There’s much choreography involved in making Shabbos plans for me and my children.
Sure, I could do things the easy way — stay home and sit at a table where I now sit at the head instead of their father, convincingly (at least I hope) cheerful while trying to make believe that everything’s great, while I serve food and make light conversation on topics varying between school, current events, social lives, and whatever else I’m able to discuss.
Or I can distract myself and my kids by having company.
For 2 years.
I’ll let you in on the truth: no one wants to have Shabbos company that often. Even the most social people yearn for a break from being on all the time.
What I do is hard, and I don’t know if it’s because it’s beneficial and a good distraction for my kids, or if it’s a distraction for me. Regardless, I feel that Shabbos is a day to spend with loved ones, and because our loved one is so conspicuously missing, I usually start thinking of what our next Shabbos plans will be as soon as Shabbos is over.
My parents are here often and are always available if and when nothing else is on the Shabbos agenda. On occasion, my siblings will be here with their kids for Shabbos as well. On yomim tovim we are either with them at my parents’ house or at my sister and brother-in-law, Dini and Eliezer, in Chestnut Ridge.
It’s like I’ve reverted to being an older single woman, but I have the unique addition of five little kids who sort of come with me everywhere I go.
So it’s never easy and is usually stressful. During COVID, in the early weeks when no one was hosting meals or going out to friends, I found myself in a tough spot.
The kids looked to me for guidance, for an idea as to what we’d do if no one would come to us because there was such fear associated with the pandemic. And for us, that fear was added to the fear that the only people at our table would be us, minus Moshe.
What happens when families are bereft, and we can no longer use other people to fill the silence? Like so much else in life, we hustle through it. Or, like the many motivational quotes my eyes are drawn to lately, “We can do hard things.”
Even when we really, really don’t want to. When no choice is given, and it’s sink or swim, we keep our heads above water, doggie paddle, and hope for the best.
So we did. And, to be honest, it wasn’t entirely bad. It became normal, like so much else in life that I never would have imagined.
After our gargantuan loss, COVID came and kept taking more away, and I’d just regroup and say to myself, “We have each other, Alana is here, the kids are well…” basically grasping at anything to be grateful for, because even a broken heart can sometimes feel the blessings.
Now Alana is newly married. We wanted that for her, and it’s been yet another transitional stage for us to live through.
I find myself so thankful for the concept of time, and how it really does make things easier, less painful, and more normal as the days progress.
Or maybe they’re not easier, but I’m stronger and more able to manage the pain and redefine the normal. They say time heals, and maybe it does, or maybe it’s the just the stage on which we learn to heal ourselves.
See, for the first few months after Moshe passed, and before Alana came to live with us, I had never spent a night alone and the thought terrified me.
I’d try to convince myself that it wasn’t a big deal, but the truth was that I simply couldn’t pile on all the changes happening at breakneck speed in our lives.
And I also knew that I couldn’t sleep without another adult in my house.
Much as I had tried for the few times I found myself alone with my sleeping children, unable to relax enough to fall asleep, I also knew that I couldn’t afford to lose full nights of rest, even if it had been whittled down from eight hours to around half of that.
So I always made sure to have a friend, family member, or neighbor available, and I won’t lie and tell you that I didn’t feel ashamed for not being strong enough to take it on.
I was a responsible adult, but I was used to the backdrop security of Moshe taking care of us.
I’d always had a lot to do, but suddenly there was no safety net under my tightrope, and the same juggling routines I’d always balanced felt petrifying and precarious.
Strangely, with the time that’s passed since his passing, with the realization that this is where we are and who we are, comes another interesting voice from within — it’s one that simply states: “You can do this.” I’ve come to know it even when I don’t believe it and fight it. I still prefer the company of others, and I’m quietly confident that that’ll come, too.
Shabbos plans will still require planning and manufactured cheer for the sake of my children. It still often triggers a plethora of other emotions that come with facing that empty chair at our festive table.
I’ve learned that I don’t need to fill the silence with guests even if I still prefer to. And I’m learning that with time, practice, work, and prayer, the worry and the planning will recede and morph into the truth that was always there: that regardless of who’s here, “we’re enough.”
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away at the age of 40. She 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.