Tag Archives: Jennifer Groen

Remembering my mother, 3 years later

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“Try to enjoy life as best as you can. You never know when your last day is there.  Just look outside, look at the sun, look at the flowers, life is beautiful. You have one life to live, and the best things they come in everyone’s life, but just enjoy life and appreciate the good things, not only the material things.”

These were the words of my mother, Sipora Rodrigue-Lopes Groen, in an interview I recorded with her on April 24, 2012. 3 years ago today on the Jewish calendar, she passed away at the age of 95.  I’ve written a lot about my mother’s life and her experiences, but in this piece I will let you reference the beautiful piece recently recently written by my niece Jennifer about my mother’s life. A Grandmother’s Lesson.

In this piece, in light of current events, besides the message written above, I am going to share with you what I believe my mother would have wanted people to know as we go through such an unprecedented time.

Although my mother had some very strong political opinions, I am fairly certain she would have been more focused today on telling people to make an effort to be nice to each other, to show a mutual respect.  I think she would have encouraged us all to show more love to the people closest to us, and have understanding for people, especially our friends and family, when they do things that are less than perfect.  She put a premium on things like love and kindness, backing it up better than anyone ever could, and I am as certain as I can be that she would have been pushing that point to anyone who would listen during our current crisis.

Although compassionate, she was also one not to exaggerate, and therefore would have hoped people, after they took the illness and consequences seriously, would have behaved wisely, responsibly, and used their heads to form opinions, rather than letting those opinions be formed for them.  She had a strong will that would on occasion cross over to stubbornness, but it was that strength of character that saw her through the toughest times and I believe played a big role in her enjoying life to the end.

She would have shared the lessons of what she went through, not to minimize the suffering of those who are victims of, or close to people who have suffered today, but to make a point to the majority who sit at home, waiting for life to get back to normal, thinking it is the end of the world.  She would likely have said, that for a large percentage of us, what we have seen till now is really not that bad, and that we need to be strong in order for things to get better.

My mother was a woman of character, intelligence, kindness and love.  Even in her old age, rather than needing our help, if she were around today, she most likely would be looking for people to comfort with words of hope and encouragement. And all of us that knew her, will always miss her.

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Nothing left to say but Thank You..to a whole lot of people

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My Uncle Bram Rodrugues, killed at the age of 18 in Auschwitz in 1943

How do I sum up an incredible trip in which my family and I were presented with the violin of our lost uncle ( https://www.timesofisrael.com/ )    better than saying thank you to everyone around me that helped make it the trip of a lifetime.  So here it goes.

Thank you…

Eli Baran, for not only giving me a place to stay in London but for being a great friend for over 40 years.

Thank you to David, Giel and all the crew of the production company filming the documentary for helping to make this feel like even a bigger deal and for making me feel like a celebrity from the moment I got off the plane in Amsterdam.

Thank you to my cousins Eli, Aanya and Bettie for making this part of your life for a few very special days, and an additional special thank you to Eli and Aanya for their hospitality.

Thank you to Bar, the young Jewish man who gave a special private tour and review of documents from the Spanish Portuguese Syanagogue to me and my sister and her kids.

Thank you to Els, the woman who, 5 minutes after I met her,  showed me around the last neighborhood my mother worked in before fleeing Amsterdam.

Thank you to Rabbi Amiel and Susan Novoseller for coming from Philadelphia just to be at the ceremony. You are true friends.

Thank you to the magic 12 representing the te Kieftes. A special thank you to Harm Kuiper for his help in the process.

Thank you to Nico de Haan, an unsung hero in the entire process.

Thank you to my nephew Jackson for being the artwork hero.

Thank you to Nina Staretz of the Israeli Embassy, David Simon of Friends of Yad Vashem in Holland and Peggy Frankston of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC for not only attending but for sharing their beautiful and meaningful thoughts.

Thank you to Huize Frankendael for hosting a tremendous event in a professional and friendly manner.

Thank you to various friends and family who came from far and wide to witness this special occasion.

Thank you to Jennifer, Ami, Matan, Becca, Jack and Josh for representing the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Mom and Dad, their Oma and Opa (and Uber Opa).

Jantien van de Berg and her family for opening up the home where my mother and Bram grew up to me and my family.

Thank you to all my siblings, blood or otherwise for being on the same page from day one.  I’m proud to be the brother of such good people.

Thank you Wim de Haan. Of all the things you did to make this happen and all you accomplished, I think the one thing that exceeded everything else and what you may be happiest about is that you would have made your father proud.  Your decency and character is not only a tribute to you but a tribute to where you come from.

Thank you Oom Bram.  To relate to this thank you may need to believe in souls and the power they have, potentially forever.  Thank you Oom Bram for being a presence that stayed in our lives even before something so tangible presented itself, and thank you for having such character that your short life ultimately presented an opportunity to see the best that life has to offer.

Thank you Mom…..Just thank you.

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