By Malkie Hirsch
Abba Kloc extended his open hand to Gavi as he exited the house on the beautiful Shabbos morning last week. Gavi gratefully grabbed it, and together, in tandem, they bounded down the stairs and, with a skip in their step, headed towards shul.
Moshe’s shul. The shul my husband is supposed to be taking my boys to, week after week.
As I watched the scene of my baby boy with Fraydie’s husband, who graciously took on that role of surrogate father/mentor, I couldn’t help but tear up, and I just stood there watching as they turned the corner at the end of the block.
They made small talk and as they walked farther from me, their voices became quieter, but I knew that Gavi was completely at ease.
In that moment, I marveled at how resilient kids can be. It’s truly a wonder how they accept their situation with grace and honesty, not shying away from the reality of their present situation but choosing to take what’s offered to them, even though if given a choice, they’d probably choose differently. They’d choose to be walking down the street to shul with their father instead.
I wonder how long it will take for people to look at my children and me and think about the people we were before this happened to us. Not just think of us as the poor victims of circumstance, of having my husband and their father taken too soon.
When I walk into a room and someone approaches me, I see what they see. I see it in their eyes before they even make small talk or ask how things are, how the kids and I are doing.
Is it bad that I want to be valued as the person I was before this happened?
I want my kids to not be met with looks of pity and sadness. Because they’re on the road to be incredible humans with endless empathy beyond their years. They’re going to be the type of people to teach others how to navigate life under the most arduous of circumstances.
Until then, I want you all to realize that we’re the same people we always have been.
Dovid is an incredible kid with such depth and sensitivity. He’s a loyal friend, an excellent student, and a sweet and caring eldest brother. He was closest to Moshe and feels his loss more than any of my other children, and I know that there are reminders every day that affect him. But he’s a warrior and though he could be in a perpetual bad mood if he chose to be, he chooses instead to rise above that. And for that, as a single mother, I’m so thankful.
Nison is only a year and a half younger than Dovid, but you couldn’t meet two brothers who are more different. Nissy is funny, easy-breezy (wait, we have a test? When? NOW?!), lets things happen as they happen, but is a sensitive, caring brother. And though our loss affected him deeply in the very beginning of our journey without Moshe, it’s evolved for him into a positive Moshe memorial. Nissy loves to recall the great times we had as a family, never focusing on what we lost, but instead remembering how lucky we were to have had what we had for as long as we were meant to.
Yosef, oh, Yosef. My resident nutty child with an appetite to rival any adult’s and a quirky sense of humor to boot. He never really discussed Moshe’s loss, but at eight years old, I don’t know what I expected of a child his age. His ability to see the positive and beautiful things in life is encouraging to me on a daily basis. I’m thankful he’s still holding onto the innocence of being a child.
Gavi, on the other hand, asks questions well beyond his five years. He craves reassurance from me and other family members that sometimes families don’t have two parents. Sometimes one goes to Shamayim earlier than expected but it doesn’t make us less significant than anyone else. We still do things Moshe did with us. We go out to Dunkin’ Donuts, we go to batting cages and Matty’s Toys. We do bedtime together, and sometimes when he asks one of his hard-hitting questions about life and death, I subtly lower my head so he won’t be alarmed by the tears streaming down my face. He’s trusting and accepting of G-d and His decisions even if he doesn’t understand. How refreshing is that? I’ve got a lot to learn from my baby boy.
Hopefully, he’ll impart the wisdom well beyond his years to our baby girl, Rosie. At only 18 months, she was completely unaware of what was happening around her, yet did sense a change and because of that, her sleep cycle changed in the weeks after Moshe passed. I remember putting her in my bed with me and being so relieved that I could cry openly in front of her, without fearing her reaction or reciprocating the sadness she felt emanating from me.
Despite all the changes in our life, her brothers are her fierce protectors, their love for her sometimes even too much for her to handle. Even though in the beginning, I wondered how I’d care for this baby alone, instead of looking for Moshe, she just accepted that it was now only me, and that was fine with her. I initially thought it would be so difficult caring for her, but she ended up being the easiest of the bunch. She’s sunshine and smiles and makes every day a better day. I’m only sorry that she’ll only have pictures and stories of Moshe to remember him by instead of realizing firsthand how incredible her father was.
We’re quickly approaching the Jewish New Year, a time last year when I had no knowledge of what would befall us as a family. And I hear often from people around me who have experienced the loss we have that G-d has a special place for kids who lose a parent. A little extra protection, if you will.
And just like that beautiful Shabbos last week when Abba extended his open hand to Gavi, I get to see on a daily basis that G-d does the same to my other children as well. He extends His open hand to them, to show them that they’ll never be alone. On the eve of our new year, I silently pray they grab hold of that hand and recognize that they’ll always be taken care of.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. Malkie has been sharing her thoughts 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.