The Doctor's Blessings

In loving memory of my mother, Goldstein Fania Futerman (1955 – 2021)


I’m 34 years old.

My mom is 64.

The past 2 Hannuka holidays I’ve been participating in an intensive dance retreat called the Greenhouse.

For the past 2 years my mom has been in a comma.


My mom’s a vegetable.

I’m blooming.


Every birthday until the age of 27 a birth day was a big deal, it still is.

But my 27th birthday was the last one for me to receive my mom’s blessings in written form.


Every birthday my mom would make a birthday card.

She’d use crayons.

Her blessings were simple, no flowery language; except for the flowers she drew to decorate her dry, flat words.


She used precise language, as if it was a template she was copying from – a prescription of love:


(Mom’s handwriting)

Dear Lizochka! (illustration of 3 balloons)

Congratulations on your birth day!!!

Wishing you joy, happiness,

Success in all your endeavors!!!

We love you very much!

Your family!!! (illustration of 3 flowers)


(my handwriting): 29/6/2010


My mother was my first doctor.


She was the one to advocate for my Celiac diagnosis when I was 6 months old[1].


When I had fever she would treat me with storytelling while rubbing my belly with alcohol, and administering fire cups to my naked back.


Some might say she was a witch doctor, a shaman, a medicine woman;

She was all of the above and more.

She was a mother who loved her children and believed in holistic care.


She was a pediatrician who completed her medical degree with honors from a Soviet university in a time when Jews were rarely accepted to Soviet universities.

She had to examine twice before she was accepted to the medical school.


She’d read voraciously.

Drawing from all the healing traditions she could wrap her mastery around, she used guided imagination to treat my nightmares from a very young age.


Last Summer I was thrilled and surprised to be reintroduced to my mother’s medicinal methods at a Butoh master class.

Butoh is a form of Japanese dance theatre that dives into the depth of human consciousness.

Using my mom’s prescriptions and new tools for manoeuvring my consciousness I was able to support and care for myself through several sleep paralysis episodes.


My mom was the first to introduce me to the world of dance.


At the age of 6, in our living room in Beer Sheva, Israel, I was falling asleep in my mother’s lap as she was watching Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake featuring Maya Plisetskaya.


I was half asleep, but I could still hear the music and see the shapes of the dancers shift into swans and back into human dancers.


I believe that during these long moments of wakeful sleep in my mother’s embrace, my brain registered dance as my home, it was an embodied experience of what home feels like, of what safety is, of how magical the world can be if dance, theatre, imagination and loving touch play a dominant role in it. It was then that I knew how I wished to spend the rest of my life. I had it all figured out: I wanted to be a Ballet dancer.


Only it wasn’t accurate.


Little did I know that it was just the beginning of a life-long journey the end of which I can only imagine.


But at that stage in my life it was the real deal: when I grow up, I was going to be a Ballet dancer.


I even dressed up as a Ballet dancer for Purim, but then I was embarrassed for everyone to know about my then secret life aspirations. So, I spread a rumor about myself that in fact I was dressed up as a dancing fairy.


My mom was fully supportive of my then established life goal.


She helped me to apply to Bat Dor: the best (and only) Ballet school in Beer Sheva where I would spend 3 afternoons a week for 3 years of my life, hating most of it, except for the improvisation, performance and music lessons. The rest of the trainings were led by Soviet teachers who would scold me for holding my arms as if I was ‘holding a guitar’ – uttered in front of the entire class, these words imprinted a huge insult to the rapidly forming ego of an aspiring hypersensitive ballet dancer that I was.


Frankly, when looking back on this formative period of my amateur dance career, this episode might have been an early vaccine to the professional ballet world…luckily this incident was not such a huge hit to my ego, as I continued dancing throughout my life, staying away from becoming a professional dancer. My body is my temple, and I will hold it like I was a guitar player if I wish to do so.


Most jokes aside, my mom supported me quitting my not yet achieved career as a Ballet dancer. She knew that I was suffering and was waiting patiently for me to master the courage and let go of my short-lived-life-long-goal.


After this affair, she decided to take a somewhat less patient and more active role in relieving my suffering before it gets too bad. But I felt I needed her to stay patient with me, this way I could continue being my own doctor and administer my own medicine, injecting my own vaccines, through my lived, embodied experience.

At times stubbornly, at others, with a great sense of devotion, I was learning from my own mistakes. I was prescribing myself the blessing of mental health, something my mom did not have in her arsenal of medicines.


At 16 I would rage against my mother for being my doctor: “can’t you simply be my friend? Without trying to fix me?” I’d scream at her, feeling frustrated and misunderstood. I now see that she wasn’t trying to fix me, she did want to help me heal. Something she could not do for herself as the Amyloid plaques were already planting their seeds in her mostly beautiful mind. She wanted to show me a less torturous, less cumbersome way to arrive to inner peace – a battle she has already lost one too many times.


How challenging it must be for a mother, a daughter, a friend to see a loved one struggling through life and just be there, supporting, knowing, or imagining that we know a better way, when in fact, there is no one right way, and if we sober up for a moment, we can remember that we are anything but Gods, and when we believe that we are clairvoyant, we certainly are, except for when we are not, and then we are only human: human doctors, human friends, human mothers and fathers, human daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, human patients, we are oh so very human after (and before) all.


I chose the long way home. A home that is my own. A home whose blessings I carve with the embodied knowledge I wisely and compassionately was able to absorb from my mothers and fathers, my sisters and brothers.


A home that is blessed with health and resilience, faith and inner peace. A home that is blessed with movement and arts, with learning and with honoring one’s mistakes. A home that is devoted to the philosophy that we are our own doctors, our own teachers, our own friends: that we take responsibility for our health – body, mind and soul. A home that is a temple of choice, a home that is always already with me in sorrow and joy, in sickness and health in life and death, until forever.

A home from which I wish not to run from, but rather, to return to in order to heal.

In order to heal better.


A home that I cultivate within me in order to then allow the inner peace to echo from within and ripple until I am my own sonar reaching out to others who have reached home safely and are ready to allow our journey to range from bottom up, be it deep or shallow waters, be the navigation system lost or broken, we can trust the inner compass, we can choose to trust our inner tempo, since we are home, and this is our orchestra that we are playing.


I needed to do my healing on my own. No doctor could do it for me.


I believe that I’m closer to arriving home now than I’ve ever been before.


I’m no professional dancer; but I am a professional healer.

I heal myself and others using movement, storytelling and writing.

I use forgetfulness as my strength.

Forgetting allows me to learn myself and others a new.

Some call it radical discontinuity, or radical acceptance.

It doesn’t feel as comforting or comfortable or safe as the Ballet dancer career seemed to be from my mother’s lap at the age of 6; but it is, so very rewarding.


I kept all the blessings from my mother and those that arrived from my friends in one box, later to become a big white opaque plastic bag.

My mother’s birthday blessings got mixed up with kind words I received for my first wedding – the one she got lost at with her Alzheimer’s blossoming inside her beautiful head, intervening with neurons’ communication schemas. She will be attending my second wedding in her spirit only and I’ll be welcoming her whatever shape she chooses to take, whatever dance her spirit chooses to reveal.


I’m 34 years old.

My mom is 64.


My mom is a vegetable.

I am blooming.


No forecast of Alzheimer’s for me whatsoever.


Peace, Health and Love;                                                                              22-1-2020




Epilogue aka After Life – February 1st 2021


On Saturday, January 9th, 2021, on my way from a performance retreat in the dessert, I received a WhatsApp message from my dad. My dad who never before has communicated with me via WhatsApp messages, my dad who rarely picks up the phone to call me. The message contained 4 words in Russian: “У мамы обнаружили корону.”


My companions to that ride, two talented performers held space for me to land safely in Tel Aviv.


The next morning, another WhatsApp message followed: “У мамы поднялась температура и ее отправили в Сороку.”


On Monday, January 11th 2021, at 9:56 am I got a phone call from my dad, informing me that we are invited to the hospital to say our goodbyes to my mother, my mother whom I haven’t seen or touched for the past 11 months due to COVID-19 restrictions.


I received the phone call after a morning training at the beach.


Since I was told many times before that my mom is going to die, parts in me were in denial or just not willing to accept that this is the last time indeed. I asked my dad if he wanted me there. After a meaningful pause he said he did.


I picked up my gear and started walking towards my car, while making phone calls to check who could give me a ride as I felt inadequate to spend an hour and a half behind a wheel. I felt spasms in my belly and trembling in my shoulders.


I called my friend and asked her to be my grandmother.

--“I’m here my child, what do you need?

--“Clarity. I need someone to give me a ride, who do I call? Ok, I have an idea, bye”


While searching for my car in the parking lot I made a few phone calls including one to a death doula I know and cherish.

My choreography teacher accompanied by her loyal dog, Mocka, came to pick me up from my Thai Massage instructor to whom I paid a visit for a grounding session before our departure on this once in a life time journey.


We arrived at the hospital gates at 5pm after standing in traffic that was caused by yet another lockdown and after making a stop at Pura nature reserve to allow Mocka and us to breath some fresh air before the last visit to a woman who for the past 4 and a half years have become my personal Mecca. Whether I visited her or not, she was always there, waiting…


Thanks to my dad’s thoughtful invitation, I had the chance to meet my mom for one final dance at the Corona ward in Beer Sheva’s local hospital.


A nurse who goes by the name of Elizabeth welcomed me in and dressed me up. I was equipped with the clean room gear that one gets upon an entry to such a place. It took a while until my turn to go in has arrived. I was in by 5:36 pm and I was given 20 minutes to say my final words. She was given none.


I was somewhat baffled with all the time I was given to speak to a woman who does not respond, at least not in a conventional way, what an awkward situation…like seeing an old friend, knowing that this is the last time. This time it had to be the last time. I felt that I couldn’t take another false alarm, it’s been 7 or 8 years since the first time we were told that she was dying, and I was burned out and drained from all the waiting. She was too.


Half jokingly, but mostly out of desperation, when I got the news of her new status, I told a friend that her Alzheimer’s might cure COVID-19 and she will be restored to life as someone who’s been through 2 of the scariest epidemics of the 21st century. My imagination coupled with my strategy-oriented mind started preparing for the possibility that I might have a mother once again…


On the hospital bed, her body looked so different from the last time I saw her, it also felt different. Unlike the nursing home she stayed in, the hospital provided her an oxygen mask. With the air streaming through her nostrils, her body was soft, responsive to touch.


I looked at her face intently and listened carefully in case she was to say something in her mother tongue…in case she has…I wasn’t able to decipher what it was…


I spoke with my body language to communicate with her body, a body that I would never recognize as that of my mother’s. Being fed through a tube inserted into her guts, she gained a tremendous amount of weight over the past 11 months. Still her body was responsive and easy to manoeuvre. I used strategies taken from my Thai Massage training, from mixed-abilities contact improvisation, from shamanism and sacred clown traditions, singing in Russian, Hebrew, English and some nonsensical languages that I invented on the spot. We were in it together. Our sacred bubble held on for 20 full minutes, during which her life line became flat 3 times.


I left the hospital at approximately 6pm.


There was a belief that I was holding on with all my might: my mom is going to die any moment now, we had our last dance, it’s time, it must be, it can’t be any other way.


A grey cat sat on my lap while I waited for my friend, Leo, to pick me up.


I was planning to stay the night at my friends, but something in me signalled to go to my parental home and spend the night there. I didn’t argue with my intuition.


I woke up at 4:40 am to receive another WhatsApp message from my dad, though he was in an adjacent room he chose not to approach me, the message read: “Фаина покинула нас сегодня 0.10.”


My mom passed away on January 12th 2021 at 10 minutes past midnight. 6 hours and 10 minutes after our last dance. She caught COVID-19 from one of the caregivers at the nursing home she was hospitalized in for the past 4 and a half years.


I’m grateful that she died when she did. The gratitude does not minimize the amount of pain, sadness or suffering, it does, however, land meaning to life after death.


If anything, grieving my mom’s dying has been the most significant journey I’ve embarked on.


Today it’s the 20th day since my mom’s passing. Last night she appeared in my dreams for the first time since I saw her in person in the hospital bed.


To me, my mother feels like a free spirit who comes to visit me when she feels like it. It’s always a blessing to be visited by her.


While alive, she kept all my drawings in one of her drawers.

I kept all of her blessings.

Recently I found some blessings from my 15th and my16th birthdays and one from 2004.


Here I choose to translate the one from 2004. This one didn’t include any drawings, yet the colors and words are used with great precision and care:


(Mom’s handwriting):

We congratulate Lizochka

on her birth day





Resilience and

Equanimity --

Always and in everything

Wishing you    Mama


Grandma and



(my handwriting on the back): 29/6/2004

[1] For further reading please refer to “Of Parsnips and Mother Tongues” by Liza Futerman in University of Toronto Journal of Jewish Thought, Volume 1, no. 5 (2015). pp. 75-79. At the age of 31 I ran some more tests for Celiac disease to discover that I was no longer suffering from gluten intolerance but this is for another story.



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liza futerman

Liza Futerman

My lifelong goal is to spread awareness about the intricacies of our nervous systems, emphasizing the importance of tuning into our bodies as a pathway to enhancing resilience both on an individual level and within our communities.

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