Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pesach, Matzah, Maror

I knew the week leading into Pesach was going to be the most difficult of the year.  The entire country shuts down in order to prepare.  Channah was home from school. My friends were focused on their own homes with their own families, they didn't have as much time as usual for me. Between work, softball and a trip to Monkey Park with Channah's best friend and her best friend's sister in many ways, I managed to hold things together better than I expected.

Pesach took a lot more work than I was able to put in.  Somehow I managed to make it to the point where I was able to say good enough, even though it was well short of the low bar I set for myself this year. The hardest part was when I found this during Bedikah Chamezt:

Rachel had bought it for me many years ago for when I was having a hard time at work.  Of course that brought back memories of the smile card that lives in my wallet. It was not so long ago, Rachel found out I still had it.  She thought it had been lost a long time ago.

Thinking about these two items took everything out of me.  I sat down and started to cry. Channah hates when I cry and always tries to get me to stop. I try not to cry too much because it really hurts because of the problem with my eye.  She managed to calm me down with a hug. I was ready to call it a night unable to face kashering and the kitchen.  A friend told me to take deep breaths and get back to cleaning which would keep me busy.  I decided to get the Pesach boxes out of storage.  As I was moving the boxes, I was having trouble breathing.  It was not from the lifting but the emotional sting of missing Rachel. Which of course made me think of this song: 

Somehow I managed to make it through. I made sure I got to the shul because I am a bachor.  I accidentally attended a Bris.  The Rabbi wanted to talk to me and I knew if I had left it for later in the day it probably would not happen.

We spent the Seder with cousins who we went to for our first 2 years in Israel before, they moved outside of walking distance. I thought it was a brilliant choice when Channah came up with the idea.  It was very comforting being in a familiar environment with family. There were two defining moments that really struck a chord of encouragement that I hope will stay with me in terms of what I am facing in the coming weeks, months and hopefully longer.

As intro to the Seder the host talked about the importance of reliving the story of Pesach every year.  It is a way of establishing that we are the Jewish People. He drew the parallel to the Holocaust and the importance of remembering and retelling the story, so it doesn't lose it's meaning.

It made me think about my Grandmother who had everything taken from her including her husband and 3 year old son.  My Grandfather liberated her from the camps, helped her back to health and were married in 3 weeks. My Mom was born in a DP camp and his good friend (who died shortly before Rachel) gave his milk rations to my Mom so that she could be healthy.  They rebuilt their lives but she always kept a picture of her son on the wall.

The Seder isn't complete until we discuss the Symbolism of Pesach, Matzah and Maror. Pesach is to remember the korban that we are no longer able to bring because of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash.  Every year we remember that destruction through the stages of mourning the same way we remember a loved one.  When I go to the Kotel I tear kriyah to remember the destruction. Food is an integral part of Jewish identity.  Matzah represents both poverty and freedom while Maror represents the bitterness of the suffering we endured. We bring these foods together right after declaring Dayenu followed by Hallel.  The Hallel combined with the 2nd cup of wine was described as a toast to Hashem.  We offer a toast of thanks and immediately remember how hard it was to reach this point.

The concept of 'moving on' has been a frequent topic as of late. Am I going to fast?  Am I going too slow? Am I doing it right?  I always thought that 'moving on' meant putting the tragedies of the last two years behind me.  I now realize that is not the case.  Moving on means rebuilding again but taking those tragedies with me into whatever new direction my life will take. I have the opportunity to build on the dreams of my ancestors to raise a Jewish family in the land that was promised to our forefathers so many generations ago. Rachel and Gabi will always play an upfront roll in that process, even if they are not physically here to do it with me.  This idea has brought confidence and comfort towards some of the challenges I am about to face.

The 2nd moment came form the hostess.  There have those who have been concerned and in some cases critical in my ability to be a parent. The entire night there were two moments where Channah's handling of herself would not have met their approval. One of those moments our hostess turned to be me and said "Don't worry my kids do the exact same thing."  There was nothing particularly insightful in the statement. I have been around a lot of different families in the last few months to see different types of kids and parenting styles.  My response was that the behaviour did not bother me.  The truth is the validation did mean a lot to me, even if it is not the first time I have heard it.  The confident I am in my parenting the better prepared I am to make decisions of what is in Channah's best interest even if those decisions are not popular.

Pesach is about remembering the passed to bring hope for the future.  At least that is the lesson I am walking away with this year.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Please Don't Stop the Music

I have been trying to sit down and write this post for almost 2 months. With Journey's IV playing in the background and the alternative to go back to Pesach preparations perhaps I am now ready. Journey's IV was one of the main CDs playing in my car on the many trips to the hospital when Rachel was in the hospital before Channah was born and the weeks Channah was in the NICU after she was born.

Music played a huge role in Rachel's life. Whether it was playing or teaching the piano or listening to her eclectic range of music it was something that she always needed around her.  Music reflected her life. It was part of her.

The last month of her life shared the same roller coaster/yo yo qualities of her life since losing Gabi.  It started with the harshest migrane she had to deal with.  The extra medication to break it fuelled a horrible depression that resulted with the police showing up at my door at 3am. Over Channukah she surrounded herself with the right people and activities that helped pull her out of the depression. Taking stock of what happened Rachel and I had a conversation that lasted all night. Every issue that we had in our lives together was discussed and put to rest. Rachel lived her last two weeks with a determination to reclaim her life was a tremendous gift that I am grateful for.

First night Channukah, Channah had a sleep over and we had our first night out together in a very long time. Depression took it's grip on what we had hoped to be an enjoyable evening.  When Rachel wanted to just call it a night and let depression win, I refused to let her.  We saw the movie Pitch Perfect. Rachel was so shocked that I told her that I liked the song 'Titanium' that she bought it as well as the rest of the album on the way home.  It was played a lot over those two weeks.

About 3 weeks into Shloshim, the silence in the apartment was starting to get to me. This was something that had never happened to me before.  As soon as Shloshim was over, I had myself surrounded by Rachel's music all the time. The Soundtrack from Pitch Perfect still speaks to me and I often have it cycling through for hours at a time.  I am going to share a few songs from the soundtrack and how they speak to me.

Don't Stop the Music --  The music of Rachel's life was turned off way to early.  When I surround myself and appreciate music, it not only helps me feel that she is part of me but also putting into practise of what she taught me the power music has.

Titanium --

You shout it loud, but I can't hear a word you say I'm talking loud, not saying much I'm criticized, but all your bullets ricochet you shoot me down, but I get up
I'm bulletproof, nothing to lose fire away, fire away ricochet, you take your aim fire away, fire away you shoot me down, but I won't fall I am titanium you shoot me down, but I won't fall I am titanium

Rachel really lived her last two weeks like she was invincible. She wanted to rebuild her life and was determined that nothing would stop her. Now my job is to protect Channah at all costs in order to grow into the wonderful person, Rachel and I always knew she was going to be. 
Cups -- 

When I’m gone, When I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone
You’re gonna miss me by my hair
You’re gonna miss me everywhere, oh
You’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

This song makes me think about how much I miss Rachel, but also the cup game was very popular during our time together in NCSY.  It reminds me of the time, at the beginning of our relationship.

I Saw the Sign --  This was one of the popular songs that to me defines a summer as a CIT at camp. At camp I decided to daven 3 times a day. The 2nd Shabbat after I came home, I decided to "Keep Shabbat until hockey season starts."  That was the year of the first NHL lockout. It was the best chance I ever had of making the Select team. I walked off of a number of tryouts because they fell on Friday night or conflicted with an NCSY Shabbaton. Those decisions paved the way for Rachel to enter my life and setting the path for where I am today. Decisions I have never regretted.

Just the Way You Are  --
She's so beautiful, and I tell her every day
(I was thinking bout her, thinkin bout me)
I know, I know
(Thinkin bout us, what we gon' be)
when I compliment her she won't believe me

My nickname for Rachel was 'Beautiful'.  There were times she got upset with me because I used it so much that she accused me of forgetting her name.  A name is the essence of who a person is. It probably around her last 6 months that she started to believe me that I loved her for who she was. She often felt that others saw her as not good enough and if they would abandon her if she didn't have give them what they wanted.

Bright Lights/Magic Medley --
I've got the magic in me
Every time I touch that track it turns into gold
know everybody knows I've got the magic in me

Rachel's creative talent was incredible. She could do whatever she put her mind to.The same applied for various challenges and repairs for Channah.

Rachel had one friend that used to love buying bangle bracelets from Rachel.  The friend would ask her how come after years they didn't need polishing.   She would say "It's Magic".  Shortly after Rachel passed away that friend contacted me.  They had started to tarnish.  The 'magic' had worn off.

Price Tag/Don't You Forget About Me/Give it Everything Tonight --

Seems like everybody's got a price,
I wonder how they sleep at night,
When the sale comes first and the truth comes second,
Just stop for a minute and smile,
Everybody look to the left,
Everybody look to the right,
Can you feel that yeah,
We're payin with love tonight,
It's not about the money, money, money,
We don't need your money, money, money,
We just want to make the world dance,
Forget about the price tag,

Rachel was always about doing what was right. She would never care about the toll it would take on her.

Give me everything tonight,
For all we know we might not get tomorrow,

Rabbi Orlofsky told me at the Shiva that Tzadikim get a nevuah that there time is up. Rachel's last night she had gone to the Kuppah for medication and was supposed to go home to sleep off the migraine.  She was determined to keep a promise to Channah to make a minor purchase for her.  She did the very best to make the most of her very last day.  Something I am grateful for.

Music was Rachel's life. No matter which direction my life takes, I hope that music can be a part of my life, the way Rachel taught me it should. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Putting the Pieces in the Right Places

Every woman has a spot where they keep all of the jewellery they will never wear. It could be in a drawer of a jewellery box, but it is always separate. They could be family heir looms, pieces with precious metals, pieces with sentimental value or simply broken pieces that will be repaired "one day".

The most common request Rachel would receive was people who asked if they could melt down their gold. Gold becomes brittle when it is melted and reformed, this is not an option on a small scale. Instead she would either repair the piece or design something completely new that incorporated the original with new material to create something beautiful and wearable.  The client could once again wear with pride a piece that had been destined to relegated to storage forever.

Rachel and I spent more than half of our lives together, moulding and shaping ourselves and our lives as best we could. We were on the verge of as close to perfection as life could get until it all shattered on February 28th, 2011. We were sent a jewel that we were told we could never have.  In an instant, at the most painful moment it was gone. Then the morning of December 31st came and my life was shattered to pieces.  The only difference was I don't have Rachel to help me pick up the pieces and Channah is counting on me to rebuild the life she needs.

There are so many shattered little pieces. My first reaction was the I needed to fix everything all at once. A task that is not only impossible but quickly lead to burning myself out. I need to sift and sort through the pieces.  Some are usable in rebuilding for the future. Some have no value in the piece I am rebuilding but I want to keep them anyways.  Some forever and some until I am ready to let go.  Handling new situations and challenges will be the new material that holds it all together.

There are a lot of people who want to help. I am finding that there are to varying degrees to philosophies of how to move forward.  There are those who are helping me sift through the old and the new. They recognize that it is up to me to decide which pieces go where. They are there to advise or even help set the pieces in place. At the end of the day the decisions are mine and whatever I decide is the correct decision.  That doesn't mean I won't make mistakes. They believe I have the right to make my own mistakes.

There are others, who know exactly how I need to rebuild and exactly how long it should take. Each decision that does not fit in with the schedule needs to be challenged and justified. If I make a mistake there will be negative consequences that will lead to destroyed lives and possibly mixed dancing. They need to make sure I am prevented from making those tragic mistakes.

When Channah was a baby in the NICU, she had a problem that she was blowing through IV lines and running out of veins. The solution was to insert a long line (pic line) that are supposed to last a week.  The problem was they couldn't get one in.  The hospital wanted to undergo a 'simple' solution to transfer her to another hospital and have it inserted with the help of radiology. Rachel and I refused to authorize the treatment forcing the hospital to look for another solution.  We entered Channah into a study about long lines. The doctor heading up the study, spent his day inserting long lines. He was successful with Channah. The long line was supposed to last for a week, which was more than enough time for it not to be needed. 

That evening the long line broke. Ben Herr was the doctor on staff and tried to reinsert it. After his first attempt failed I had a huge argument with him and told him to stop. I knew he didn't have the skill to get the job done. Rachel was convinced I was going to punch the doctor to get him to stop.  The administrative staff stepped in to talk with us.  After a number of attempts the doctor gave up unable to perform the procedure.

I granted permission to let them shave Channah's hair so that they could put an IV into her head. The little bit of beautiful blonde hair that covered the only part of her body that had been untouched in the battle for her life was going to be taken from her. That night they had the two best nurses on staff for putting in IVs. They managed to find one last vein without having to cut her hair.  The IV lasted the couple of days we needed until it wasn't necessary anymore.  Around the same time we had friends faced with the same solution to a similar problem. They agreed to the procedure and which had many complications leading to a prolonged hospital stay.

The most important thing in my life right now is looking out for Channah. I have and will continue to make mistakes along the way.  Being a good parent is not about being perfect.  It is about providing an environment, where they know they are loved unconditionally, they can make mistakes and grow from them, they know the communication is open where they can express their feelings without being judged.

I do not fear making mistakes.  I fear that I will make the popular choice instead of trusting myself to do what I believe is right. Even worse, I fear I will not be able to tell the difference between the two. I need to treat myself as me and not anyone else.  I must insist others do the same.  There are many struggles ahead.  For Channah's sake I can't fail.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Counter Terrorism Training

My MIL & SIL, recently visited from Toronto.  We went to Caliber 3 to do their 2 hour counter terrorism course. As an Israeli, it would have been difficult for me to participate. However, with a Canadian passport it was no problem. 

They taught us the basics of counter-terrorism, as well as how to shoot a handgun and a rifle. Aside from entertaining tourists these guys train the counter-terrorism specialist who are the front line responders in case of an attack. There was a lot of emphasis on how you need to be able to think on your feet while carrying a deadly weapon in your hand.  I also thought it was amusing of how proud they were of the "Israeli invention" to increase a soldiers ammo by sticking to ammo magazines together.  I have seen it done with tape and velcro.

I discovered that I am terrible with a handgun. I would naturally try to resist recoil causing me to completely list the shooting target.  I was much better with the rifle with the scope.

During Defensive Shield, I felt a tinge of guilt as my friends were called up by the Army. A son of one family we are close to was in an armoured personal carrier, the engine running, prepared to go into hand to hand combat when Hillary came in to stop the war.  I no longer feel that guilt.

The task seemed simple. Each family had a balloon the target for a member of the team. You would do a short run, and then use the rifle to shoot at the balloons from long range. You hit a balloon you shoot again.  You miss and the next person on your team starts to run.   

While the rules were being explained, a couple of balloon blew away.  It was amazing how the experts had such a difficult time figuring out which team gets which balloon and which balloons needed replacing.  We eventually got it all sorted out.

I was first for my team and started by tripping over my own feet scrapping up my hands and my knee pretty badly.  I picked myself up and finished the short run and managed to hit the two balloons.  My SIL was next and was able to hit the last target to secure the victory for our team.  I then went to get first aid, while they finished up talking to the group about gun control here vs. the US.

Counter-Terrorism Demonstration

My MIL with a handgun. She hit a bullseye.

My Sister-in-law with a rifle

I was a much better shot with the rifle
It was a really great experience.  It has changed the way I watch the crime shows I enjoy.