Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Sitting on My Shoulder

Rosh Hashana approaches this year as it never has before.  On Erev Chag, we will celebrate one month of enjoying our beautiful little boy who is named after my father.  This year I'm looking at the world through the fresh eyes of new parenthood.  Everything looks and feels different... and at the same time, totally familiar.  It's as if the people I've loved and lost throughout my life are sitting on my shoulder, guiding me through the challenges and wonders of motherhood and more present than they have ever been in recent memory. 

Every time I interact with my son - singing songs, playing games, talking to him conversationally - I find myself uttering words and phrases that I heard in my childhood.  From the very first days in the hospital, coaxing my son to open his mouth to eat, I heard my father's friendly voice in my mind encouraging patients in his dental chair to "open open open!"  When I burp him after a meal, I hear my grandmother's voice asking if he "has a bubble."  And whenever I zip him into his sleep sack and lift him into his bassinet for the night, I think of my Uncle Paul playing "Casper the Friendly Ghost" with my infant cousins.

When my father passed away suddenly, I was so worried that I'd forget.  Forget what specifically, I don't know, but I remember furiously writing memories in a journal throughout the shiva and afterward.  Have I looked at them since?  Not really.  I haven't needed to - though it is a comfort to know they are on paper.  Instead, the memories have stayed with me and bubble to the surface on all sorts of occasions, especially milestone moments when emotions run particularly high.  I'm finding that it is even more comforting to know that the memories are really and truly ingrained deep inside and that I can call on them when I wish.  

So... even though my father is not able to be with me at the table this Rosh Hashana, or play with my son the way I wish... I find he's even closer - sitting on my shoulder - and I know by now that I can count on him always being right there.

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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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