Friday, August 20, 2021

Nechama (Comfort)

My father was a collector of unique and interesting items.  At his funeral, the rabbi commented that he liked to take care of not only people, but things as well.  Among these treasures was a collection of brass candlesticks of various sizes and designs.  Not long before he died, my father polished up a few of these and offered them to me for my apartment, apologizing that they did not match.  

A few months later, while cleaning up his basement workshop, I came across another candlestick in the back of a shelf that was a twin to one that I already had.  The only difference was that the one my father gave me was polished and this newly discovered one was not.  In a way, it felt fitting... my father died too young, and this felt a bit like his unfinished business.

I brought both candlesticks to my apartment and have been lighting shabbat candles with them for the last four years.  The idea persisted in the back of my mind that one day Saleh would polish them to a matching shine and it would feel a bit like completing the cycle.  As it says in my bat mitzvah parsha Chayei Sarah (which my father taught me to lein) - when Isaac met and married Rebecca, he brought her into his tent and was comforted over the death of his mother, Sarah.  As the midrash explains, the miracles that were associated with Sarah paused at her death and restarted with Rebecca's entrance into the family.  

For one reason or another, we never managed to get the candlesticks polished.  Perhaps it was too soon... or I just wasn't ready.   But last shabbat - our first Shabbat home with our Little Man - I finally felt the pull to complete the job.  

As I lit three Shabbat candles for the very first time I looked at the three candlesticks on which they were perched.  One bright, shiny and new, representing the New Addition to our family, and two older ones with different degrees of tarnish, as my father's polishing has dulled with time.  And I looked at my Baby Boy - now carrying my father's name.  

My heart is full.  I still miss my father, but I see so much life and love and wonder in his newest grandchild.  It is finally time for the candlesticks to match.  

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Inconvenient (On My Father's 4th Yortzeit)

 Dear Dad,

As your 4th Yortzeit approaches tonight, the word that comes to mind is inconvenient.  Nothing about your passing has been convenient or comfortable for me - that I'll acknowledge - but let's review for a moment what these last few years have been.  That first year, your death thrust me into a year of aveilut and a whirlwind of Kaddish that interrupted nearly every facet of life (including all my dates with Saleh).  Your second Yortzeit fell on my birthday/Maggie's naming party and the third was in the middle of a global pandemic.  And this year... I'm waiting to go into labor any time now - I don't know if I'll be in shul tonight to say Kaddish or at the hospital meeting your new grandchild.  Inconvenient is an understatement!  I've made all the plans within my power... and now the decisions are up to Baby and Hashem - as they always were.  I guess one important lesson from these last 4 years is about how many things are outside of my control, whether I like it or not! 

On the other hand, the last few years have also been filled with blessings - Meeting Saleh, Marc's and my weddings, the birth of your 2 (almost 3 grandchildren) and more.  Would that you could have been here for all of them... For example - I wish you could have heard me speak at Seudah Shlishit at the end of that first year... I could have chosen any topic - it didn't need to be about missing you!  And on your second Yortzeit, wouldn't you have rather held Maggie in your arms than had her named for you?  And the pandemic... well - I can't really lay that one at your feet, but I imagine that you and Uncle Paul could have figured something out if you'd put your heads together... maybe you're working together on a solution even now so that we can celebrate your new grandchildren properly - safely surrounded by loving family and friends!

Bottom line is... I'm still missing you - especially now that I'm on the verge of (finally) becoming a parent myself.  I can't believe it's been 4 years... and what years they have been...!  I'm not mad anymore (at least not right now) and I recognize that missing you won't really go away, but gosh it's inconvenient.  

Thinking of you with love...

All of us 

In loving memory of Maury Joseph Fechter - Mordechai Yosef ben Shmuel (24th Av)


  Dear Uncle Paul,     Yesterday we went to the Baltimore Aquarium and we saw these enormous Angelfish... I wanted to pick up the phone and...