Sunday, January 31, 2016

Reaching a huge milestone, Channah's Bat Mitzvah

As the sun set this evening, Channah reached the age of Bat Mitzvah. She automatically took a step forward in her life where she halachically takes responsibility for her own actions.  We went out for dinner as a family to celebrate the occasion.

 I keep thinking back to the night Channah was born. 5 weeks earlier Rachel's water broke. Channah blocked the hole with her head, allowing the pregnancy to continue in the safety of the womb. My Mom had come to join us for Friday night dinner in the hospital room. We sent her home earlier than we expected when fetal distress started to set in. Channah was born 12:45 am weighing a whopping 1320 grams. I didn't meet her for hours after she was born as she was quickly whisked away to receive medical attention. At 3:00 am I was kicked out of the hospital in order to let Rachel get some rest. I went bouncing down the street back to the apartment I was staying at. As there was no one else around, I excitedly shared the news with the security guard for the building. In the morning, I shared the exciting news with the strangers staying in the same guest apartment for the night.

A friend of mine wrote an article and used a quote that truly rings true in my head.  The quote is from Rebbe Nachman which had been a major song from my NCSY days. 

 כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד, והעיקר - לא לפחד כלל

'The whole world is a very narrow bridge. The most important thing is to have no fear at all'

The night Channah was born, I was completely clueless at how much danger Channah was in. I looked at the entire 6.5 week NICU experience as simply the path to bring her home. It never occurred to me that her life was in danger.

If someone told me at that time her Bat Mitzvah would be taking place in Israel with a Canadian theme, I would have thought they were crazy.

Tomorrow morning, Channah and I will be driving to the 'holy' city of Metula for the only hockey tournament in the world that has a daf yomi shiur.  Over 4 days, I will be playing in 5 games for the Grey Team as we attempt to win the tournament. In between games, Channah and I will be picking food from the fields for Leket, a trip to the hot springs, a 2 hour ATV ride of the area and a tour of how they make pomegranate wine. I truly look forward to this time to bond with her as a young lady, and truly see how much she has grown.

In two weeks she will be celebrating with a skating activity followed by an elaborate party with her friends. I would never have guessed the unique Bat Mitzvah experience combined with recently allowing Channah restricted access to WhatsApp, would break down the walls of isolation that Channah has been struggling with for so long.

The hospital Channah was born at follow their preemies for 6 years. Their research found that preemies tend to have a stubborn streak. They were not sure if the stubbornness was a natural character trait that increased the chance of survival or if it was a natural reaction to the NICU experience.

Channah is as stubborn as they come. At times it can be frustrating when she decides to start a battle of wits. Once you get through to her, she has the power to excel. Every teacher who has ever had her has loved to have her as a student. Her grades show it. She also has poise to handle the most difficult challenges that life can throw at her. She has always been something special.

Life can be scary. Sometimes looking back at what we have overcome together can be shocking when I realize how afraid I should have been. Without fear we can achieve anything. I am so proud of the young lady she has become.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Once Upon a December

On the Jewish calendar, this morning marked the morning I got up from Shiva 3 years ago. On the Gregorian calendar that happens tomorrow. It will hopefully mark the end of a period of intense self-reflection that I have gone through every December for the last 3 years. It is a time of emotionally reliving memories; both the incredibly painful ones, as well as happy ones. It is also a time of year for celebrating how far I have come and creating new happy memories.

2 years ago, I wrote a post about how December 31st would be a sad day for the rest of my life. Then this year, on December 31st, I found myself at a wedding for one of my cousins. I felt the love from the baalei simcha who have always been super caring towards me. At the family table I felt proud to be part of my family as the various family members connected the dots of my family tree. They could only see my family as a complete family because they were people I have been related to for my entire life or in 2 cases for their entire lives.

During this intense emotional time period, I couldn't help but to relate to the story of Yosef that is read during the same time of year. He went through tough times from the death of his mother as a young boy, to having his brother seeing him as a threat that sent him on the path to slavery and eventually jail. Through it all he managed to overcome every challenge rising to the 2nd most powerful person in all of Egypt. At the end of the journey, he saved his entire family. In the merit of overcoming such difficult challenges he did what only his father had done. His children would also be the heads of their own Shvatim (Tribes). His father's blessing to his children are the same blessing that father's give to their sons on Friday night.

Once the complete story is revealed to all, there is another angle that doesn't always get noticed. Yosef made every effort to show that he showed no ill will towards his brothers. Time and again we see that the brothers are skeptical that perhaps Yosef has been biding his time to take out his just payback. He could never truly unite his brothers into one cohesive family.

My life has changed so much over the last 3 years. I have changed so much during that time. I have made myself a better person. Although, technically I have a blended family, at its core, we are one cohesive unit.

With those around me, I often feel like I have the same struggles as Yosef. Some have accepted my family as a complete family and others haven't. Some see our family as Channah and I and then Peri and Shlomo, with a very clear divide, while others see us in varying permutations.  I find it very hard to relate to those who can't see my family as a single unit. The hardest is trying to figure out where I am holding with those who don't make it clear.  I also realize that in most cases the different permutations may be in part my fault.

Over the last number of weeks, I have seen clear examples of why I love this community so much. I have witnessed people reach the highest levels of chesed, while in the same breath have also seen the opposite, which saddens me to see.

I am looking forward to moving this summer to a new community who will only see my family as the complete unit that it is. I believe that it is a huge step to help in making our own happiness. A step to being accepted for who I am instead of what once was.