Dear Aaron: Year End 5766
It's been a long time since I last wrote to you. It's not that I have had nothing to say, for truly, you are on my mind and in my heart constantly. Day after day, I can sense you listening to my every whispered sob, observing my every unseen tear. But it is only rarely that I'm able to put my thoughts about you - my heart's cry to you - into concrete words.
The last time I was so moved, it was one year to the day from the English date on which we lost you. Now, a Jewish year has just ended. 5766 - our first full calendar year without you.
Last Rosh Hashanah, I was full of questions about your passing, still so recent and raw. Now, a year later, I feel no closer to finding any answers. As this long, bleak year has ground away, my memories of your loss have perhaps gotten a bit less fresh, the pain a little more habituated. But there are still so many times, so many events which spark that sharp, undiluted agony for me all over again.
Recently, there have been a number of these, starting with the naming of your new cousin five weeks ago today. Yes, there is another Aharon Elimelech in the family now, with an added third name, Chayim, as an unspoken prayer for the granting of the length of years that you were not able to have.
The Sunday before last, Ben, Shalom and I put up the walls of our Sukkah. Once again, I admired the smooth, wooden sections that you and I designed and built from scratch three summers ago. We made our mistakes, if you remember (who knew that "2x4s" are not really 2 by 4?), but we were both so proud of the end result. I'll never forget the joy and excitement we both felt when the family entered the Sukkah for the first time, three cycles of the Sukkos holiday ago. It hurts me so much to realize that you were able to enjoy the fruit of our labor for only one more Sukkos after that.
Then on Friday, Erev Rosh Hashanah, Mom and I went to visit the cemetery. It was the first time I could bring myself to go there since the unveiling of your stone. And there it stood, looking so horribly clean and sharp and new next to your grandfather's and all of mom's other relatives' markers. I read the words over and over again, unable to tear my eyes away. As I so glibly like to quote at funerals, I know that your real memorial is in our warm memories and not in cold stone. Yet I can't help but also feel that the matzevah is the last real, tangible part of you that's still in a place where we can touch and see.
And then there was Rosh Hashanah itself. Your seat on my left-hand side once again empty. With all the free space in the quiet, peaceful Bradley Beach shul, it seems strange that one empty seat would seem so out of place, would shock me so deeply. But it did. Your absence in shul, especially on the yom tovim, remains utterly devastating to me.
Finally, last night - in some ways, the hardest of them all. RTMA had its college planning night for seniors and their parents. As I sat there next to Ben, it seemed absolutely impossible that it was just two years ago that I sat in that same room next to you. We both were paying such rapt attention to all the information and advice they doled out. I remember how you, Mom and I drove home together, full of plans for the year you would spend in Israel, and the studies for a career in Finance that would begin when you returned.
We had such big dreams! How much Torah you might have learned in Artzeynu HaKedosha this past year? I guess about now, you would have been starting your first year of college. And with the process beginning all over again for your brother, my memories of two years ago have once again become unbelievably vivid. All that effort we put into your college admissions applications, scholarship applications, essays, financial aid requests. How much time and angst we expended on this! As mom always says, mentch tracht, Gott lacht. To which I now always add, Gott tzu helfen.
Thanks for letting me share some of my pain, kiddo. It helps, as much as anything can, to feel that somewhere, somehow, you're listening with love and sympathy. I like to think that despite all your unfulfilled opportunities in this world, all your plans and accomplishments that were not meant to be, you still have a role of your own to play in the family. If you have merited the opportunity to be a maylits yosher for us - perhaps even one of the celestial maaley tefilos that we read about in selichos every day - please put in a good word for Shayna, Shalom, Ben, Mom and your dear old dad.
And if you need to pick just one of my prayers to carry upwards, let it be the one asking for good health and life in this new year, for all of us who continue to miss and mourn you with all our hearts. May 5767 bring our family no new sorrows and griefs.
And for yourself, may you have peace and joy in your resting place.
Amen and farewell. Talk to you again soon.