Monday, June 30, 2014

Hope turned upside down and back again

The time is late, and I should be heading to bed, but my heart and head are in no place to sleep.  Time has become of little meaning.
Tonight we all heard the most painful news of all--that the three boys who we have been praying for, hoping for, singing for, doing extra good deeds for--those boys were found dead, murdered in cold blood by evil terrorists.  Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar, and Naftali Frenkel.    Names that will forever reverberate with a gut-wrenching sadness, with a hope that was turned upside down.
This story is one of pain.  A deep pain. One that cuts to the very fiber of one's being.  Pain for the boys who had to live through a horribly frightening act of evil, pain for the families who lost their beloved sons, and pain for the entire nation of Israel, who lost their brothers.  This is a nation in mourning.

And yet.  I was listening to the news tonight. They were reporting from Kfar Etzion, the settlement where 2 of the boys went to high school.  The very place where my husband and I got married.  And not very far at all from the place where the boys were kidnapped from.  The reporter mentioned how the high school sent out an email to the families about the news, and said their doors were open tonight for students to gather together in prayer, in mourning, and to speak with psychologists.  In the background, sounds could be heard from a wedding that was taking place just a few minutes away, in the stunning tent that housed my husband and I when we got married.  The surrealism of it all--the guy getting married was a graduate of that high school, and the Rabbi officiating was the head of the high school.  But what the reporter continued to describe was the fact that while word got out about the painful news, it was all done in hushed tones...the bride and groom had no idea. Three hours into the wedding, and the chatan and kallah still didnt know! Can you imagine?  מי כעמך ישראל??!!  People in so much pain, hiding the pain to be able to dance and rejoice at a wedding--hiding the news, so they wouldnt, G-d forbid, lessen the joy of a bride and groom!! Such strength.  Such beauty.

This story is one of pain.  But it is also a story of strength.  Incredible strength shown by the mothers over the last 2 weeks, strength in our holy soldiers who were working tirelessly day and night to find our boys, strength in a nation that desires happiness and peace, and who will not let terrorism win.

It is also a story of hope.  Hope that was turned upside down with the finding of the dead boys, but hope that is still whispered and sung about, in a deep yearning for all to be right again.  The hope that our nation is built on.  לא אבדה תקוותינו After all these years, we are still a nation of hope. Of belief. Belief that somehow, in the end, goodness and light will prevail.  The thousands of acts of kindness, the unity displayed, the prayers breaking down heavens doors, the candles lit--this is proof of that goodness.
We will continue to live, to dance, to sing, to join hands together and break down walls, and to believe and hope for a better day..
May their memories be a blessing.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mighty Like a Rose

Savta, I sit here staring into the candle that I just lit for your yahrtzheit.  I cannot believe a full year has gone by since you left the world.  I'm sitting, cuddling your great granddaughter, Ayala Ta'ir, for whom you are named.  Ayala, the hebrew for your yiddish name Hinda.  
Her eyes sparkle, she gives me huge smiles, and she laughs, enjoying our playtime together.
5 months old, and what a beautiful personality. Some might call it luck, to be blessed with such a wonderful little babe, but I know the truth.  By naming her for you, we are blessing her with your spirit. Your amazing, positive, optimistic, loving spirit. 
There is so much to tell you - so much has happened, so much that I wish we could be sharing together. You would love to see me as a mom- you would be so proud, tell me in your loving voice how you now love each great-grandchild more than the other.  Always so much love to go around.
Being a mom is tough stuff; I find myself in the hardest moments, thinking "oh, the joys of motherhood."  If you could maintain such a positive attitude in your later years, with your memory getting worse by the year, and your eyesight and hearing starting to go--and still say with a song, "oh, the joys of getting older" as you did a dance sitting down--then I can as well.  
You took what G-d gave you and blessed Him for allowing you to live, each and every day.  When we would ask you how you were , and sometimes even after hospital stays, you would respond with "B"h! I'm alive and I know it!"  You were a widow for 21 years, yet you didnt let that bring you down. Your apartment was always filled with your neighbors and friends, discussing politics, world views, religion, and your favorite: your grandchildren. 
Never in all my years knowing you, did I once hear you utter a negative word. You thought positively, you spoke positively, and you exuded positivity.  People loved being around you.  
You lived in a time of prejudice, and hate, of fear and depression.  And yet, you didnt let that cloud your perception.  You loved people--irregardless of ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation.  You said that "people are people"  and all deserve our respect.  You never judged--you loved instead.  
You turned to a life of observance at an older age because of your son, and the beauty you saw in the practice.  You believed that its never too old to learn new things--your learning continued- each decade brought something new. At 50, you learned to drive, at 60, you learned hebrew.
You came to take care of us when we were sick, and you came to all of our school plays, "days", and graduations.  You were there for it all, never missing a milestone.
You were married for 50 years to a wonderful, intelligent, special man.  A marriage built on commitment, devotion, love, and integrity.
You beat breast cancer by the power of your positive thinking.  It wasnt going to beat you; you were going to "flush it down the toilet."  And flush it down you did.

I miss our visits, our boggle playing (you always won!!), our trips to the beach, our sleepovers.  I miss the pictures of your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that adorn your entire apartment.  I miss the oreos you kept  stashed in your freezer, the kit kats you had in the bottom drawer.  The lullabyes you sang, the dances you jigged, the wisdom you dispensed.  
I miss your laugh, your excitement at hearing our voices on the phone.  Your smell.  Your unconditional love.  The way nothing in the world was more important than us.  I miss sitting next to you in shul during the holidays, following along in your siddur, loving to be in shul.  I miss your hug and the way it would envelop every part of my being. I miss the way you would make me feel as though I were the most special in the world. There is nothing quite like a Savta's love.
I miss your "gevalkeshriegens!" and "sheshneid your zudick!!"  (to this day, none of us have any clue what they actually mean)  I miss your stories- the one of how you met Sabba ("there I was, a pretty girl with the blond curls and blue eyes, leaving the lecture with a bald man with glasses!! "  such laughter followed that story..told again and again..)  The story of Abba getting in trouble with his teachers, but when you called them, and laughed about what a rascal he was, the teachers ended up laughing as well.  Your educational moments (convincing us to smoke cigarettes in your dining scare us from never smoking anything ever again)  Your understanding.  Your pride in our accomplishments, and your sympathizing in our failures.
Even in your later years, when your memory had all but disappeared, my Abba said to you "Do you know who I am?"  and you would respond with a smile " Im not sure, but I do know that you love me and I love you."  At the end, Savta, there wasnt much, but there was love. Which is what had been there all along. 

Savta, on some level you must know, but you would say to us, at the end of anything family related- be it birthdays, simchas, or just the pesach seder-  "next year,please G-d, with additions!!"  well, youll be so happy to know that the Schaum children have added not just one, but 3 great-grandchildren in this one year, and be"h another one on the way.  We lost a dear and precious neshama--but we have added 3 new ones.  3 new souls who you are watching and protecting with your love--3 new souls, who sadly, did not get the chance to know, and to love you.  

You told us to dance at your funeral, because it was a celebration of your life.  Dance, we didnt, but we did sing you the lullabye that soothed us to sleep growing up. 
This candle I lit tonight, is your light that will continue to shine--through all of us, and through our children.  Ayala Tair--She will be"h shine in this world, with your blessing. 
Yahrzheit commemorates your life- and the celebration that it was.  I shed tears tonight---sad that my daughter will never know you, and your incredible soul--but at the same time, celebrating your life that was, and this precious life that will be"h continue to be. 
Please look down on us from on high, and continue to pray for us, and keep us...I miss you more than you can ever imagine,

"go to sleep and dont you worry, we're all here, so dont you worry, sleep and dream, our sweetest savta.  sweetest savta, everybody knows, dont know what to call you, but youre mighty like a rose.  looking at your family, with eyes so shining blue, makes you think that heaven is coming close to you.."  
o how i wish it were...