Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

May It Be Your Will

It feels like forever since I've posted something other than my bi-weekly "Musical Monday" quizzes. It isn't that I have nothing to say, no topics I feel able and willing to explore or discuss. Actually, there have been many, but I just can't seem to find the right words lately. Perhaps my innate shyness, much more obvious in person than to my blog-friends, is finally beginning to pervade my writing as well. Or perhaps – I'll even say "hopefully" – this has just been an extended dry spell in my blogging career, soon to be a distant memory.

Either way… there's something on my mind today, something that can't wait for my regular muse to reappear. So right words or otherwise, here goes.

Last Sunday we visited Aaron at the cemetery.

That's what it feels like, somehow; not visiting Aaron's grave, but visiting Aaron. Of course, his essence, all that made him who he was, is not there at all, but resides somewhere indefinable, both utterly near and yet impossibly far from us. But there is something to seeing again with my eyes the last resting place for Aaron's physical self, touching with my hands his matzevah, the headstone that bears his name. Something real and meaningful, a necessary emotional anguish and release that cannot be obtained in any other way.

As Debbie and I walked down the cemetery path and the horribly familiar stone came into view, my tears, so long dammed, began to flow. I hadn't wept over Aaron for what seems like a long while, not so intensely, not so passionately. The stark Hebrew and English words burned into my vision, loosening feelings long held in check.

My baby boy. Can he really be lying there? Did this really happen?

But even as my emotional right-brain took control, my left-brain was drawn to one particular line on the stone:
January 22, 1987 – May 16, 2005
Suddenly, uncontainably, my calculating side, that part of me that memorizes meaningless trivia and works math puzzles for fun, kicked into gear. Aaron had passed away six days short of eighteen years, four months old. With a shock, I realized that within a few days, Ben would attain that very age - God willing and a trillion times blee ayin hara. Soon, just as Ben had recently been granted the blessing of achieving milestones that his big brother never was able to reach - high school graduation, time spent learning in Israel - he would pass Aaron's very lifespan as well.

And now the day is here. Ben was born on May 25, 1989. Today, September 20, he is one day older than Aaron ever became.

I focus, I fixate, on the mathematics of it, the intellectual part, for I have no suitable words to express the feelings.

Today Ben called me from Israel. As he happily chatted about sports, his roommates, his plans to lunch at the kosher KFC (!) tomorrow, I resolved not to mention today's significance to him. Let him enjoy this special time without a taint of sorrow, of survivor's guilt. Let him – or I should say, May he, please God - continue to experience and change, grow and live, far beyond where Aaron's journey came to its untimely end.

Today's selichos included the special Pizmon [responsive reading] that features God's thirteen attributes, which will be said again during the Neilah, the closing service of Yom Kippur. With the intensely personal significance of today's date so very much in my thoughts, the words of the last verse pierced my heart as never before:
"May it be Your will, Who hears the sound of weeping
That You store our tears in Your flask permanently
And rescue us from all cruel decrees
For on You alone our eyes are fixed."
And let us say, amen.

A g'mar chasima tovah [final Divine seal for good] to one and all, and may you grant me mechila [forgiveness] for any times I have offended, by word or deed.


At 9/21/07, 12:40 AM, Blogger trn said...

Amen, Elie. Thank you.

I do that too, the math thing.

At 9/21/07, 5:11 PM, Blogger Jack Steiner said...

Have an easy fast and a meaningful chag.

At 9/23/07, 5:45 PM, Blogger Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Reb Elie,

Your readers are fortunate indeed to be able to read your finely crafted words for which you are genuinely gifted.

Wouldst, however, that you had never had the opportunity to open that gift!

I am,

Very Sincerely Yours,

Alan D. Busch

At 9/23/07, 8:57 PM, Blogger torontopearl said...

A poignant post -- a father pining for his lost son and wishing the world for his next son.

May Ben be blessed with a long, healthy and happy life, as should your other children, as well as you and Debbie. May you not know from further sorrow.

Gmar chatima tovah to you all.

At 9/23/07, 9:06 PM, Blogger Shifra said...

That is such a hard thing...
I know my own birthday is just days away and for once I just want to skip it entirely. With each year that passes I will grow older than my brother will ever be and the widening of that gap is just so sad so me.

I'm sure it will occur to Ben now and again too but you were right not to mention it now.
Thank you for sharing it with us though... I know I appreciated it.

At 9/23/07, 11:59 PM, Blogger Batya said...

special post; thanks for posting it

Here in Shiloh, where the azkarot are very "family oriented," it's common for siblings to speak, and one of the themes by younger siblings is: "Now I'm older than you. You will remain -."

ps my birthday is also May 25

At 9/24/07, 2:18 AM, Blogger Ezzie said...


My family always does the math thing (we're a math family). It was a big deal when my father surpassed his brother a couple of years ago... and that was at 58. I can't imagine the feelings you must have felt... but it is happy as well as sad, in that it is another stage in being able to 'move on'.


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