Archives for category: Reflections

girls-team-tikvah-2016

Dear Dad,

Yesterday, the girls and I participated in our second Out of the Darkness Walk in Denver. It was a little bit easier than last year’s walk. We had a beautiful day, the air was crisp and the sun was shining. It was certainly better than the gray, cold and dismal weather that we encountered on our first walk. It seems only fair that a walk to prevent suicide, a walk to shed light on a topic so often cloaked in darkness, should be met with warm sunshine and the gentle touch of Mother Nature.

Team Tikvah (Hebrew for Hope) raised over $6,000.00 this year. And since we lost you, including last year’s walk, we have raised over $11,000.00 for The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Yes dad, we’ve taken our sorrow as well as our story, and tried to build for you a legacy of hope and of life.

I must admit that it is always the Memory Tree area that tears away at every scab I’ve managed to build up in these last 17 months. Trees are such an enduring symbol of life. They encapsulate the very things that root us, that strengthen us, that allow us to branch out & grow. They endure the harshest of winters, only to once again blossom in the springtime.

But this tree is different. The branches are filled with pictures of all of the precious lives lost to despair & hopelessness. The leaves hold beautiful smiling faces, comprised of all age groups, races and cultures. And on the back of each leaf there is a name, a story, a message of love, a remembrance. It feels both sad and sacred to stand there, to bear witness to the human cost of suicide. And each time that I place your smiling face on that tree, the sorrow that I have learned to live with, rises up like a tsunami and breaks my heart all over again.

But the beauty of the walk is that I cannot stand and remain in that place for too long. None of us can. Slowly, I step away with tear filled eyes and I join in this family of strangers, survivors of suicide loss or suicide attempts, and I am reminded that I am not alone on this journey. The tears that are shed, the stories that are told, resonate for all of us. And because ours is a loss that is often pushed to the periphery lest it make others uncomfortable, we garner strength in the chance to stand front and center with our pain & our purpose. I look around me at the Out of the Darkness Walk and I know that my own efforts to stop suicide are part of something much bigger and more powerful. And that gives me the strength and resolve to keep on fighting.

Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”  Standing on the podium yesterday and gazing out, I was reminded of that truth.

Yes, our stories and loved ones fill that memory tree and it is easy to simply get lost in the despair. But instead, we dig down to our very roots, and like the trunk of a tree we straighten our backs and strengthen our stance. And with every step we take on that walk, each lap around the stadium, we reach out our hands like branches, we take hold of one another, of our losses, and we carry them beyond ourselves. We carry them into our communities, our houses of worship, our government and our schools. And we imbue our memories and our mourning with a deeper mission. We, the survivors, are like the tree that has faced winter’s cruelest storm, but we will not simply wither away.

Dad, I hate to put your picture on that memory tree. That picture, my favorite one of you, draws such a stark contrast between your greatest moments of joy and the darkness that ultimately consumed you. The memory tree is full of those contrasts, beautiful smiling faces whose lives ended in pain & despair. And I suppose that same contrast is present for those of us there to walk in loving memory of each smiling face. We remember and we smile. We remember and we cry. We learn to live with unimaginable pain and we find a way to engage with life again. Tears stream down our face until a smile emerges once again. We feel alone in our loss, but we look around and we are reminded of the community that carries us forward. Our steps are sometimes heavy with the weight of what suicide has taken from us and they are strengthened with the determination to make it matter. That memory tree area symbolizes loss, love and life. And for me, so does the walk itself. I face your loss, I remember & reflect upon the love and with each step that I take, I try to build for you and for me, a legacy that blossoms with life and hope.

dad-memory-tree-2016He who plants a tree, plants hope. (Lucy Larcom, Plant a Tree)

 

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One of the hardest parts of losing my dad to suicide is how the trauma has impacted my ability to remember him. I look at pictures or videos, or I simply reflect upon a memory of the past and within moments images & thoughts of how my father died come racing into my mind. My therapist assures me that this is normal, that one day the walls of trauma will recede and allow me to remember my father in life without always having those memories tainted by his death.

I tell my husband that trying to remember my dad, feels like looking through a kaleidoscope. I can see fragments, but no matter how I turn the lens, I can’t access one whole, pure, loving memory. And that feels like another layer of loss.

And yet, the one way that I feel like I can remember my dad, free of the trauma and the pain, is through food. It’s not surprising for those who know me. I am more than an avid foodie, with a passion for cooking. For me, food is the truest & most authentic expression of love. It nurtures, it heals, it awakens the senses, it brings pleasure, it eases sorrow, it is comfort, tradition & family. For me, food is memories. It’s intimately connected to the moments we share with those who matter most to us. It’s the one place I can find my father in a way that feels pure and whole.

It’s ironic of course, that my dad and I had very little in common when it came to food in our adult years. I’m a vegetarian. He was far from it. I cook & eat mostly vegan, and my father, while always a good sport when staying in my home, needed the occasional restaurant fix of meat or chicken to sustain him through the visit. I am all about organic foods, locally, sustainably & ethically sourced wherever and whenever possible. Processed foods don’t get much play in my house and every label of every box and bag has been read. My dad? He just wanted the foods that tasted good, that were familiar to him, the flavors that he knew. It was a source of pride for me each time I fed him a homemade meal and won him over, even getting him to like brussel sprouts at the age of 70. Though he only liked them, the way that I prepared them. That thought still makes me smile.

As a kid, I have certain food memories of my dad. I remember going to the diner and being introduced to one of his favorite desserts, waffles with vanilla ice cream. I remember family outings on summer evenings to get ice cream & thick-shakes at Carvel. I remember how much he loved noshing on pretzels and the holidays when he carved the roast chicken or turkey that my mother had prepared. I remember his love of pastrami, or salami & eggs at Wolfie’s Deli. I remember when he stood up for me and my brother when my mom tried to get us to eat liver, remembering his own unpleasant childhood memories at having been forced to do the same. And who could forget the New York City hotdogs he would buy for me when I would go into Manhattan with him? And there are more….

Then there is the memory of the Entenmann’s NY Style Crumb Cake that would often be in our house when I was a kid. That familiar white box with the blue writing and the many mornings that my father would carve out a piece of cake and have it for breakfast along with his coffee (before cholesterol became a concern). That’s one of the memories that comes to mind most often. I don’t know why, it just does.

Entenmann's

So today, after another hard night touched by the images of my father’s death, and on the heels of a day that seemed to be weighed down by unknowable triggers, I decided to honor that memory the best way that I know how. I turned on the stereo and piped my father’s first cousin and one of his favorite artists, Barbra Streisand, through the house. Setting the music to shuffle, it took my breath away when the very first song that came on was “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark
Walk on, through the wind
Walk on, through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

And in that moment I let myself believe that my dad was talking to me. He chose that song, as has happened before, to remind me that even when it’s hard to find him, he is with me. And seeing my swollen puffy eyes, and my broken spirit, my dad wanted me to know that it won’t always hurt this way, that golden sky will follow the storm. And never, ever, am I alone.

With that, I turned on the oven and took out my best ingredients, setting about to make my own New York Style Crumb Cake, just like that Entenmann’s cake he used to love, only better because mine would be made from scratch. I didn’t go vegan, I wanted to make it the old-fashioned way, though every ingredient reflected the values that I bring to my cooking and baking. And while Barbra played on in the background, with flour, butter, sugar, eggs and spices, I took a memory and brought it to life in my kitchen. And as the cake was baking, a delicious scent filled my house. I couldn’t help but hope that my dad might be able to breathe it in somewhere. And that he remembers those same breakfasts that we shared at the kitchen table and the myriad of other food memories that we shared.

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Later on today, I’ll pour myself a cup of instant coffee, because that’s what my dad used to drink. Mine won’t have Splenda or Half-n-Half, but some organic cane sugar and almond milk instead (hope you don’t mind Dad). And with the music continuing to play, I’ll have a slice of crumb cake and I’ll savor the memories that food allows me to find with my father, unspoiled by trauma & pain. And I will let that touch of sweetness nourish my spirit and bring me some comfort. Because food is memories and food is love.

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This one is for you Dad.

I adapted this recipe from Fine Cooking to make today’s food memory.

Dear Dad,

Tomorrow will mark eleven months since you left us. And soon, it will be a year.  How can that possibly be? Some days it feels as if I’ve lived a lifetime without you, and others it is as if it just happened yesterday.

Eleven months ago, if I knew then, what I know now, there is so much that I would say to you Dad. And there are things I would say and do differently.

I would ask you to stay. In fact, I would beg you.  I am not above saying that.

I would not offer you platitudes or promise it would all get better. I never did. But I would remind you as often as I could that in all of your brokenness, just as you were, you were loved. Never again would I say that perhaps you could “fake it until you feel it.” Because I know now that faking it took far too much strength and energy. I would tell you that loving you through the hard times was not a burden. That none of us would feel better off without you.

I would ask you to give the therapist & the medication time. And just as I did then, I would temper your expectation that one day you would simply wake up and feel all better. You were so desperate not to hurt anymore and you gave that tiny pill far too much power. And when it failed to act as quickly as you had hoped, you slipped further away from us. Only we didn’t know it.

I would ask you to be honest with us. You showed us pieces of your pain. But you did not show us all of it. Maybe you yourself didn’t recognize the depths of your suffering. Maybe you felt further weakened and embarrassed, ashamed of the notion that you might consider ending your own life. So you pushed those thoughts down into that dark hole that had opened up inside of you.  Oh how I wish you had said it Dad.  Remember how I told you that to make therapy work, you would have to be willing to peel back all of the layers? It would be hard, it could be painful, but it could bring you to a place of understanding yourself and your pain. And from that place of understanding, healing would be possible. But instead you compartmentalized, you rationalized and you masked the truth. Why didn’t you tell someone, anyone that death was beckoning to you, promising you an end to the suffering? Why did you only drop hints that we were unprepared to recognize then? If you had just spoken the words, you might still be here with us now.

Dad, I would tell you that we needed you. And I would remind you of all the goodness, the joy, the celebrations that were yet to come. I’d ask you to look into the faces of your grandchildren and see all of the beautiful possibilities that lie ahead. Imagine their graduations, bat mitzvahs, and weddings. Imagine sitting with mom, dancing in joy and relishing the growing beauty of the family that you created together. Then I would ask you to see the void that would be present if you were not there. I would ask you to look at the tears, the palpable sense of missing that we would all feel with your absence.

family bat mitzvah

The family that love built

If I had a clue that you were considering suicide, I would have been on the first flight and as a family; we would have gotten you even more help. We would have come up with a plan that met you in crisis and carried you through. Why didn’t you give us that chance Dad?

If I had a chance to say anything to you Dad, I would tell you over and over again that I loved you, that I needed you in my life, that you leaving would be devastating.

I don’t know if any of it would have made a difference Dad. But I am left with so many words unspoken. There was no final goodbye. I didn’t get to hold your hand, embrace you and kiss you one last time.  I would tell you that not getting to do that would forever hurt and haunt me. It feels like you simply disappeared.

Dad, I know that you were suffering. But if you were here now, I would acknowledge it with an even greater understanding. Hindsight offers me an insight that I didn’t fully have a year ago. Your pain was so very real. You hurt all over. I would tell you that it’s okay to let all of that pain show. I would ask you to shed the layers of stigma, the shame, the fear that you would be perceived as weak, frail & somehow less of a man. Those layers only weighed you down, causing you to sink even further. And when you asked if you would ever return to your old self, I would say instead that the goal of each day should be to meet the pain, to share it, to work through it and to strive instead toward healing bit by bit. Because returning to your old self, that may have been far too lofty a goal. Perhaps you didn’t have the strength to reach toward a finish line that was so far off. But small markers, milestones that were within reach, maybe that would have been possible.

I wish I could go back. I wish you were here. I wish I could say all of these things to you Dad. I wish I knew then, what I know now. Eleven months ago you took your life. And all that I want to share with you now; I must sit at your graveside to say. But I say it anyway. I love you. I miss you. I wish you could have stayed. We are not better off without you.  We wanted you here.

dad's headstone

My father’s footstone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This reflection was also featured on The Mighty. To read more posts like this, click on The Mighty’s Stories about Suicide

Writing is the painting of the voice. (Voltaire)

It is Friday night, and the whirlwind of these last days have died down for now.

I don’t know what I said in that letter Dad to have been the recipient of this outpouring of compassion. I don’t know what I said that took this letter on such a journey out into the world of social media. But it has in fact gone viral.

Here is the truth as I know it Dad. Those beautiful strangers who stood with me on that horrible morning, they are the true authors of this story. They wrote it in deed, I simply gave it wings and words.

Here is the other truth I know. I would have given anything in the world never to have had reason to write that letter in the first place.

I miss you so much Dad. It has been hard revisiting that moment that I learned you were gone, over & over again these last few days. I’ve faced a lot of hard moments, but none like that one.

Dad, I only hope that given this opportunity to share this letter, that I have helped to humanize the issue of suicide loss. I hope that every time people look at that beautiful smile of yours, that they understand that you had a life full of much joy. I hope they see their own family photo in that precious moment we shared on the dance floor three years ago. It is my favorite picture of us. I hope that helps them to understand that we were just a normal family. We loved, we laughed, we fought, we made up, we celebrated, we mourned and we cherished one another. And even with all of that, we lost you to suicide.

I think I’m probably babbling by now Dad. But here is the thing, I just want to pick up the phone and tell you all about what has been happening, all of the good that I am trying to do, the compassionate words that have been shared, the brave truths of my fellow survivors. I want to tell you all of it, because it was you who loved my writing most. But you are not here and that void feels so very palpable tonight.

I hope you see it all Dad. I hope you know what I am trying to do in your memory. I miss your voice. I miss being able to pick up the phone and talk to you. I miss you just being on this earth with me.

Thank you for every kind angel you have placed in my path these past few days. I’d like to believe it is your love reflected back to me in their words.

I can’t type anymore.The tears won’t stop. So I am going to go miss you and cry, like I sometimes need to do. Like I need to do now.

D

essay-writing

birthday candles

Dear 46,
It’s our last day together. I think it’s fair to say that you truly kicked my ass. I do feel older, silver strands fill my head, my wrinkles are more evident and I’m tired. Yes, you’ll go down as the year that most challenged me, wounded me and fractured my spirit. No, you didn’t introduce those things to me, but surely you made them larger than life.

But you didn’t break me. No! Every day I journey on, through loss, trauma and grief. One step, one minute, one breath at a time. You’ve revealed the depths of my own strength and resilience to me. I can’t always access it but I know it’s there. You’ve continued to bring love and friendship into my world so I never walked through the valley of shadows alone. You’ve heightened my sense of goodness, compassion and empathy. And though you clouded my sense of hope & joy with a thick coating of dust, dulled & tarnished, they still manage to find moments to shine through.

Yes, 46… on this, our last day together I can honestly say you dropped me to my knees, sucker punched me and brought me to depths of despair I’d never known. But, you didn’t break me. I’ll cherish the good you gave me, and there was good… and I’ll bear the scars you’ve left me…and tomorrow, when 47 arrives, I’ll miss the sound of my father’s voice wishing me a happy birthday. But I will celebrate, even through tears, with the bitter and the sweet. Because I am here, because I’m surviving and because I choose to turn towards life day by precious day. You battered and bruised me, but 46… you didn’t beat me.

So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love. (E.A. Bucchianeri)

tear

Dear Grief,

As 2016 approaches, it is hard not to reflect upon this eight months we have spent together. You, my constant companion since my father’s suicide. Some days you lay dormant, content to give me room to breathe, to laugh, to celebrate and to be reminded of my capacity to live, truly live. Other days, you are feisty and disruptive, unwilling to be ignored or pushed aside. You demand that I tend to you, turn to you, pay attention to you and feel you in all of your fury, in all of your sadness. If I were to choose, surely I would choose the former version of you, but it seems that you are the narrator of our story, it is you who often sets the scene, the tone of our days.

Grief, at times I am reminded of what you have cost me. The person that I was before you came crashing into my world, I don’t recognize her anymore. Yes eight months later, I get periodic glimpses of my former self, reminders that the best parts of me still remain, hidden among the wreckage. I still have the ability to love fully and wholly. I still remain a person of compassion & kindness. In truth Grief, those parts of me are perhaps even more heightened than they were before. I know suffering. I know hurt. I know sadness. I know helplessness. I know you Grief. And through my knowing, I feel a kinship to those around me who have come to know all of these things too. Perhaps that is the light that seeps through the broken parts of me, shining through the cracks, warming my wounded soul. Perhaps that is what you have given me.

And then there are the friends, not all to be sure, but some. Those who have quietly drifted away. I understand it, I do. Traveling through each day with you is hard enough for me. So it makes sense that for some, sharing in this journey, day in and day out, would simply prove to be too much. How strange it must be to look at me, looking the same on the outside as I did before; and yet to continuously meet this whole other person. It is almost like watching a friend become a stranger. At least that is what I imagine it is like. It makes sense to push for the old me to return, to move on, to simply get over this traumatic loss. If I could snap my fingers and make it so, I would. But I can’t. Life goes on; shiva ends, shloshim ends, and slowly but surely, the texts, the check ins, the words of support lessen and so begins the divide. Not simply with the me I was before, but the friend I was.. the friends I had. I’m not angry. It’s no one’s fault. But it does make me sad. Because loss seems at times to unwittingly open the door for more loss, goodbyes of one kind, lead to goodbyes of another. That is what you do at times Grief. It is the cost of knowing you so intimately.

And yet as the ground shifted beneath my feet, the tsunami of my father’s death so closely followed by a move across the country, something deeply beautiful happened. In this new place, in this new home, in this community of strangers, I found acceptance. I encountered new friends willing to step into the muck & mud, the messiness that you Grief brought into my life. With open arms and hearts full of compassion, they embraced me in all of my brokenness and have accompanied me on this long, arduous, complex journey of loss and healing. They met me where I was at, when you brought me to my knees, and they have loved me, nurtured me and allowed me to trust in them. And even more, there are those who once were on the periphery of my world, perhaps living in the same place, but traveling in different circles, or strangers whom I had never met at all. And through this place we call social media, our lives began to intersect in a more intimate and personal way. Friendships were forged across computer screens, strengthened by common experiences, loss and struggles. My pain, honesty and compassion touching them. Their pain, honesty and compassion touching me in return. That is a lesson you have taught me Grief, to use my suffering, my pain, as a bridge. And I am grateful to the friends of old who have walked across it, and the new friends who bravely stepped onto it.

Oh Grief. If I could wake up tomorrow and outrun you, I think that I would. But I know that instead, I will have to walk with you for some time to come. In truth, I believe that you will always be a part of me, etched into my heart, imprinted upon my soul. But in time I know you will fade into the background, that each step that I take will not share a footprint with you. In time it will happen.

You have made me a different person Grief. I am a different wife, a different mother, a different daughter & a different friend. There are many days that I lament that fact. I don’t want my children to look back and say that their grandpa died and took the best of their mother with him. But I do hope that they have gained a better understanding of what it is to love and to lose. I hope Grief that I’ve taught them not to fear you or run from you, but instead to feel you, to honor you and to journey with you towards healing and wholeness. I hope that my husband won’t tire of carrying me when you leave me feeling weak, or picking me up, when you cause me to crumble. I hope he’ll keep reaching for my hand, pulling me ever upward, walking every step forward and backward with me. I hope that in the end, who we are as a couple will be strengthened by the time that we shared in your presence.

Grief, you took so much from me. Soon the ball will drop and the year of 2015 will draw to an end. The very last year that I shared with my father in life will be a thing of the past. Yes part of me wants to wish that year away and never look back at all that you cost me, all that I’ve lost. But to do that would be to lose sight of the gifts that you have given me as well.

And so I approach this New Year with ambivalence. The bitter and the sweet converge. I do not have resolutions to offer, only prayers. Ironic since it seems that you Grief have made even that hard to grasp on to, at a time when I need it the most. And yet…

In this new year, I pray for continued healing so that I can look backward with fondness and forward with hope. I pray that some of the pain will be left behind, making more room for joy and laughter. I pray that the love that I lost will remind me to savor & cherish the love that still remains and the new love that I have found. I pray that I will come to remember my father in life and images of his death will no longer haunt me. I pray for his peace, as well as my own. And I pray that I can learn from the time that I have spent with you Grief. You have taught me some of the hardest and most painful lessons a human being can learn. I didn’t ask for them. I didn’t want them. But you offered them nonetheless. I pray that I can carry them with me, in this new version of self that I must now create. Grief you have both shattered and shaped me. You have weakened and empowered me. You change, as I change. We are bound together not only by death and loss, but a greater and deeper appreciation for life. You giveth and you taketh away. You are the reminder & the price that I pay for having loved & been loved. How can I possibly wish all of that away?

shamash

In a place where there are no humans One must strive to be human (Hillel the Elder)

It is the holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. It has been our family tradition these past few years, to perform eight mitzvot (moral deeds) over the course of the holiday, one for each light & night of Hanukkah. Our hope is that with each deed, each act of kindness that we perform, we can help to bring light and warmth into the world; at least our own little corner of it.

Last night, homemade cookies in hand, we headed to our synagogue, Congregation Har Hashem in Boulder, Colorado. On a cold and windy Tuesday night, we were housing and feeding members of our homeless community in partnership with BOHO ( Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow). We laid out the blankets that our guests would sleep on for the night. One blanket that served as their bed on the hardwood floors. We greeted them, served them food and rotated around the room offering desserts. We had the opportunity to talk to some of our guests, others were tired, cold and hungry and simply wanted to eat and close their eyes for some rest.

As we drove home, our daughters, ages 17, 16 and 13, reflected on the evening. The experience granted them perspective on their own lives, but more than that it allowed them to challenge the stereotypes so many of us have about the homeless. They reflected on the warmth, the gratitude, the eloquence and even the sense of hope that they encountered with so many of the people they served. They noted the smiles that met their own & reflected on the diversity of our guests. They were young, they were old. They were disabled and able-bodied. They were quiet and they were outgoing. They were single and they were couples.

It isn’t the first time we’ve given our daughters the chance to participate in a volunteer project that serves the needs of others. We’ve done it many times. It’s an important value for us. But yesterday evening, I believe, gave them the greatest opportunity to see, really see, the human beings who are without homes, not simply “the homeless.” They were moved by the people that they met.And each of them agreed that they very much wanted to participate in BOHO again.

This weekend, at the culmination of Hanukkah, we will head into Boulder with bags that we put together on the second night of the holiday; bags full of water, hand warmers, snacks and notes of kindness. We will personally hand them out to our homeless neighbors, those we so regularly encounter on the streets of this college town. We will keep the rest on hand in our cars, to ensure that whenever we pass another human being who is hungry and in need, we can give them a little something to quench their thirst, fill their bellies and show them that we care, that we see them and that they matter. We will also volunteer some of our time with Community Food Share. We won’t avert our eyes to the strangers in our midst. We can, in whatever capacity that we are able, reach out and act with compassion, faith and humanity. That is what we want to teach our daughters. That is the ultimate lesson we hope that they will carry through life.

So, what does all of this have to do with Donald Trump? I’ll tell you. It’s quite simple you see. Donald Trump offers sweeping, hateful, fear filled generalizations of people. He labels, he demonizes and he feeds on the worst notions that we have of the stranger. It’s hard to out shout him and we certainly can’t out spend him or find for ourselves the same type of bully pulpit from which he espouses his views.

But here is what we can do. We can give our children and ourselves the opportunity to have encounters with those who are different. We can engage in dialog with those whose socioeconomic, race, religious or even political views, are outside of the daily realm of our own lives. We can look them in the eye. We can introduce ourselves and we can talk to them. We can offer a smile or a kind gesture. We can, in short, begin to recognize the humanity behind the label or the circumstance. This is what happened for our daughters last night. This is what we hope will continue to happen each time we act upon the teachings of our Jewish faith.

Rabbi Tarfon taught: “It is not your responsibility to finish the task [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either” Pirkei Avot

I know, our food bags and our time serving others isn’t a global movement, nor does it address the overwhelming and very real challenges we face as a nation and as a people. But it does teach our children, our three precious daughters, to open their eyes wider. It teaches them to meet the stranger with compassion and to refrain from easy judgments and stereotypes. It teaches them humanity and compassion for others. It teaches them to answer hate with love, bigotry with acceptance, apathy with action and cruelty with kindness. And, we hope, it helps to protect them from getting swept up in demagoguery that categorizes anybody else as simply an “other” or an entire group of people as evil or villainous. It is our own family’s answer to the dehumanization of another human being based on race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic standing or other differences. Answer with humanity. Answer strongly and with your whole self. Answer wherever & whenever you can. And where there is darkness, seek always to be a source of light.

The Shamash is the candle that lights the others. Be a Shamash (Rabbi David Wolpe)

mom and dad wedding

Tomorrow.

Fifty years of marriage

It is referred to as The Golden Anniversary.

But my father isn’t here…

Still, his death & his absence does not, cannot tarnish what he and my mother built together.

They were best friends. Children really, when they first met. They grew up together. They started a family. They built a home. They built a life.

It wasn’t always easy. And no, it wasn’t perfect. Nothing worth having is. They always taught me that marriage is work. It takes two imperfect people striving to build a foundation of trust, acceptance, respect and unconditional love. And when that foundation is strong, the hardest of times become somehow more bearable and the best of times, so much more meaningful. But the foundation must always be tended to. That is the work. The labor of love.

I always knew my parents loved one another. They said it. They showed it. They were demonstrative in their affection towards one another. They held hands and they kissed. Yes, they kissed in front of their children…

Ani l’dodi v’dodi li I am my beloved & my beloved is mine.

Fifty years of marriage. It was supposed to be celebrated as a couple. The toast to be shared wishing for “many, many more anniversaries to come.” It was supposed to be a day of great joy. But alas, life did not honor what was supposed to be.

Gold should shimmer, it should sparkle, it should glisten. It reflects light and life.

Without my father it does not shine so brightly. It is muted by his loss, by his absence.

But still, we must honor this milestone. We honor it for my mother, and in loving memory of my father.

Fifty years is quite an achievement.

My mother & father on the day my mom turned Sweet 16.

My mother & father on the day my mom turned Sweet 16.

Together these two kids who met in Brooklyn 55 years ago-built something so very beautiful.

June 13, 1965 was the beginning of their journey as husband & wife. And from that day, and that commitment, came a family. Two children and six grandchildren. That is the legacy of their love story.

So, we celebrate that. We celebrate the family that love built and the love story that started it all. And we mourn the husband, father & grandfather who is not with us on this day! But never will we allow his death to diminish all that he and my mother shared, all that they were to each other, all that they had been through, all that they had experienced in good times & bad, & all of the love that filled their days.

Mommy~
This is for you…

“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet)I want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)”
― E.E. Cummings

greene party1652

This post was originally posted to my Facebook page on 5/29/15.

Dear Dad,
It’s Shabbat. Soon we will light the candles. I cooked today, sweet & sour lentils. I even made a banana bread. I haven’t found the joy in cooking again. But I am doing a little more of it. Feeling good at least to be feeding my family good food, healthy food, food that nurtures their bodies. Cooking & baking truly fed my soul before that phone call, before you took your life, before we buried you. I know that feeling will come back, but for now-no photos of my food, no recipes shared on social media, nope, I’m not there yet. I miss you dad. The words to Mourner’s Kaddish do not come easily. Simply uttering them makes the loss seem somehow so much more real & palpable. You were never really a religious man dad. I wonder if you had been, if it might’ve been easier for you to have “faith” that things would get better. It’s another one of those questions dad, the kind you’ll never answer, the kind I’ll never really get to ask. There are so many of those damn questions. Where are you dad? That’s another one–why can’t you come and visit me in a dream? Whisper to me in the wind and tell me you’re okay? I always wonder that dad-Are you okay? It’s Shabbat. We kindle the lights, we bless the wine & the challah. We welcome the Sabbath Bride into our midst. We wish for shalom, peace, on Shabbat. I haven’t found it yet Daddy. But I’m trying… I love you. And I miss you more than words can say.
Love,
Deborah

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