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Gail's Story



"A Life Force"



My mother Helen’s Hebrew name, Chaya means life. And if ever a name fit a person, this one did her. I know she is my mom and I am prejudiced but I never met anyone who didn’t have the same opinion of her.  Her passion for life, for giving to others, was so without limits. She was pure love, joy, grace and strength.  So many times, she defied the odds. When she was written off, not only did she come back but did so with even more determination.


I don’t know any mother who loved a child, a daughter, as much as she loved me. I was named after her mother and she always told me I looked just like her. She loved me as daughter and mother. She had no pictures of her mother, or her family for that matter because of the War which not only took those, but her entire family. So she, my dad and I were the family. To say we were close doesn’t scratch the surface. To say we were best friends, only hints at our relationship. I was the luckiest person alive to have such a mom and friend.


As much as I depended on her my whole life, I think she used me as her reason to live. This was certainly true when having risky surgeries and mostly when my dad died. At his funeral she broke her hip and while she made it through, she was mostly confined to a wheelchair. For anyone, this would have been devastating, but my mom was so active—never sitting still for a moment and always the one tending to what needed to be done. Despite open heart surgery, and then Parkinson’s she worked until she was almost 80. The broken hip and death of my father seemed too much to bear. She could have given up. She could have joined him. But she kept going for me.   


We went through so many changes. I assumed the role taking care of things and enlisted caregivers so I could go to work. After what seemed like endless people coming and going amid all the other changes that were invasive and disruptive, I found some remarkable helpers who helped heal both of us.  And then some of the laughter returned. Not only did she smile and laugh but she made those caring for her do the same. We sang together, we joked, and she advised. Her advice was the best and most perceptive. Without credentials she surpassed all professionals. Even though her body was giving out, she still did all she could as a mother and friend. My mom still mended and hemmed things for me. She helped in preparing meals I can still taste. Her hands were a living and loving testament to her life’s toil, hardship and her strength and grace, even with all her frailties.


I was honored to in a small way return some of the care she gave to me. I got the better deal even then. She made me smile at the end of the day. She made me feel good. She filled me with renewed energy and purpose. She never asked me for anything. She only gave, gave and gave some more.


 The term caregiver to me has transformed because of my parents. I really never saw it as a burden or an obligation. It was just a natural extension of what family or what people who love one another can do. What can you give someone who has given everything to you at this time?  You give your time, your love and you get so much more. The knowledge that they feel safe, that they can have some peace of mind is as they say priceless. But I genuinely feel as I said, that I received so much more. I learned a lot about myself and I learned how my parents at least dealt with the knowledge of pending death. For my dad, it was clearer because he had non-smoking lung cancer and the timetable was set a bit more. For my mom as for many of us, it is not. You watch your body betray you and you still want to be there for those you love and who need you. Yet, you cannot. That was not just a lesson for them but for me too. My rocks, my core would not always be there for me. I am fortunate that I had the chance to work it through with them and for us to say in words and acts what needed to be said.


I am heartbroken to have lost both my parents, especially my mom. Because my mom died after my father and because of our special bond, the end of life as I knew it was more final for me. Still I know she hung on as long as she could and then some. She made her passing easier for me and I know she remains the life force within me. I hope the good that she was can find its way into my life and heart always. Anything I am that is good comes from her and I know both my parents want me to live my life fully. Maybe that is the lesson still to be learned from my caregiving—living with the same passion and humanity Chaya did.


To contact Gail:

Send email to and be sure to put 'Gail Satler' in subject text.


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