families were intact on that day. For my brother and me, while we were living in the epicenter of the terrorist attacks, we needed to know that our mother, living amidst the sun-drenched palm trees of southern Florida was not scared, or alone. I guess you could say that that day, too, was Mother's Day. I lit a candle that day, as well. The yahrzeit candle symbolized as much the loss of life as the loss of our innocence.

Yahrzeit is Yiddish for "a year's time." And we light it to celebrate the soul of those whom we remember. It's a time for reflection and, to me, to shine a light for that memory. I don't do it according to strict doctrine; I have taken the liberty of creating my own doctrine. Sometimes, I even mourn for the living. It's not so much a mournful prayer as a silent hope for better health, or less misery for someone.

This Mother's Day has now passed. I couldn't write this before it did. I needed time to think about all the women who were alone on May 8 -- whether they were mothers or not. Women are the nurturers, the sustenance-givers and the birth-givers. We all have them in common. Mother's Day stories are always "fillers" on television or in print. They provoke a nice feeling. It's a once-a-year-feel-good piece.

But this year was different for me. It was the year I realized that "a year's time" had passed since the last one and millions of our mothers were still alone and lonely and hungry. I realized up close that this holiday was not a holiday from hunger. We invited people all across the country to sign Mother's Day cards as messages of hope. We were expecting 50,000. We exceeded that number. We had over 40 members of Congress join us. They came in person to sign those messages of hope. We deliver not just meals to America's hungry seniors. We deliver hope.

Will next year be any different? Will we inch one step closer to ending the disease of senior hunger in this country? Yes. But only if we don't wait another year to celebrate Mother's Day.

My yahrzeit candle only burns for 24 hours. The clock is ticking.