S he was my ima. No, she did not give birth to me. She gave birth to my wife, but she always treated me and cared for me as a son. So she’s my ima, and she remains my ima looking on from Shamayim.

Mrs. Chaya Friedman grew up in Flatbush, where she became affiliated with JEP (Agudah’s Jewish Education Program) at the young age of 11. She became frum and went on to attend Yeshiva of Kings Bay, Bais Yaakov D’Rav Meir, and BYA. She married my father-in-law in 1986 and they had four beautiful children together. The second one is my wife.

There are no proper words to describe Ima. The only way to get a good picture of who she was would be to meet her in person; after schmoozing with people for only a few short minutes, she already gained admirers and friends, as it was immediately apparent that she was a truly special and unique person.

She was an ima. The word ima connotes someone who lives entirely for others and who, through assistance, encouragement, and nurturing, helps those others become the best they can be. That was Ima!

My wife, through Ima’s encouragement, decided to take a hard and time-consuming path through education to become a physical therapist. (Ima took great pride in her daughter, the doctor, although she will not be present at her graduation.) Ima knew the program would be hard on her newlywed daughter, and promised from the beginning to ease the load and to provide meals for us for the duration of my wife’s schooling. She would cook enough food for an army every Shabbos and we would live off the leftovers for the next while. Whenever we visited during the week, we came home loaded with food. In the rare case that she didn’t have something prepared, she would send my father-in-law to go out and buy for us. Even at the end, when she was weak and frail, those meals kept coming.

And babysitting… She always took our baby when my wife needed to study, do schoolwork, or whenever. She was the only one who could keep my daughter still long enough to read to her and sing with her. Those two shared a truly special and close relationship. Ima would speak about her plans for Shabbosim and playdates with Ita Leah when she would get older. When Ima started feeling sick, she still insisted on keeping up with the babysitting. She would say that Ita Leah was her best medicine. Don’t think that it was easy; Ima was always a stickler for neatness. My daughter is not.

Sometimes, the best way to help someone is through encouragement. Ima was a master at that. When anyone in the family did something positive, they were rewarded with lavish praise. Often, the verbal praise would later be put into writing with one of her famous text messages. We had to scroll through the phone for a long time to get to the end of them. The encouragement helped me, the family, and all who knew her, to perfect themselves and become greater people. One woman told us at the shivah that she saved one of Ima’s voice mails for years, listening to it whenever she needed encouragement. Everyone Ima knew testified to receiving these messages. She was a master of hakaras hatov.

Ima was a heavily involved mother and doled out assistance to her children in all areas of their lives, including education, middos, and avodas Hashem. She knew all of her children’s friends and chavrusas in detail. She made sure her children were all of the proper caliber by keeping in close touch with their rebbeim and teachers. After I got married, she quickly learned the names of my friends and relatives, too. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 665)