By Malkie Hirsch

Going away for yontif with young children is no easy feat. When Moshe was alive, we very seldom went anywhere far from home.

There were a few reasons:

  1. There’s no place like our block. Why bother going anywhere else? The Barnard bungalow was all we needed.
  2. There’s no place like Rosie’s crib. Or before her arrival, Gavi, Yosef, Nison, or Dovid’s bed/crib/sleeping quarters. Your kids will never sleep the same in a hotel or in someone else’s home. And when bedtime rolls around and all you gotta do is give your babies a kiss and place them in their familiar sleep space, there’s really nothing more beautiful.
  3. There’s no place like home. It’s where the heart is. It’s where we wanted to have guests. It’s where I baked and had something for anyone and everyone who came through my door. I loved it, my neighbors loved it, and my family loved it.

But what happens when something bigger than ever happens to our family, shaking us to our very core?

An unexpected death in the family, something no one could know was coming.

It’s hard to do the same old thing for yontif.

Because you feel your person missing all of the things you used to do as a family.

As friends.

As a son.

As a husband.

As the best neighbor.

It’s too painful to bear.

I read somewhere recently that a great tactic when dealing with kids and trauma is to make new memories, things that you never did with your family previous to this point in time.

You’ll have those cherished memories that included your loved one who has since passed, but what’s more important, now more than ever, is to make new memories that are different than the old memories.

Go to a new place for yontif. Do something different for chol ha’moed.

Creating these fun new experiences will solidify your relationship with your living loved ones.

Kids still need to feel like there are going to be fun times ahead, because they’re deserving of the best. What happened to them was beyond their control. They need to know that they are still the priority and that you’ll never give up on them, regardless of the current unfortunate circumstances.

A few weeks before Shavuos, I started getting asked that question: “What are you doing for yontif?”

Oh, how I craved that same response as years past.

(Shrug) “Home. Where else would we be?”

But this year, it was scary and different.

Because I knew I couldn’t be home.

I couldn’t even think of having a yontif here without Moshe.

Too painful for me. Too hard for the kids.

It was time for something new.

My sister invited us for the three-day yontif.

I might’ve asked, “Umm. Are you sure?”

Because I could do basic math, I computed that by inviting me with my five kids, there would be a total of 11 kids under age 12 (she has 6 of her own).

Yeah.

Know how that sounds at a yontif meal?

Noisy.

Very noisy.

But also—

Loving.

Fun.

Happy.

I knew how good it would be before we even got there. I knew how much fun my kids would have. That was my motivation behind saying, “Yes. We’ll come. What can I prepare?”

I don’t remember spending yontif with Dini, outside of a Pesach hotel. I didn’t realize what a rock-star hostess she is. I didn’t know that she’d have a big smile on her face while preparing the kids’ meal before the actual meal. The in-between snacks the kids were constantly requesting. All of this happening while holding a baby or two.

If you ever wonder how love manifests itself, it’s my sister treating my kids and me like royalty for three days. It’s my sister staying up with Rosie all night because she intentionally placed Rosie in a bedroom near her room, and placed me in a room on the other side of the house so that I wouldn’t wake up when Rosie cried in middle of the night because she was in unfamiliar surroundings.

It’s making everything seem like no big deal.

She ran on minimal sleep for three days. She had an average of two kids in her bed all yontif.

And she was expected to serve meals for 16 during her waking hours.

Rock. Star. Hostess.

Needless to say, the kids had a blast and I have a newfound respect for my little sister.

While away with the kids, I was able to read most of The Choice by Dr. Eva Eger.

What thrills me besides the fact that I was able to focus on the book and read 200 pages without going over the same paragraph a bunch of times (a side effect of trauma is not being able to read at length; your brain isn’t able to focus that way for months after) is that so much of her writing and the quotes she included from Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning resonated with my life at this very moment.

“We can’t choose to vanish the dark but we can choose to kindle the light.”

I can’t change what happened to us. It’s happened. But I could choose how I react to our current situation.

I could choose happiness.

I could radiate hope.

I could help my kids do the same. Focus on the good memories.

That’s my choice. For even this.

I choose life.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. To choose one’s own way.”

 

Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of just 40. Over the last few months, she has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are now privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.

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