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.  

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I am an educator who is trained to reflect, not a rabbi or any type of halachic authority. These writings are in no way binding, and may not represent all approaches to and experiences in navigating grief. In fact, there will likely be those who disagree with me or can offer additional suggestions and reflections. For this reason, I am leaving the comments section open so that together as a community, we can broaden the scope of this blog to include a majority of human experience.

One important request: Please be respectful in posting your comments and be sure to frame your tips in the most positive phrasing possible. I reserve the right to delete any unkind comments and plan to update the original posts occasionally to include additional insights and reflections from our combined experience.


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