I’ve been taking a mild sleep aid every Friday night for years. For me, it was an insurance policy for well-needed sleep, because although I was tired, sometimes a thought would wake me and I’d have trouble falling back asleep.
Last Friday night, as it was having its beautifully drowsy effect on me, I heard a knock on my bedroom door. I sat up in bed and heard Dovid on the other side of the door, asking if he could come in.
In the dark, I heard him whisper, “He’s crying and can’t calm down.”
My beautiful, sensitive boy who closely resembles a man at 11 years old has always been deeply in touch with his feelings and he differs drastically from his older brother. When I meet with teachers during PTA, they marvel at how two brothers could be so different in every way.
In the aftermath of Moshe’s passing, if one of them would retreat to his room and cry into his pillow silently, for fear that I’d get upset or he’d disrupt the emotionally delicate balance in our home, the other’s reaction would be loud and he’d be unable to control the pain he was feeling inside as his brother did.
In the beginning, it was a sound that would make my heart twist in pain. The sound of your child crying about something you can’t make better is the saddest, most helpless feeling I’ve ever experienced.
The boys turned to different outlets to manage the feelings of imbalance in no longer being a part of a two-parent household — Dovid reveled in therapy and immersed himself in tech, much like his father. He’s my go-to for any electronic or computer issues. It’s in his DNA; he just knows things and doesn’t realize a 12-year-old kid wouldn’t naturally know all this.
Nissy is more like me — he loves drawing and can get lost for hours on a piece, or be completely absorbed in entertaining videos.
So on Friday night, when thoughts of how different life is without his mentor and role model start clouding his brain, he has nothing to turn to but raw emotion, and for a kid his age (or for anyone of any age) it can be too much at times.
I try placing myself in their shoes, boys of an impressionable age growing up without a father to lead them.
In the short time we’ve done this without him, I continue to marvel at their ability to compartmentalize their feelings and continue to be genuinely happy at times. Being kids, having pure fun, totally in the moment.
But sometimes, in the quiet of a Shabbos night, the pain is too much to bear. As he walked in, I could hear the sharp intake of break and the sobbing. He could barely get the words out, but I heard, “I just miss him so much sometimes…”
I sat up and had him sit next to me on my bed. I spoke in a low voice.
“Honey, I cry all the time, too. Just because you don’t see me doing it doesn’t mean I don’t take time out of every day to cry alone. It’s so important to feel this loss and it’s 100% appropriate that you should be feeling this way about missing him.
“I wish I could tell you something that would make this better or that would make you feel better. All I can tell you is that this feeling will pass after you fall asleep, and it’s going to happen again and I don’t know when that is.
“The sadness comes and it doesn’t warn you or make sense. Don’t fight the feelings that you have — lean into it, even if it feels uncomfortable and hurts. It’s going to teach you a lot about experiencing sadness and disappointments in your life in the future. You’re going to know that once you were able to get through losing Abba at this young age, you can get through so much more.”
I tracked his face, gazing into his swollen eyes, and wishing I could vacuum out the hurt. Wishing I had more to offer him than this consolation prize of empathy. But knowing deep, deep in my soul, that being here like this, with him, feeling together, for now, was critical for both of us.
He sat there with me for a few minutes in silence and asked if he could sleep in his father’s bed. He was afraid that he wouldn’t know how to calm down if he’d wake up in the middle of the night alone, without someone there to comfort him. I know that feeling well.
As his eyes began to close, and I heard his breathing slow down into the rhythm of sleep, I wondered to myself how often something like this would happen. I wondered if I’d have the strength to say the thing that would make my precious babies feel safe and protected without their dad.
Like every unpredictable thing in my life, I have to be satisfied with the faith that when they come to me like this from time to time, as I’m sure they will, G-d will give me the strength to say the right thing. Without a father, we lean more heavily on our Father.
In prayers, Jews across the world refer to G-d and His Divine love and protection with the name Avinu she’baShamayim — our Father in Heaven. My children have two fathers in Heaven loving them and looking out for them.
The sad memories of that night were laid to rest in the quiet darkness. We awoke in the morning to a beautiful new day, sunrise warming away the night’s dew, shining hope for a happier future.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of 40. Malkie has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.