By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

Lately, I’ve started conjuring the courage to reread past articles for which I haven’t had the emotional energy until now.

Like thumbing through an old photo album to recall how everyone looked younger and slightly different years ago, I started skimming through the articles I’ve written in years past, to remind myself how I felt back then.

Call it my personal yearbook of sorts, but one I’ve been hesitant to explore up until now. I was almost too afraid of what I’d read, and if it would bring me back to a time that I didn’t want to revisit.

That’s not to say that I needed a reminder of what it feels like to relive the terror of what we’d been through, but, thankfully, I’ve been able to place those feelings, that time period, safely in the past where it belongs.

I’m still fascinated at how time can dull an event that I might have previously thought I’d never get through.

The rawness of those emotions was once even too much to write about, let alone live with, and, over time, has evolved into an essential part of our story.

In the writings, I’ve discovered beauty born from tragedy, gratitude from the mundane, selflessness and dedication from those around us when we needed them most.

And like any significant time in one’s life, it’s one that is important to remember. Not just the calm after the storm, but every step of the process that took part in this new reality. The before, during, and after that reshaped a version of ourselves that never would’ve existed if not for it.

As this version of our life settles into a new norm, as we are now repeating the things we did as a family for the first time last year, my curiosity was piqued and I clicked onto an article I had written to see how different we looked and felt last year.

I read about arriving at a new congregation and the joy and anonymity of being one of many there, instead of what it formerly felt like to arrive at a shul where so much history had happened.

Where it was impossible to start anew.

Where they all knew too much, and how much harder it would be to stay in the only house of prayer I had known in my adulthood.

I saw people I haven’t seen since last Yom Kippur and there was something special about catching up to see what had changed in their lives.

It felt good to rejoice in the positive new developments in their lives, and that kept reminding me that every day presents the opportunity to try again.

That even those microscopic changes you might not realize make a difference in your overall outcome actually do. That maybe that’s what happened in my life one day without my realizing. I decided to no longer feel the way I was supposed to, and instead felt the way I wanted to. That put forth actual change and has helped my life evolve into where it is today.

I’ve spent holidays such as the one we’ve just had in a state of numbness, almost too exhausted to expel the energy needed to communicate with G-d.

I’d hope silently for a free pass and wait for it to be over.

I wouldn’t pray for anything in particular because I knew that it didn’t mean I’d get what I was asking for.

I knew too much about what can happen in life, and while I remain the everlasting optimist, my hopes and thoughts will forever be marred with a darker version of what could be.

It’s not something I could change at this point, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was embedded in my DNA, but that’s simply the occupational hazard of living through the statistically improbable—once you live through that, it’s all possible and deeply terrifying.

I don’t think I expected any significant reaction as the rav got up to speak in between Shacharit and Mussaf, but I knew that he was the type to pack a punch even with a short-and-sweet 15-minute delivery.

And I don’t know which part in particular resonated something within me, but one moment I was a poker-faced congregant in the crowd and the next, I was expressing what felt like years of holding back.

He spoke about the correlation between King David trying to escape his son Avshalom’s murder plot and us being distant from our own father. And how no matter how bad or delinquent or dismissive we can sometimes be, the love of a father to his children never really goes away. He’ll always be there, regardless of whether you acknowledge his existence.

I thought about all the moments I had been through and had not credited G-d for giving me the strength to get through them and I just broke down.

I knew it was something I needed to hear and was thankful that I was in this shul at that moment to hear it.

I knew that just because life doesn’t happen the way you think it should, it doesn’t mean that even the unpleasant parts of life, even the struggles, aren’t worth thanking Him for.

When I think back about all we’ve been through, there are parts I’d love to rewrite—maybe less pain, less loss, and less change. But as I get to read through it all and see what’s resulted in the brief departure from the script of how I thought life would look, I’m really grateful for it all. I make it a point to say a berachah on even the hard times as well as the good ones, because it comes from the same place.

For life’s second chances, for the resilience of children, and for the presence of a father who never went anywhere.


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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