By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

I get especially nostalgic around this time of year and although I’m sure many people can share in my sentiments during this time when we celebrate the Jewish new year, I especially think it hits those who have suffered through different types of hardships.

It’s a relative statement to make as I’m sure most of us can think back to times in our lives that have been difficult but there’s nothing like recalling that feeling of desperation during that time to get you to reflect on those moments.

For me, thinking about where we are now from where we’ve been conjures up many emotions and I wanted to share them with you as a means for encouragement to others who are dealing with their own various life events.

For some reason, today as we sat around the Shabbos table, sharing our stories from the week, reading about the parashah and eating our meal, I took a good long look at my oldest son, Dovid.

It’s hard to notice the changes in your kids when you see them daily, just like it’s difficult to understand people when they comment on how one’s kids are clones of each other.

As parents, we just don’t see it as well as an outsider might.

But today, I sat there and saw my late husband so clearly in my oldest son.

I saw the same mannerisms in his form and expressions on his face as he laughed quietly and made a comment under his breath, like his father used to do.

I saw things in him that he might never realize he got from his father unless I’d say something to remind him.

Truth is, I don’t want to say anything because the scar is healing, and I don’t want to reopen old wounds.

My kids are fragile even though people always say how resilient kids are in general.

It’s true, but somewhat of a slippery slope so I choose my battles wisely and this is one I’m wary to take on.

I think about Moshe seeing how much his children have grown since he’s been gone and how much I tried keeping my promise to him that they’d be ok, with his help from a different place.

A more influential place, perhaps.

I still have conversations with him about them, even though our lives have vastly improved within the last couple of years, thanks to some really positive changes.

I know Moshe sees them and I’m sure he misses them like crazy, but I still want to fill him in on the details of their lives, like any parent would discuss with their spouse.

I talk about Dovid’s foray into adulthood, his various activities, and his dog walking gig. His need for independence and his bravery taking on manhood without the man who became a father after his arrival.

I talk about Nison becoming a physical clone of his father and how quick-witted he is. How despite it all, he’s held onto making people laugh and how proud he should be for not losing that happiness.

I talk about how sweet and sensitive Yosef is and that he’s Jeremy’s protege. About how much Yosef wants to please him and make him proud and how touching that is to see.

I tell him about Gavi and how mature he’s become, and about how much he’s loving our family dynamic here. He became a new person after Jeremy’s arrival and new life breathed into him.

As a mother having to bear witness to her children’s heartbreak, there’s nothing like seeing them thrive the way they have lately.

I tell him about Rosie, the baby he didn’t have much time in getting to know. How she’s grown into her own and she’s a little person now. She’s in first grade and sometimes, I like reverting back to old videos on my phone to remind myself of a time I thought I’d never get through in one piece, when she was a baby and then a toddler, and all of a sudden, she’s in a school uniform skirt that threatens to fall off her tiny waist as she runs off the bus with her giant knapsack of G-d knows what inside.

She’s friendly and outgoing and social. She’s beloved by so many and loves people because it actually took a village to raise her.

She listens to Gavi tell her about a time when they had another daddy who passed away and then she repeats her findings to Jeremy who patiently listens to her and lets her talk about it, because it’s something important for her to articulate.

It’s a piece of her past and shouldn’t be forgotten.

She tells him that even though he feels like her daddy, she had another one once, when she was too young to remember such a thing.

I tell him about my life too, and how I’m pretty sure I could write a movie script based on the (bestselling) book that’s definitely on the bucket list.

I tell him things he knows, like if ever there was a person whose loss was affected by so many, it was his.

That he was beloved by everyone and that I was honored to be the one who got to spend the years he had left starting our family.

That Rosh Hashanah took on an entirely new meaning after his passing, after I realized with horror that the worst things you never even imagine happening can indeed happen.

But that something else happens too.

The places you’d never think to find gratitude are borne from the saddest of circumstances.

You start micromanaging your life events and become thankful for things you never thought were perks, but it’s those moments where you’ve lost so much that you see more clearly than ever how much you have.

Eventually this seedling that I can only describe as hope sprouts up from the depths and that’s the stuff that gets you through the day—the understanding that the hard times will pass and that it’s largely up to you to decide to change the trajectory of your life.

The courage to try again after things didn’t work out the way you anticipated.

The beauty of possibility even when you can’t imagine them working out.

Life improves due to a few things—faith and belief in G-d is most important and understanding that sometimes we don’t have the answers and that’s ok too.

Prayer, thoughts becoming words that turn into action is yet another.

Rosh Hashanah is a gift in itself because it forces us to reflect on the past years’ events and come to terms with where we are versus where we want to be.

It provides us with a springboard to make changes and although this was something forced upon me during a time that wasn’t very opportune (what time really is?) I knew that I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time in that space.

It might sound like what I’m saying isn’t achievable, but I know it is because I did it, with G-d’s help.

With shock and grief and trauma and kids who needed caring and maybe a sprinkle of denial from time to time.

I spent a Rosh Hashanah or two desperate to get back to myself.

There was crying and begging for my old life and regret that I didn’t appreciate what I had until it was no longer available or possible to go back in time.

Then I spent one in acceptance, finally becoming familiar with the person I used to be paired with the added layers of life. It was a rebuilding of a life that suffered somewhat of an identity crisis.

But with time and introspection and thought and writing and all the skills we’re given, I was gifted with the opportunity to get another chance.

A lot of it was based on action before much thought and humor when I really wanted to cry, but it was also based on a deep trust.

That even though we lost a lot, I believed that this wasn’t the last chapter in our book, just the cliffhanger ending of the part one story of us.

This year’s Yom Kippur is quickly approaching, and I try predicting what I’ll be like once I stand there on the holiday and sum up the past years’ happenings.

The happiness, the sadness, the frustrations, and the blueprint of life’s unpredictability that provided me with the strength to understand that even when things don’t work out the way we want them to, it’s not the end.

It might actually be a beautiful new beginning.

 

Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.

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