Since my first post in Holland’s Heroes, my writings have included articles about the Holocaust, information about Dutch Jewry leading up to and during the time of Nazi occupation, essays of current events, videos, and tributes to special people, either living or passed on. Till now my most important, meaningful, and emotional tribute was remembering my father on the anniversary of his passing in June. What I write today holds a special meaning unlike any I have written till now, for it is about someone incredibly special, inspirational to so many, and thankfully still strong enough and healthy enough to be able to hopefully appreciate and enjoy what I am writing in her honor. The tribute is to my mother, Sipora Groen, on her 91st birthday, today January 1, 2013.
To begin, making it to 91 with a strong and healthy body coupled with a mind sharper than many half the age, is in itself a remarkable accomplishment. I learned many years ago that although it takes God’s blessing to live a long life, it is still to be seen as an accomplishment in and of itself. The responsibilities of life, the heartbreak, the illness, and life’s various struggles, all take a toll on an individual as they reach this more advanced age.
Now let’s look at this particular individual, my mother, Sipora Groen. Born on January 1, 1922, she lost her mother when she was a young child of 13. She took care of her younger brother and held responsibilities around the house most women are not given till they are at least 5 years older. When the war broke out she was engaged to be married and studying to be a nurse. Little did she know her life would be turned upside down and go a different direction than she had ever dreamed. The Nazi destruction of the Dutch Jewish community would claim the life of her father, her brother, her fiancé, and numerous friends and family. It would also thrust her together with my father, Nardus Groen, who fell in love with her and took it on himself to do whatever possible to see her safely through these horrible times. His bravery and resourcefulness would be part of what would save her life, but equally if not more important, her inherent strength and incredible courage over the 5 years of occupation, allowed her to live on and build a life together with the man who had fallen deeply in love with her, and she had learned to love and appreciate in the hardest of times.
I have often said that my father saved my mother’s life during the war, and that my mother saved my father’s life every day after the war. Strength is impossible to measure, but it is possible to recognize different types of strength. What makes my mother’s strength so remarkable is that it is natural. So many of us access our most inner soul at the hardest of times and utilize whatever strength we are fortunate enough to find. We need to be strong and we try to be strong, sometimes with greater success than others. My mother is strong every day of her life. It is what allowed her to not only survive the war, but to do so with her sanity. It is what allowed her to be the matriarch and cornerstone of a new family now almost 30 strong, and it is what makes it possible for her to read this post, or as is my hope, have it read to her on her birthday.
If it is even the slightest bit of a mystery to someone reading this how much I love and respect my mother, you have not read the book “Jew Face”. My feelings for both my parents are extremely obvious in my writing, and for this I make no apology. Instead I say today, on my mother’s 91st birthday, thank you Mom for being an inspiration, a pleasure to have around, a friend, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, but most of all for me, a wonderful mother. I write this knowing that what I say is a sentiment I gladly share with everyone else who calls her Mom, and hope to be able to say this till she reaches the age of 120.
And for those on Facebook and any other social media reading this, I ask you to give my mother a special birthday gift by posting this article on your timeline so that the people you call friends are aware of this remarkable woman and have the opportunity, if they so wish, to learn about her remarkable life as I portrayed it in “Jew Face”.
Happy Birthday Mom. I love you.