I use this site to express myself, and to vent, think things through, etc. My husband, Michoel says that I shouldnít get ďall religiousĒ on you, but I feel that I have something I have to say. You have some choices. You can choose not to read it; you can read it and think I am a nut, or you can read it and think about it. I donít care what you do with what I throw out. I am not a rabbi, I am not an authority. I have just been through a horrific experience, and I am documenting my journey.
That said, I have thought a lot about what I wrote on Friday. The Baal Shem Tov (first Chassidic Rebbe) said that everything that happens to us happens for a reason. We can learn from our experiences. I have been thinking Ö What message is HaShem trying to send me through my sadness? We are approaching the bain hamitzarim (the Three Weeks), a time where we mourn for the Bais Hamikdash (Holy Temple). In past years, it was a time of inconvenience. Itís a time where you donít listen to music and there are no weddings. You arenít supposed to go shopping for new clothes (unless you need it or itís on sale). There are a lot more restrictions. The last 9 days are the most intense. To be perfectly honest, in the past, these have been a big huge pain. Yeah, yeah, I am sad we donít have a Holy Temple. If Moshiach comes, great. If not, I still have my life. Now, I FEEL something missing intensely from my life. At a Jewish wedding we break a glass to symbolize even though we are happy we are still missing our Holy Temple. I no longer need any external reminders. I carry around with me 24/7 a longing and hope for Moshiach. I realize now that itís so sad that it took such a strong wake up call, but what can I tell you? I feel that if anyone can learn and feel my pain, maybe they can also translate it into a longing for Moshiach. I am trying to focus that pain into something positive. HaShem is also sad. He has no home. No one to offer the karbanos, no special connection. You can take my pain, and use it in YOUR avodas HaShem (service to G-d).
Iíve been told that grieving has no path. Itís not like first you feel this, and then you feel that, finally you reach this stage and BOOM, you are over your grief. Grief is a process that goes up and down like a zig-zagging line on a graph gone haywire. Some days you are so down, sinking deep into a pit. Some days you are are ďOKĒ. The grief over the loss of a child is the hardest, since you never get over it. There is no ďYou feel better in 6 months, a year, two years, etcĒ. YOU NEVER GET OVER IT. We carry this around with us for the rest of our lives. It becomes a part of us. I am not saying that it defines us, or brings us down. I am not saying I need to wear black for the rest of my life and will never feel joy again. I am saying that with each breath I take, I miss Yossi. I will never stop missing him or mourning him. How can I? He was my future. We had dreams, plans, and goals. In five months, my life was turned upside down and will never go right side up again. I think that if anyone tries to imagine this for just a moment, they would have to agree. Our children are such a part of us. My mom always used to tell me that she thought that she would stop worrying about me when I was 18. Then it was when I got married. Then she finally realized that she would never stop worrying. I want to end this update with some kind words from my friend Rena (she wrote it me back in March):
I know that when we sat shiva for my dad, my grandmother took it so bad. My dad was an only child, he was her baby even though he was 60 years old and she was 85! The only person who could comfort her was Mrs. Cohen. Mrs. Cohen was also a lady in her 80's (both grandma and Mrs. Cohen have since passed on). Mrs. Cohen sat with grandma and cried with her. Mrs. Cohen had a 12-year-old son who was killed in a freak accident (a windstorm came up on his walk home Friday night from shul, lightning struck a tree and the tree fell on him). This happened in the 1950's. As a memorial for him, all the benchers in Bais Yaakov are in his memory, so I know about him even though I moved to Baltimore in 1973! Every day at lunch I saw this boy's face. It is a very difficult thing, losing a child, not in the normal sequence of life. And even though my dad was a grown man, with grandchildren of his own, he was grandma's baby. and Mrs. Cohen was the only one of us who could really relate to her.
Finally, my dad said to me, ďthese entries send me on an emotional roller coaster.Ē Well, HELLO! My life is an emotional roller coaster. One minute I can see pictures of him and be fine. The next minute I see a video of him and I am in tears. I know a lot of you would love to see us just ďhealĒ, wish this pain away. It isnít going to happen. The only thing that will magically heal us is for Moshiach to come or WW3 to start (with a gigantic bomb on Washington). Seriously, I donít want to die, but there isnít the joy in life that there used to be. Yes, I still have 4 other kids. Yes, I love them to pieces. BUT YOSSI IS STILL MISSING. I still get joy from them, but itís not a full joy. I always know that my life is not whole.
Hello all! I am sorry that I haven't updated in so long, but I was on vacation in NY! I will talk more in an update hopefully tomorrow, but it was an incredible journey. I visited Melanie, a mom I met I at the Chai Lifeline retreat. I saw Chaya Teldon (10 years since her son passed away). I met a mom by "chance" (there is really no such thing, Hashem really plans it so we meet who He wants us to meet) who lost her son to Leukemia 20 years ago. She was fabulous. She has a large family, most of which were born after her son passed away. I saw so many of my old friends. We had a shiur (learning) in memory of Yossi. I stopped in Baltimore and saw Michele (Missy's mom). I shared pictures of Yossi that I haven't scanned yet with all my friends. I talked and cried. I was happy. I had a good time. I thought of Yossi, but did nice things too. It was a real eye opening experience. (This is only the tip of the iceberg. I am way too tired to write about the whole trip now.) I am continually amazed at the power of this site. Thank you to everyone who wrote to me concerned that they hadn't heard from me in a while. I will try blee neder (I am not promising) to write a total and complete update tomorrow. Nite all!!!
Ok, here we go. Hold onto your hats, cuz itís a wild ride.
Thursday, July 5, I left Richmond and went to visit some friends who live in NJ. First I stopped off at Melanieís house. (I met her at the Chai Lifeline retreat.) We had a wonderful time. Itís so fantastic to speak with another mom who understands exactly what I am going through. Plus, she lost her son almost two years ago, and still misses him tremendously. I guess what I learned from all the moms I spoke with is that it doesnít matter if itís only 4 months or 20 years, not a day goes by that you donít think about your child! I AM NORMAL! It was important for me to see this through the eyes of the other moms. Melanie has a pool so the kids got to go swimming. It was a short visit, but very nice. Plus, I got to see a ton of pictures of her son. I see I am not the only one who takes so many pictures!!! We got to the Gorelikís house late, but I still managed to have a long talk with Jackie after I got the kids into bed. (The Goreliks used to live in Richmond; Rabbi Gorelik is who I ask a lot of questions to.) Then, it was off to Crown Heights, my old home, Yossiís birthplace.
I arrived later in the afternoon than I had planned to, but this is going to be a theme throughout my whole trip. I got settled in, and then went to see my brother Ahron and his family who live just a block away from my friend Ora. Shabbos was really very nice. Ora went out of her way to make us feel at home. Her girls are very close in age to my kids. (Ora was pregnant with her first when I was pregnant with Yossi.) Her youngest, Mendy, is just a few months younger than Sruli. So my kids had who to play with. Shabbos afternoon Ora arranged for her neighbor Chanie to give a class. She also invited a lot of my old friends from California, as well as some of her friends who followed my site. I had some pictures I had put together of Yossi, as well as the scrapbook I made with his work in it. Chanie was an excellent speaker. She brought us all to tears when connected the idea of loving your fellow like yourself and how Yossi was loved by everyone. (She had never met him, but she had him pegged!) I hope that people realize that itís OK to cry about missing Yossi, or even to feel sorry for our pain. It doesnít in anyway add to our pain. In fact, the opposite is true. I speak about Yossi in the present tense, saying that he likes this or that. Itís hard to push him to the past. I know that his spirit is still here with me, so I feel OK saying things about him now.
Sunday was a fast day, so I went to Boro Park to do a little shopping and to see my friend Zeldie. I met Zeldie online 3 Ĺ years ago. Her son had been diagnosed a year before Yossi. She was such an inspiration to me. She was always so upbeat and positive. Over the years I have known her; she has suffered a lot of tragedies, and still maintains a positive attitude. However, this recent fall that she suffered (she broke her hip) has really dampened her spirits. We had a very long visit. She is a special person, and I am honored to know her. (Yossi and Michoel stayed in her basement in í99 when they went to NY for Yossiís counselors wedding.) Sunday night I left Oraís house, and went to stay by my brotherís house for the remainder of my NY stay.
My brother has one daughter, a little younger than Sruli. The kids love her so much, but rarely get to see her. She is also named Chanie (both girls were named after the same grandmother). They played together, and also fought over the toys as kids that age will do. On Monday my CA friends and I went out to lunch. Tuesday I went back to Boro Park. This time I met with Chomie. Her son had neuroblastoma 21 years ago. Chomie did so much for taking cancer out of the closet. Back then, cancer was a disease that you didnít mention. You didnít tell friends and neighbors because it was a ďdirty secretĒ. Chomie organized support groups, and has a news letter that she sends out several times a year. It deals with Jewish issues that you wonít find in regular magazines. She was also the one who connected Yossi with Elan Boehm back when he went to transplant in í98. (If anyone is interested in receiving information about Caring and Sharing, please contact me via email.)
For dinner I went to my friend Aviva. We were best friends back in high school. We have the type of friendship that we can go months without speaking, and then just pick up where we left off. My kids had a great time.
Wednesday was the only yuchy day of my trip. We went to the Bronx Zoo. Since it was Wednesday, it was free. There were a ton of people. I was supposed to meet my cyber-friend Ricky at the guest services, except they donít have a guest services. It took us a while to finally meet up. Rickyís son Garrett had a BMT the same month Yossi had his first one. He is doing well, Thank G-d. We walked around for a while, and then separated for lunch. We were supposed to meet again later. I stupidly left my camera hanging on the stroller, and when I picked Sruli up to see an animal, some (human) animal stole it. I was really disappointed. The camera was a good one that Michoel and the kids got me for my birthday two years ago. But more importantly, there were great pictures of my kids and their cousin on it. Plus, the camera bag was bought with money that Yossi had left over on his amazon.com account, so I considered it a gift from him. (With everything that has happened in my life, I realize that itís only a camera. But still, itís like, ďHELLO G-D, havenít I been through enough? Donít I deserve something good?Ē I guess itís just one more question to add to my list when I stand before him after 120 years.) The rest of the day was ruined for me. I had visions of seeing someone with my camera, and I was going to just grab it away from them. I did notify security. That way, if I tried to steal my camera back, I would have a leg to stand on! Who ever took it probably just left the zoo, and sold it for drug money. Gam zu lítovah Ö .this too is for the good.
We had dinner with Michoelís aunt Ellen, which was really nice. She comes down here once a year, and itís a real treat for us to see her in NY.
Thursday was one of the busiest days. First we went to the Ohel where the Lubavitcher Rebbe is buried. There is a Chabad House right on the edge of the cemetery. We went to his grave, and prayed. I cried a little, but it was so hard to concentrate since the kids were misbehaving a little. Finally, we left. Buried just a few rows over from the Rebbe is my bible teacher, Morah Schusterman. I tried to find her grave, but it was different from 15 years ago when I was last there. I was almost in tears when all of a sudden I spotted her grave.
I had agreed to meet Chaya Teldon at the Ohel, and we spoke for quite a while. One important thing that she told me is that your life is a chapter book. Itís ok to turn the page to the next chapter. You donít forget the previous chapter, but you have to turn that page or you are stuck on that chapter. I said that there has to be someway to keep him connected in our lives. Move on but keep that chapter open. She cautioned me about the kids living in his shadow. I said that there has to be a fine line, and that somehow you can keep his memory alive without it overpowering my other kidsí lives. She was referring to the fact that my kids were drawing pictures of Yossi, and writing notes to him. I think part of it has to do with the fact that we were at a cemetery, and they associate a cemetery with Yossi. (They had never been to one before.)
Then I went to visit another cyber friend. We met online after Yossi got sick when she signed our guestbook. I got to meet her once before when she was in Richmond for a few days. (I was pregnant with Sruli at the time!) I showed her pictures and the famous scrapbook. I was also very happy to meet her mom. Her mom lost a daughter to leukemia 14 years ago. We spoke for a very limited amount of time since I was running so late. Next I was off to see another person I knew on the phone, but had never met in person. I was connected with Sarah Devorah through the Ronald McDonald House in MN. Her first son passed away 8 years ago. (They were in MN for a transplant about 4 years ago.) We had a great dinner, and Chanie made yet another friend. (The girls are the same ages.) Now we both can put faces to the voices when we talk on the phone. For me it was tremendous to see these women who lost a child to have gone on with their lives. It gave me such chizuk (inspiration). I know that I can do it.
Friday was a quiet day in Crown Heights. Shabbos by my brother was very nice. I think of him as this little boy, but heís not. He is a man with a family. We all had a very pleasant Shabbos. Saturday night was so fun. I canít get ice cream here because we keep cholov yisroel (an extra stringency with the milk). My friends and I went out to the ice cream shop after Shabbos, and I am not ashamed to admit that for dinner I had an ice cream sundae. It was awesome. I had every topping put on. I am happy to say that I couldnít finish the whole thing, and took the rest home to have for breakfast the next day.
Sunday was probably one of the most fun days of the trip. Ahron has a friend who has an uncle who has a beach house in Far Rockaway. We all went, Ahron and his family, me and my kids, Ora and her family, and Menachem Shaul and his family. (Menachem is Ahronís good friend, and my kids used to call him ďUncle Menachem ShaulĒ.) It is a small private beach that is sectioned off from the rest of the public beach. It is right under the bridge where Rockaway Blvd ends. Menachem Shaulís uncle has a canoe he let us use. While we were there, Menachemís aunt and her family came. It turns out that Susie lost her son to Leukemia 20 years ago. I was blown away! I think we spoke for 2 hours non-stop. I am so thankful that HaShem sent me just what I needed just when I needed it! I have wanted to ask people ďHow do you do it?Ē, and here was the perfect person to ask. We exchanged numbers and I hope we can keep in touch.
We went to Oraís house to have a barbeque. It was so fun. Kids were running in and out. We had two grills going, so there was plenty to eat. When I got back to Ahronís apartment, I had to pack.
I left Monday and went down to Baltimore. (Not before stopping at store to stock up on junk for the ride!) We stayed with my friend Rena. (She lost her father to Leukemia.) Chanie remembered her kids since we stayed there once before, two years ago. Sadly, when we were talking, Rena told me that she never got to meet Yossi when he was alive. I felt bad about it. I did stop in Baltimore briefly last year on my way home from NY, but we only had a couple of hours. We went to Micheleís house, and had dinner with my friend Zipporah.
Tuesday was another run-around day. We went to meet Michele for lunch (pizza and ice cream, what else?). Then I went to have my shaitelís (wigs) styled. I went back to Linda, the woman I met back at Pesach time. She had suffered the loss of her sister at the time. Her daughter has been following Yossiís site for a long time now, and continually urges me to ďkeep on writingĒ! Lindaís father passed away recently. I ended up speaking to Linda so much, and the time just flew by. All of sudden, two hours had flown by, and I was supposed to have meet Michele back at her house an hour before! Life is so weird. I look at other peopleís stories, and feel so sorry for them and what has happened. Anyways, she is a fabulous woman, and another source of strength for me to lean on.
Back at Micheleís house we got into a whole discussion about the messiah. The kids played upstairs since my kids are afraid of her dogs. I am hoping that Michele is going to make it down to me for a Shabbos next month.
I went to Zipporahís house for dinner. (She is one of my best friends. She used to live in Richmond. I usually stay at her house, but she had just moved two weeks ago, and I didnít want to put her out that much.) Chanie used to be very close with Dovid. At dinner, they sat next to each other just by ďchanceĒ (is there really anything that happens by chance???). The kids played and had a super time. Zipporah and I actually managed to talk for a long time. I was so sad when I had to leave since we didnít have nearly enough time together.
Yesterday finishes up our trip with us returning home tired but very happy. I feel that it was a very productive trip. I was able to connect with so many other moms who have ďbeen there, done thatĒ. They have showed me that life does move forward. You still manage to get up each day, go to work; take care of your other kids. You never love your child any less, or miss him/her less. The pain is still there, but it is manageable. Itís amazing to think back to the first two months after Yossi died. I thought that I could never go on. Itís amazing how a mothers heart just doesnít automatically stop when their childís stop. I guess it is to show us that there is a reason. You just go on. People tell me that they are amazed at me, how I get up each morning. I ask you, what choice do I have? What, am I going to sit in bed all day??? I am still a little nervous about school. I still feel a tug when I see his friends. I am worried about having to care deeply about other children (beside my own). I worry about the energy needed to teach. I guess just like I get up each morning, and do what I have to do, I will go to school each day and teach what I have to teach. I just hope and pray that HaShem will continue to give me the strength to do it will a smile each and everyday!
Obviously there will be no pictures of my trip.
Please continue to donate money to the high school. I am not sure of the total amount, but I am aiming to have the library named after him, and fill it will books that he would have enjoyed. Also, keep doing mitzvos in his memory. When I was going to Michele's house, I ended up in the right-turn only lane. I realized it too late, and tried to move over. The car saw me wanting to switch lanes, and speeded up to cut me off. Since we were at a red light, I was blocking the cars from making a right turn. I thought that driver was soooo rude. I was so tempted to run out and give her a Yossi card. But then I figured that she might think I had a gun or some other crazy thing. So I just sat there wishing she would know Yossi's story, and about being nice to other people in his memory. Oh well. G'night.
Just a short update for now.
The kids seem to be having a good time. Goldie and Shauly are still in Minnesota. They come home next Wednesday. They rarely call home, although I suspect that Shauly is more homesick then he lets on.
Chanie has moved into the older sister role. She has always played younger sister to Goldie. For the last 4 weeks, she has been the oldest in the house. She helps Sruli with washing his hands in the morning sometimes, as well as leading him in playing games and stuff. Sruli is still trying to keep up with Chanie. If she rides her bike, he wants to ride his. If she goes to play at a friendís house, he wants to go to. Over all they get along real well, and enjoy each othersí company.
Chanie has had a problem with eczema for a long time. Iíve been taking her to a dermatologist. This time I showed her the rash on her face and legs. Chanie has a text-book case of fifth disease. The doctor would have taken a picture (like she did the first time I brought her in for her eczema) but her medical camera was stolen out of her car two weeks ago. I told her welcome to the club, and explained about my camera. Oh well.
I have started working on my classroom. The first day I went back to school I got very little work done. I wandered around the building for a while. I sat at one of the desks that used to be Yossiís. I sat in the other room next to the desk where his phone used to sit for his phone hook-up. I found a picture of Yossi at the Chanukah carnival with a smile so big if forced his eyes almost shut. He was so incredibly happy to be at school and to be with his friends. I cried and cried. I miss him so much. While I can make it through the day, not an hour goes by that I donít think about him; whether I am at home or busy doing anything. I think of him everywhere I go. I think that part of the reason I have a hard time at school vs. at home is because at home I still feel him. I feel so comfortable in his room. I look at pictures or videos and itís not the overwhelming sadness. At school however, itís the total opposite. Instead of feeling him or his presence, I feel his absence. I see the list for the school newsletter, and know that this coming fall his name will not be on the list. I know that he will be missing from the minyan the boys had hoped to have. I know he WONíT be sitting in his desk, or raising money for the eighth grade end-of-year trip. I am hoping the more I go to school, the easier it will get. I am drawn to the picture archives we have. Yesterday I found a great picture his friends Menachem and Avrummie with Yossi. It was taken last year, but I am not sure when.
The pictures are thrown helter skelter in a box and bag and what have you. I have offered to organize the pictures so I can pull pictures of Yossi to make copies of them. I am redecorating my room. Everything looks so faded and old. The decorations have been up since before Goldie was born. I have been trying slowly but surely to change everything, from my shaitel to my room. I donít now Ö maybe I am just trying to change my life. I know I feel like itís ďOld and FadedĒ.
Michoel is having a very hard time right now. He is feeling very down. Last night he dreamt of Yossi. I quote Michoel Ė ďThere was a whole lot going on in the dream, but at the end Yossi was there. It was really like he had "come back" at least for a while. He was telling me that he misses all the things down here, like his games and stuff. It was like he was dead, but just visiting or something, and he had to go back. I then hugged him and was crying hysterically. The dream ended with my alarm clock and I had tears in my eyes.Ē Thatís it for now. Good night.
I am not doing this quick update in Word, and it's very late, so please forgive any typos.
This past Sunday was Tisha b'Av (literally: the nineth day of the Hebrew month Av). It's the saddest day on the Hebrew calendar. We mourn for a lot of things, including our two holy Temples that were destroyed. From sunset the day before until after sunset on that day (this year was Sunday) we fast. No food or drink of any kind passes our lips. Since it is a day of mourning, I try to do "sad" things. Each year I read a Holocaust book. Yossi (A"H) was drawn to Holocaust books. He had me order him each and every one from the Scholastic book order. I used to try and preview the books that he read, but he read too fast for me. (He had a lot more time to read than I did. I was too busy making cakes and reading email. Plus I had this concentration problem that just wouldn't go away. For as long as I can remember, I have always, I mean ALWAYS loved to read. When Yossi got sick, I just couldn't read a book. Magazines were perfect, because they had short little articles I could finish one two three.) So, I sifted through his many books, and pulled out two that looked interested, I Have Lived a Thousand Years. I started reading, and couldn't stop. I read until 3 in the morning. [Mental note -- fasting and staying up late are a VERY bad combination!] The book I read was terribly graphic. I wish I could talk to Yossi, and ask him what he thought of it. Why did he enjoy reading them? Did he relate to the kids who went through this horrible thing? For me, the book also put my life sort of into perspective. I lost one child. So many people lost entire families. I could go on and on. I know that we suffered a horendous loss, but I feel that somehow what they went through was a gazillion times worse.
We went to visit Yossi on Sunday in addition to my weekly Friday visit (to wish him, "Good Shabbos"). It rained most of Sunday. When it finally cleared up for a little while, we ran. I brought Yossi the invitation to Menachem's Bar Mitzvah. (It turns out that Menachem wanted to bring it to him. Oh well, sorry Menach!)
Michoel took a little time to do something for ourselves. We went to see the movie, Planet of the Apes. I guess that this is one of the first times we have gone somewhere for ourselves that didn't involve shopping or house related chores. (In other words, it was a date!) The previews looked pretty good, and all of a sudden, there's a preview for Harry Potter. I almost burst into tears. Yossi favorite book!!! He was excited about the movie, and now he won't get to see it. He was most interested to see how they would film the quiddich match. At first I had thought that I wouldn't go see it, that it would be too hard. Then I realized that Yossi would want me to see if for him. So I guess you know where I will be Nov. 16th. (The movie was pretty good but it was too violent for my tastes.)
The kids come home on Wednesday, and they are very excited about it. I have been trying to organize the house before they get home, but I am not sure if I can do. I have slowly been changing a few things here and there in Yossi's room, moving things around. Eventually Shauly will probably move in there. I did a massive reorganization in my kitchen ... getting rid of things I never use, packing away my cake stuff, etc. Without the cake stuff and the other junk, I have so much more room. Next I would like to try and move Sruli into the room Chanie and Shauly share. I feel that it will be good for Goldie to have her own room. It takes so much energy, and I just don't have it. I have also been slowly working on getting stuff organized for my classroom. I guess I just have this compulsion to get my life changed. New style for my shaitel, new glasses, changing the decor, moving things. I don't know. Maybe it's just a desire to change my life?
The high school has raised $8,621 to date. I am not sure if that is the total. I was supposed to put it on the site last week, and forgot. No surprise, I have no idea where I put the paper with the right amount. I would love to print up charity boxes to give out to people to fill. If anyone knows where I can find the place that acutally makes them, please pass the name and phone number on to me. I have tried to find it on the net, and I haven't been successful.
Please keep doing good deeds to keep Yossi's memory alive. G'nite.
I know a lot of people have been anxiously awaiting a new update. Leah seems to have ďdropped the ballĒ, so I will do one. Many want to hear that we/I are doing much better. People seem to expect us to be pretty much over it by now. Well, that is simply not the case. Those who fortunately have never experienced what we did cannot understand what it is like, no matter how much they think they can. We have gotten emails and comments in person telling us it is time to be happy now. They donít want to face their fears, I assume. This is a subject nobody wants to think about. It gets pretty frustrating dealing with these attitudes. We went through a most horrific experience. And donít forget, YOSSI is the one who had it much worse than us, of course. People who werenít in Minnesota with us have no idea what it was like. My grandmother told me that when we were in Minnesota, her imagination was running wild with what it was like for Yossi. I told her no matter how bad she imagined it, it doesnít come close to what it was really like. That is why at one point I put a picture of Yossi on this site. To show people who were emailing Yossi and talking to him like he was conscious and that they would see him soon, that it wasnít so. And, those pictures donít even do justice to what he suffered. They just captured one moment in time. Instead it was 31 days of torture for Yossi, with each day getting progressively worse. Now, as his parents, how are we supposed to get over that? If someone has an answer, I would love to hear it. It would be nice if there was some magic pill, or word, or thought, or activity that would enable us to get over this, but sadly there isnít. This is what we will live with for the rest of our lives. I feel our lives are ruined. Letís just focus on the fact, that Yossi was such an awesome kid. Even through this terrible fall and winter, he was such a joy to be around. I would give or do anything to see that big smile on his bald, pudgy head again. He was so positive he was going to be ok. He kept us going. There wasnít anything we wouldnít have done for him. Now all his stuff sits empty and unused. His clothes, his games, his books. As time goes on, it gets more difficult, at least for me. I am tormented DAY and NIGHT with thoughts and dreams of Yossi. I do have to say, though, that even when the dreams of Yossi are terrible and recount his ordeal in a made for dream way, it is still great to be able to ďspendĒ that time with him. No matter how painful the dreams are (you can ask Leah how painful they are to me), I still wake up wishing for more of the dream. That is the only place where I can be with Yossi. I feel no purpose in life. People are always telling me that I have to be here and ok for the rest of my kids and wife. Sure, I understand that in my head, but not in my heart. Life is so terrible, that although I want more than anything to be with Yossi somehow, even if that were not possibleÖI JUST WANT OUT. I used to hate the fact that time seemed to fly by. Now, that is my whole point in life, just to get through the days, weeks, months, and years as quickly as possible. There is nothing to look forward to anymore. It is too hard. I admit, I am weak. Also selfish. The consensus is that Yossi is in a better place, and if you are religious, you believe that. But, I want him back. I need him. The truth is, religion isnít any comfort either. Sure, I go and dutifully say the prayers for Yossi 3 times a day, but I do that for Yossi, not for me. At this point, I feel it is bascially meaningless to pray. What is the point, does it do any good? It didnít save Yossi, it doesnít save victims of the bombings in Israel or violence in America or other places. My obligation for these prayers only extended for 30 days, but I decided to say it for 11 months, like you would for the death of a parent. After that, who knows. Is there really a G-d? Where has he been for thousands of years, then? There is too much suffering in this world. Many people feel closer to G-d after something like this. Go figure. So, sorry if this isnít the update you were hoping for. But, it is the truth, however terrible that might be.
People are wondering why I am not writing. A big part of it has to do with the criticism we are getting. All it takes is for one person to say that we are mourning wrong, or that we are obsessing, or some hurtful thing like that and we totally lose the benefit of writing. When I write, a lot of times I write to vent. Itís the same thing as speaking to my friends. I have made some wonderful friendships through this site. I am still amazed at the number of people who continue to check our site. When Yossi was sick, we would get words of encouragement. Now it seems that very few people have anything encouraging to say. What totally blows me away is that these are not people who have lost children. They are mostly people who have never experienced a loss of any sort, and yet feel that they have to tell us what to do and how to do it. For me, this is turning into a source of pain rather than comfort. I speak with other moms via the internet and Chai Lifeline. It is such a comfort to see that a lot of what we are going through right now is normal. Other people who have walked in our shoes feel the same way we do. Even those who are farther out can relate to what we are going through. Another reason I continue to write updates is to share our journey with those who are interested. I know that unfortunately, there are a lot of other families traveling down the same road, and this might be a source of comfort to them. (No one warned me how physically painful mourning is, and how draining it is. It saps all your energy, and leaves you feeling so empty.) So that said, I am going to put another update up. I want it understood that these are MY FEELINGS. You donít have to agree. You donít have to like it. Hey, I donít care if you choose never to read them again. This is our forum for us to vent and express ourselves. You donít have to respond. All hurtful emails and guestbook posts will be ignored. I realize that no one has intentionally tried to hurt us. Most of it has been done out of ignorance. So before you hit that send button, please think that if you were totally down, is this what you would find helpful?
One more note, here are a list of stupid things never to say to someone who is mourning!
*At least you have other children. (Hey, how about if I cut off one of your hands? At least you have another.)
*G-d only gives you what you can handle. (EVERY SINGLE BEREAVED PARENT I KNOW HATES THIS. We didnít volunteer for this, and we have no choice but to handle it. See next comment.)
*I donít know how you do it. (What, should I lay in bed all day and wait to die? See above comment.)
*He is in a better place./He is at peace./He isnít suffering now./ (That is true, but we still miss him and wish he was here with us.)
*At least you had him for as long as you did. (No, I am not on the level where I can be happy I had him for only 13 years less 6 weeks. I am greedy, and would have gladly loved to have seen him grow up, get married, etc. I wanted him for a lot longer than I had him for.)
*My note ... I don't see anyone running to trade places with us!
I canít think of anymore off the top of my head. There are tons of hurtful comments circulating around bereavement groups. So all I can say is please be careful what you say to us. Our hearts are so raw right now.
On a totally different note, I want to say that the upcoming weeks are going to be especially hard for us. It is very hard for us to think that last year Yossi was here, and perfectly fine. We are coming up on the original diagnosis date, the relapse date, everything all tied into one neat package. So please bear with us.
I have been working at school getting my classroom ready. All the decorations on the wall were so old and faded and blah (sort of like I feel). So I pulled everything down, and threw it all out. I put up new borders and made new signs. The room looks so wonderful. Chanie is very excited that I am going to be teaching her. The kids helped me (sort of) with finishing up the room. The first few days back were really hard. Certain things set me off, and there is no rhyme or reason. Yesterday I started crying because I realized that itís Elul, the month before Rosh Hashanah. Last summer Yossi bought himself a shofar (a ramís horn; itís blown to remind us to repent). He made sure to come into my classroom each day to blow it for us. I was thinking, ďWho is going to blow it for us this year?Ē Shauly got to meet his new secular teacher. I was very aloof, but not on purpose. Itís just, how do I tell him that I had this other son who died? Itís not the sort of thing you bring up in conversation. ďHey, did you know that I used to have 5 living children?Ē So I didnít say anything, and if he knew, he didnít say anything. I am leaning towards looking into a new career. I used to want to be a graphic artist when I was younger. This spring I am thinking I will take a class at the local college and maybe do something new next year. I sort of feel that itís time for change.
The last week or so I have been really down. Sometimes it hits so strongly Ö he isnít here, and he isnít coming back. Itís so sad to see his backpack we bought him in MN sit there unused, or his toys. Somehow even the stuffed animals in his room look really really sad. I canít explain, they just do. (We do let the kids use his computer, and play with most of his stuff.)
Thatís it for now. I am not saying that I donít want anyone to write. All I am asking is that you please think before you write. I know that no one means us any harm, but it has been hurting. Later!
I made an interesting discovery the other night. I was speaking to other bereaved moms on a ChaiLine from Chai Lifeline. (Itís a conference call where they joined up 8 bereaved moms. We all lost our children fairly recently and they were all older children.) I mentioned that the reason I build Yossiís legos and make picture albums or even write on the web page is that it helps me feel connected to Yossi. I cook my other kids favorite foods, or I will wash an outfit they need the next day at midnight. I do so many things for them because I love them. Itís my way of showing them I love them. Itís a way we are connected to our children, by the things we do for them. There are very few physical things I can do for Yossi. I have decided that I am doing what is right for me. So whether itís making a bracha (blessing) and having him or mind, or looking at a Dragon Ball Z action figure, I know now that this is my way of ďbondingĒ (being PC here!) with my son. And I have decided that I am not going to try and make excuses for it.
I was going through my old NíShei Chabad Newsletters, and I found the most amazing quote I would like to share with you. When I was at Bais Rivkah Seminary, we had a teacher, Morah Teichtel. I donít know when it happened, but she lost a daughter who was 7 to cancer. In the April/May Issue, 1990, she writes, ďThe Rebbe asks, If a parent knows that it is best for the Neshama (soul) to return to its Maker, would a parent deny his child what is the best for its welfare?Ē WOW! You know, I have said it, and I believe it, Hashem has a reason. I donít know what the reason is. But this gives me some comfort. It doesnít try to explain anything, or give a pat answer. Of course as a parent we only want what is best for our children. That is why we make them eat vegetables or go to sleep at a halfway decent time. Hashem knows that this is the best plan for Yossi, and I need to accept that. It hurts like crazy. I think that this is a point that I canít explain to anyone who hasnít gone through it. Itís a physical hurt, deep inside, a chronic hurt. Sometimes the pain is extremely intense, so much so I feel like I will burst or go out of my mind. Sometimes itís a dull ache that just throbs. It is always there. It never leaves. I guess it is my job to carry on, live each day somehow. I now have a new goal, simply to make it through each day. So far so good. Some days are so much better than others, though.
I finally found where to order the charity boxes. I ordered 100 blank boxes, and will have to print up labels. I have been playing around with publisher trying to figure out what will look nice. I spoke with the principal at school about how to best use the money. What I am hoping to do is open a Judaic lending library based in the high school. I would like to call it the Yossi Chaim Lending Library. I offered to go once a week at night to man it (woman it? Little humor here, it never hurts) so that people in the community can check out Jewish books. There are tons of Jewish novels and stuff that are just too costly for one family to purchase themselves. As a library, it should be able to do it. So, if you have any extra maaser (tithes) laying around, send it down to the high school fund (see address above). They can also take credit cards if you call the school. Just make sure you say that itís in memory of Yossi. I donít have the total right now, but I am guessing itís still right around $8,000. I would love to see it get to over $10,000 by the end of the school year.
With school starting there are certain things I am dreading. I canít bring myself to see the 8th grade school list. I heard some teachers today discussing who was in the class. It hurts so much that he isnít here. I canít bear to see the school roster without his name on it. I went the other night to drop a picture album off to his friend Ari. As I pulled up to the house, I realized that the last time I went to their house was back in December to drop Yossi off. I brought the album in, and gave it to him. All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed with grief, and I had to leave. As I walked out the door, Orly asked if I was alright. I just cried. There are no words. All I can say is that I am walking wounded. We all are. As my friend Rena constantly tells me, ďBe gentle with yourselfĒ. I am trying, I really am. Gínight.
ďÖvíal tadin es chavaiírícha ad shetageeah leemkomoh/ do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place ÖĒ Perkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers) Chapter 2; Mishnah Hay (5)
I wanted to start with someone we learned today in Perkei Avos. For a long time now, a group of my close friends have been learning Perkei Avos with me. First, one of the other ladies taught the class. When her family went away for the summer, I took over. I have to admit, itís a bit overwhelming to teach your friends vs little children. Each week I am a little nervous before I actually start teaching. But it has been really nice, turning into a give and take, where we all participate, and I really enjoy it. We are going to finish up Perkei Avos, and after Rosh Hashanah switch to a week night. All in Yossiís (AĒH) zchus. Now, you may be wondering, why I am sharing this with you. I just wanted to remind you Ö Unless you lost a child (G-d forbid), you are not going to completely get this Ö
Iíve told you about Yossiís friends. When Yossi went to preschool, he went with Avrummie and Menachem. They were inseparable, the 3 musketeers. When they started RTA in kindergarten, Guy added the click. (Yossi was best friends with Yonaton since they were two. He also joined the group.) The boys all got along well. I donít remember them having fights or problems. (Yossi got along well with all the boys [and girls] in his class.) Yonaton was the first of the group to be bar mitzvah right before we left for Minnesota. Avrummie shared what was to be the same weekend as Yossi. Guy was soon after him. So this week is the last of Yossiís closest friendsí bar mitzvahs. The other ones that happened after we came home I didnít go to. I felt like I should go to Menachemís for Yossi. The shul is over 2 miles away, and in 100% humidity, it wasnít pleasant. I was so worried we wouldnít get there in time for layning (Torah reading). To me the whole point is to hear the bar mitzvah boy read. If you arenít there for the actual simcha, what is the point of going? So, we make it there just in time. I get settled in, wipe away all the sweat, and look over to see Menachem. (In orthodox synagogues, the men and women sit separate.) He is literally beaming. He is so proud. Thatís it, I lose it. I just started to cry. I could just picture how proud Yossi would have been. I tell myself, I am totally nuts, what I am doing there? This is it, itís the last one I am going to. I made it for a few more minutes, but then I lost it again. I felt so bad, for all that we didnít have. Yossi should have been there with his friends. He should have had a chance to beam, smiling with his brand new hat, being a man called up to the Torah. When I hear about other bar mitzvahs, I have such a stabbing pain. Itís the same when I see whole families, it tugs at my heart. Itís not G-d forbid that I am wishing bad on other families, itís just so hard for me Ö it makes my loss more visible.
On Friday I went to pay a shiva call to a woman I never met. She lost her 10 Ĺ month old son. As soon as I walked in, I hugged her and just started crying. My son, her son, what difference does it make? I know the pain. It hurts whether itís my son or some woman in Israel who I never met. Another mom is suffering. She made such a striking comment to me Ö ďI never got to hear him speak Ö see him walkÖĒ Oh man, can I emphasize with that! Itís sort of where I am at with ďI never got to hear him lain (read from the Torah) or put on TífillinĒ. But she said something with so much insight that has brought me a lot of comfort. When I told her how physical the pain is, how much it hurts, she told me that it makes sense. That the love you feel for your child is strong and physical. Itís true, from the moment they put that little baby in your arms, at least for me, I just feel so much love. Even when I was pregnant, I loved the babies.
Even though I am moving (not on or forward, just moving), there is such a big hole in my heart. One mother I know compares losing a child to open heart surgery without anesthesia. Another mom said it like having someone take out your heart, stomp on it, and put it back in. I like that one. I feel like I have been stomped on. One thing that I think ďother peopleĒ have a problem with is that I am not the same person I was Jan 12, when I finished teaching and got ready to leave for MN. She is gone. She died on March 10, 2001. I am not the same. I am different. I think that people are just going to have to accept that. We have all changed, and not necessarily for the better. This whole experience has been a life altering experience. We would be idiots if we said we were the same. I see Michoel has become more compassionate. I see my kids fighting more. I see I am less tolerant of small talk.
I do want to thank everyone who wrote us beautiful letters... at any time. We do read all the letters and the guest book entries. I have been printing them and saving them in a folder that is getting quite full. Thank you to those of you who take the time to write to us words of encouragement. It does mean a lot to us. I am still amazed at how Yossi continues to make a very big impact on those he has never met. We get emails or guest book entries from people who either still think about him and us, or from complete strangers. Last we got a lovely letter from a firefighter who helped put out the Camp Simcha fire. He found our site after doing a search for Camp Simcha. If I donít sound like a broken record, can I remind people to still do things for Yossi soul? Every time I say the bracha (blessing) asher yahtzar (for using the bathroom), I read it off the chart we have, and I think of Yoss. This prayer thanks G-d for our bodies working perfectly. When I think of Yossi, and how horribly he suffered because his system didnít work right, it really makes me appreciate my body working correctly. In the hospital, I used to have little piles of money so that Yossi could give tzedakah each and every day. Even when he was unconscious, it was something I did with him. (There is a saying that charity saves a person from death.) One interesting side note Ö the last week, when I was scared that Yossi was going to die, I gave charity with/for him twice a day. Our day starts the night before. I gave with him each morning, and again when it was night, just to make sure he would live through the night. The last Motzai Shabbos (Saturday night) he was alive, I forgot to give. Anyways Ö I took a lesson from this, and now I have little piles in my kitchen. Each and everyday I make sure to give tzedakah for his neshama Ö Iluey nishmas Yosef Chaim ben Michoel Dovid.
Last thing Ö There is a boy, Yaakov Braver who is battling the beast real hard. Yaakov was at Camp Simcha with Yoss last year. He was also with him at Disney. They didnít know each other too well. Yaakov relapsed two days before Yossi passed away. He had a hard time getting into remission. He was supposed to have a BMT a while back, but he had a fungus infection. He keeps showing blasts in his marrow, and then none Ö remission, relapse Ö remission, relapse. His parents have taken him to Seattle, Minnesota and also Boston hoping to find a cure. I would like to ask everyone to please daven for him. His full name is Yaakov Elazer ben Zlata. He is 15 years old. Thank you so much!
Leah says: Well, school started Ö without my Yossi (AĒH). Itís been so hard lately. I donít know why I torture myself. I looked at the class list for 8th grade, and nope, his name wasnít on it. Itís like he never existed. Nothing. No Yossi Paley anywhere. I changed my schedule slightly, and now I go in for the last 3 periods of the day. Itís so bearable for me. I get there when all the kids are in class. I leave at the end of the day, but by waiting 5 minutes, I miss the majority of the school. My aide has been wonderful about walking my class down. The assistant principal has no problem with my aide covering my class for assemblies Ö I canít face that 8th grade class. So far, the first two days havenít been so bad.
In our school, kindergarten, first and second pray each day with their Hebrew teacher. The idea is that they build up enough skill to finally join the big kids when they are in third grade. Goldie asked Shauly how he did yesterday, since that was his first time davening (praying) with the big kids. Shauly said he did fine except for the last prayer, alainu. He couldnít find it in his siddur, or something like that. It made me realize that if Yossi was there, he would have been proud to stand next to him and help him. Then I realized that I shouldnít be too sad about it, because it wasnít meant to be. Hashem didnít want Yossi to be here now. Itís very hard to get out of the mindset of the ďshould havesĒ and ďwould havesĒ.
I no longer remember what stories I have shared and what I havenít. I have no patience to go and check the old updates, so I will just share this, and if you have heard it before, I am sorry.
Our school teaches the kids to read in kindergarten. Yossi had a very hard time. They learn with the Montessori Method. When Yossi started first grade, we were very concerned, as he was still reading phonetically. ( cat= K-ah-tah) It used to drive us nuts that he couldnít blend the words. We spoke with the first grade teacher (who has had all of our kids, including Chanie this year!) and she told us not to worry, he would be reading fine by the end of the year. We also expressed our concern that he didnít like reading. I had started taking him to the library when he was two for story time. Michoel and I both love to read, and we couldnít understand how he didnít like reading. Well, somewhere in that year, he picked it up. In second grade, he started to love to read, and the rest is history. I used to order the kids books from scholastic. The kids were always excited to come home with their books. Yesterday, Goldieís teacher gave them book orders for each and every grade Ė 15 book orders. Well, we have been working our way through them and picking out which books which kids would get. I finally got to the advance books, and in that one there were 3 books Yossi would have absolutely loved. One of them was a Star Wars book that he is really into. It broke my broken heart even more to see it. I decided to buy the books anyway, and add them to his collection. When Shauly gets old enough, he will have more than enough to choose from.
On the outside, I go about my business Ö I go to work. I do laundry. I sometimes clean up. But on the inside, I am in such pain. I know I have said it before, but itís like a constant ache. Like when you stay up waaaay too late, and donít get enough sleep. You drag around for the next day or two. Your whole body aches and feels tired. I feel like that, but the ache is in my heart. Itís so physical. It hurts so much. At times it sucks my breath away. Nights are terrible. I go to bed so late, when I canít even see straight, and I still lie there and think. The ďwhat ifsĒ are the worst. I think about what we would be doing now if Yossi was fine. What would we be doing if he had survived the infection? What if he had survived the transplant but not had the infection or GVHD? I go back and forth on so many things. I understand in my head how all of this is the Plan, and itís meant to be. But in no way shape or form does it take away the pain for an instant. Itís still hurts so much. I know I have other children. But right now itís not enough. Itís not the same. And then the mornings are worse. I just lie there and try to summon the energy to get out of bed. Itís the toughest thing a bereaved parent does each and every day Ö getting out of bed.
I want to thank all my wonderful friends. I know that I have gripped and complained about some people, and I feel itís due to thank some people. I have a group of fantastic friends who leave their families each and every Shabbos afternoon so I wonít have to sit and be alone. I have some wonderful friends who call or email to check in and make sure that I am ok. Some of my friends just sit and cry with me. Thank you all for being there. And I have a bunch of friends who I donít know personally, but they take the time to check the site, or learn in Yossiís memory, or send an email worried because I havenít written in a while. Thank you all for being there for us. I will end with a poem I saw that is from Dear Abby. I have another one to share the next time I update the site.
Please, don't ask me if I'm over it yet
Please, don't tell me he's in a better place
Please, don't say at least she isn't suffering
Please, don't tell me you know how I feel
Please, don't ask me if I feel better
Please, don't tell me at least you had her for so many years
Please, don't tell me God never gives us more than we can bear
I'll never be over it
He isn't with me
I haven't come to terms with why she had to suffer at all
Unless you have lost a child
Bereavement isn't a condition that clears up
What year would you choose for your child to die?
Please, just tell me you are sorry
Please, just say you remember my child, if you do
Please, just let me talk about my child
Please, mention my child's name
Please, just let me cry.
Please, don't tell me he's in a better place
Please, don't say at least she isn't suffering
Please, don't tell me you know how I feel
Please, don't ask me if I feel better
Please, don't tell me at least you had her for so many years
Please, don't tell me God never gives us more than we can bear
Ok, this time it is NOT Leah. My last update was only online for a very short time, before I took it off. Leah thought it was too harsh and being the good husband I am, I did what she asked. It seemed like at least a few people saw it, and I got some very positive feedback. Even Leah agrees it was all the truth. So, like the infamous ďPuerto Rican Day ParadeĒ episode of Seinfeld, it will never be seen again. What follows will be some of my recent thoughts, feelings and experiences.
I had another very vivid dream recently. In this dream I had finally ďcrackedĒ. I had totally given into my grief and was seriously impaired. It was disturbing, but at the same time very comforting. I had given up trying to lead my life, trying to take care of myself and my family, trying to fulfill all my responsibilities. It was a great feeling. I hold most of my grief and feelings in, what choice do I really have? I am constantly told I need to be there for my family. Sure, that is true, but it would be so nice to give up.
At synagogue, I rotate leading the prayers with someone else who is doing so for his father who passed away last year. Friday morning was my turn. Now, I always keep up a pretty quick pace, for many reasons. Maybe I go slightly faster than the other person who I share the duties with. I have only ever had one person complain to me. Well, this person obviously has a very sour disposition. Friday, after I was done, he started spewing forth some comments, directed at me, but not said only to me. Kind of shouted out amongst the group. If he had any guts or decency he would have addressed them specifically to me, but what can you do? I decided not to answer him back and start a whole thing in the shul. One of the things he blurted out was that doesnít G-d deserve more of our time? Well, that started me thinking. And I feel the answer is NOÖhe doesnít deserve more of my time! Where was he when Yossi died? People the world over gave a lot of their time asking, praying, and begging him to save Yossi. That is the way I feel now. I never ask G-d for anything anymore. I donít feel it makes any sense. Can he answer me? Would he answer me? I feel he had his chance, and now it is too late. I have no confidence in the power of prayer. Yes, I admit I am a hypocrite, since I say my prayers 3 times a day. But, I do that solely for Yossiís benefit.
In a related theme, last night started the special prayers said the week or so before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. These are called Selichos, which basically translates to asking for forgiveness. I had a very hard time saying them. I know I have done things this year that surely warrant forgiveness. However, I really feel anything I did pales in comparison to what G-d ďdidĒ to Yossi. So, who should be asking for forgiveness here? Leah is very upset at my feelings, but she respects my right to feel this way, and I appreciate it.
So, for now, I will stop telling everyone about my flight from religion and belief. There are no answers, only questions. All I know is I miss Yossi so much. When I come home from work, there is someone missing. When I take the kids out, there is someone missing.
If I am not clear, I am sorry. There is no much going on in my mind, and itís very hard to sort it all out.
Let me start off with saying that this is Leah, and Michoel and I totally disagree on this subject. (You will see later what I mean.) Michoel called me this morning to tell me about the World Trade Centers. (He knew that I donít watch TV [long story Ö I stopped watching TV 2 weeks before Yossi died Ö. Figured if it was bad for his soul to hear it then what was it doing to my soul to watch it and absorb it?]; and he wanted me to know what was going on.) I turned it on, and watched in horror as the second plane crashed. Intense pain went through my whole body. I KNOW WHAT THOSE FAMILIES ARE GOING TO GO THROUGH Ö the pain, the sorrow. Then, a little later, as the buildings collapsed, the tears came and wouldnít stop. In July I used those famous landmarks to show the kids where NY was when we were going there. The number of people in the buildings. Stupid, senseless waste of life!!! I just cried and cried. The husbands who just kissed their wives goodbye this morning, and went to work. How normal can this be? I feel for those people who lost children. It doesnít matter how old those kids are. All those people in the building had families or someone somewhere who cares about them! To me itís pure wickedness (if there is such a word).
So where do we disagree? Michoel comes home, and he tells me, ďWhere is G-d?Ē He doesnít understand how this could happen, and He could just allow it to happen. I on the other hand am sitting here in amazement. He orchestrated all the people to be in the right place at the wrong time. Already there are so many stories coming out about people who miraculous survived. Hashem guided them out because it wasnít their time to go yet. What blows me away is that all those other people Ö So many meant to go on one day??? I donít know, I canít help but see His hand here, helping some to get out, etc.
Michoel was very worried about our kids, since they are in a Jewish school. He felt that if there was any terrorism here, they might target a Jewish institution. He had me bring the kids home even though they locked the doors and later had a police officer stationed there. So I brought them home. I was in no way able to teach, so I didnít mind that much. I felt so helpless sitting here. I really wanted to do something. I went down to Yossi (AĒH), and said a lot of tehillim. Then, I went to Virginia Blood Services to donate blood. When I got there, it was crazy. The line went so far out of the building and into the parking lot. As I pull up, I see a woman who works for VBS. I knew her, and she asked how I was, which started me crying again. Then I asked how long the wait was. She told me at least 2 hours. She recommended that I come later in the week or even next week. So that is my plan. I am just worried how to work it out with Rosh Hashanah. I have never given blood, and I donít know how I am going to feel afterwards. But, I really want to do this for Yossi. Especially since he spoke a couple of times encouraging people to donate blood (and marrow).
Shauly was scared when he was watching the news on TV. On one hand, I felt like they shouldnít see it. But on the other hand, he sort of needs to know what is going on in the world. Then when I got ready to go down to Yoss, Goldie was more than a little nervous to come with me. She was worried, ďWhat if something happens while we are gone [to us]Ē. How do you reassure your child nothing will happen? We couldnít protect Yossi from dying. Some nut-job hijacks airplanes and levels two of our major landmarks! The world feels so upside-down. I only hope and pray that we are going to see Moshiach NOW! Today it really felt like our world was coming to an end. So many of the feelings that I have been able to push down inside came back up with a vengeance. If I may, I would like to offer my sympathy to each and every family who lost someone in the horrific tragedy we all watched today.
Iíve said it before, and it bears repeating. HUG YOUR FAMILY! DONíT SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. IT DOESNíT MATTER IN THE LONG RUN! All those poor people who thought today was going to be a regular day, and now there are widows, widowers, orphans, and tons and tons of bereaved parents all over our country. In a blink of an eye, all of our lives have forever changed. I truly feel we need to work together to make the world a better place. Please go donate blood. Do it for Yossi. Good night. I pray for peace for all of us, especially those families that have just been plunged into hell here on earth.
I still have a poem I want to put on here, and a note about Yossiís math teacher. I will save this for another day. Also, Yahoo has notified us that we are giving over too much bandwidth, or something like that. Anyways, they may shut down our site for part of the day. I donít know when that is going to happen, but we are working on it not happening. Finally, there are a bunch of people who regularly read our site, and I am hoping that they are all alright - Devoiry, Sorah Devorah, Aryeh F, and anyone else who works in Manhattan.
Leah here to tell you a few things. First about Yossi (A"H) and then about bereaved parents in general.
Yossi's math teacher, the same on his class has had since 3rd grade came up to me on Monday. She said that she wanted me to know that she still has a hard time when she teaches the class. It stills feels like, "Who is absent". I immediately started to cry, and she told me she didn't want to say anything because it was going to make me cry. But they were actually happy tears. I am so glad that I am not the only one missing Yossi so much. I felt like it was a new year, and like, no one notices he isn't here ... Almost like he never exsited! I know that there are other kids who left the school, and the kids sort of lose contact with them. They still invite them to their bar mitzvahs, but it's not the same. Now Yossi is out of the click, he isn't there with his friends. Still feels like a knife plunged in my heart!
Next is a "poem" (I am not sure what to call this!) that I found on a support group I belong to. I thought it was very good and would like to share it.
~Cindy Early, Nov. 1999~
The day my children died I fell in the pit of grief. My friends watched me struggle through daily life, waiting for the person I once was to arise from the pit, not realizing "she" is gone forever.
The pit is full of darkness, heartache, and despair. It paralyzes your thoughts, movements, and ability to ration. The pit leaves you forever changed, unable to surface as the person you once were.
Some of my pre-grief friends gather around the top of the pit, waiting for the old me to appear before their eyes, not understanding what's taking me so long to emerge. After all... in their eyes I've been in the pit for some time now.
Yet, in my eyes, it seems as if I fell in only yesterday.
Not all of my pre-grief friends are gathered at the top of the pit. Some are helping me with the climb out of the darkness. They climb side by side with me from time to time, but mostly they climb ahead of me, waiting patiently at each plateau. Even with these friends I sometimes wonder if they are also waiting for the pre-grief me to magically appear before their eyes.
Then, there are those casual acquaintances, you know the ones who say, "Hi, how are you?" when they really don't care or really don't want to know. These people are the people who sigh in relief, that it was my child who died and not theirs. You know... the "better them than me" attitude (not that I blame them for that sigh or attitude, for I too wish it happened to someone other than myself).
My post-grief friends are the ones who climb with me, side by side, inch by inch, out of the pit of grief. They have no way of comparing the pit climber to the pre-grief person I once was. You see, they started at the bottom of the pit with me. They are able to reassure me when I need reassurance, rest when I need resting, and encourage me to move forward when I don't have the strength. They have no expectations, no memories and no recollections of how I "should" be. They want me to get better, to smile more often and find joy in life, but they've also accepted the person I've become.
The "person" who is emerging from the pit.
Some final thoughts ... It's been circulating around the internet that tomorrow will be a flag day. People are asked to wear red, white, and blue. I love our country, and will do it, as will all my kids. How horrible for all those families to maybe even never get a body to bury. At least I have somewhere to go for some comfort. I mean, I know that for the first year Yossi's soul will "hang around" the house, but I am sensing that there is more of a separation. I feel him more there then I do at home. It doesn't feel so much like "his" room anymore. One wierd thing that I have noticed since he has passed away... When I am out, I notice the breeze a lot more that I used to. It sort of feels like him. I can't truly explain it. Richmond is very hot and stale in the summer, and yet, only once or twice this summer was it unbearably hot at the cemetary. Almost everytime there is a cool breeze. Even one time when I was walking, there was a breeze that really made me think of Yossi. You have to realize that I am not an outdoor person. And yet, for the last 12 years I have had recess duty for most of the week. I have never noticed this. Now I do. And I haven't felt it at school. Only at the cemetary, and that one time when I was walking. Weird, huh? Well, I hope that everyone who reads our page is OK, and in general, that everyone is OK. I know that isn't the case, but still, that is what I hope. I won't update until after Rosh Hashanah ... A day I am not looking too forward to. Last year Yossi had his biopsy the day after Rosh Hashanah. So here we go, reliving the horror again. We are not looking forward to the holidays here. G'nite.
Happy birthday Sruli! Three years ago when Sruli was born, Yossi was not allowed to come to the hospital to see him. And now, as we approach his first haircut, he won't be participating. Each and every day amazes me anew. I wake up, and Yossi (AĒH) is STILL not here. Life just goes on, and in a way, itís like, chas víshalom, he was never here. The kids go to school, the 8th grade is raising money for their end of the year trip, people go to work, and I want to holler to everyone, ďSTOP! You have to remember Yossi was here.Ē How he would have enjoyed earning that money. He would have been giving me updates, how much they have, how much more they want. I am so out of the loop. I have no idea, and in a way itís good. I realized sadly at the last Shabbos shiur (class) we had before Rosh Hashanah in Yossiís memory, that all of my friends there had a child in his class. Little things like that fill me with sadness. I will tell you all, if Hell is even a tiny bit as bad as what I am living through day in and day out, then it is a horrible place. My life has become just one horrible day after the next. Yes, I do things. Yes, I laugh and shop (my favorite pick me up) and have new passions. But everything seems so meaningless. And unless you have G-d forbid been here, you have no idea what I am talking about. I might as well be writing in a made-up language, cuz you will understand that just as well. Michoel and I were thrown onto a planet and life here is so different from ďbeforeĒ. Last year, the day after Rosh Hashanah, Michoel took Yossi down to MCV for his biopsy. Dr. Bagwell, the surgeon, the one we grew to truly hate, fed us false hope. He came out and told Michoel that all looked well. The guy didnít even know that he was biopsying him for leukemia, not a solid tumor!!! I suffer now from terrible flashbacks. I remember Yossi in MN, the sheer pain and agony he went through to pass a bowel moment which was his body shedding his intestines Ö gigantic blood clots. How horrible his skin was, how painful it was for him to be moved. I donít question Why him, but more, I cry for the suffering his body went through. I feel so let down by HaShem for not saving him. I understand that prayers are never wasted. But it is torturing me that the prayers I carefully orchestrated for his wellbeing, for his complete recovery, might have gone to someone else. Itís driving me nuts. I had such a hard time letting go, and accepting that Hashem totally calls the shots. I felt like I could FORCE Hashem to listen. I know that He knows what is best. But it just hurts so much. Oh those hugs that he would give me. He had this knack of knowing when I was down, and would just come up to me, and ask me for a kiss. He would hug me so hard, and pick me up. He laughed when he did that, feeling so strong.
Rosh Hashanah was another excuse to totally notice his absence. As we were walking home for my in-laws, I thought that any passing car would think what a lovely family we were Ö. Mom, Dad, two boys and two girls. How deceiving! I wanted to scream to the cars, ďI have another sonĒ. Later, at home, I could picture him there with us, wearing his new hat, asking to go to a friendís house. I could really hear him Ö The argument he would use (Please, Ari is back in town for Yom Tov, and he wonít get to see him for a while after that, etc.). Yossi probably could have grown up to be a lawyer, not that he even wanted to. When I would punish him, he would get upset. I can clearly picture him stomping down the hall, mad at me. Later, when he calmed down, he would come out of his room and explain to me, so nicely and politely why I was wrong and he right. A couple of times, I gave in because his arguments were sooo good. I see him sitting at the table at 10PM eating a snack and reading a book. That was one of the arguments he won Ö that he was older, and could stay up later. (His reasoning was that he got up on time for school, so it wasnít a problem. And he did, each and everyday. I canít remember a day he overslept when he wasnít on chemo.) Oiy, those horrible leg cramps the chemo gave him, and the terrible mouth sores. Once I had to shine a flash light in his mouth, and I almost started crying to see how raw and sore it was.
Yossi honey, I feel like I let you down. I tried so hard to find the best hospital, the best doctors, the best everything. I tried to bring Moshiach, and I tried to get the whole world to know of your story and pray for you. I know you are at peace. I only wish I could find some of it. I miss you so much. As the time passes, I find I miss you more and more, if that is at all possible. I love you, honey, forever and forever! Love, Mommy
Sooo much to say Ö sooo far behind in letting you know what is going on here. Ok, here goes! First of all, you all know that this is the time of the relapse last year, or the anniversary date. Yossi had his biopsy the day after Rosh Hashanah. We were so confident that it was puberty. I DIDNíT EVEN GO WITH HIM! (This is Leah typing here!) Michoel went down with him. I had an ear ache, and went to my doctor. I happened to mention that I get regular migraines, and his suggestion was to lower my stress level. (I had explained to him about the cancer, and the possible relapse!) Needless to say, I switched doctors when I got home! So Rosh Hashanah this year was very hard, as was Tzum Gídaliah (the day after RĒH). Michoel and I were both pretty down. Shabbos was also bad, because that is exactly one year since we received the news that started the spiral into H*ll. My mom and step-dad were here because it was also Sruliís upsherin (first hair cut). Then Sunday, the day of the haircut wasnít so bad. (At least from my point of view.) We had a very small family affair. Everyone cut the hair, and we put money in the charity box for Yossiís Library fund. I tried to get Sruli to say the Torah passages that he is supposed to say, but he refused. We put honey on the Hebrew letters for him lick off, and he wouldnít do it. (All Rosh Hashanah he kept licking the honey off the challah. Go figure.) Then Michoel took him and gave him a ďbuzz cutĒ. He shaved off all his hair. We gave him his yarmulkah and tzitzis. We all ate a meal in his honor. We all sat around. I have left Yossiís chair empty. Itís the way that I feel comfortable. I know that when the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe passed away, a place was even set for him, so I know that I am not alone in my feelings. It was surprising a very pleasant affair. Even with the empty chair, I still had a good time. I was so pleasantly surprised. Click here to see all the pictures of the morning.
My mom and step dad had to leave in time to get home for Yom Kippur. (My mom is on her final round of chemo. She postponed it a week for the haircut, and couldnít wait any longer.) The meal before Yom Kippur was especially hard for me. Last year I had gone down to clinic, and had a run-in with the doctor, sort of. (Long story, read last years updates.) I ended up not eating because I was comforting Yossi, explaining that he was going to beat this and prove the doctor wrong. Itís so humiliating that I was the one who was wrong. I really and truly believed with all my heart that Hashem was going to cure Yossi. Last year I had gone to Lubavitch to go daven. I felt that it was more important for me to be in shul that to be home just waiting for a phone call. Looking back, I still feel I did the right thing. Michoel took Yossi to KBI. My mother in law mentioned to me this week that Yossi davened sooo hard. She said you could look at him and see how hard he was concentrating. I knew he was scared, I guess I just didnít realize how scared he was Ö
Yom Kippur was fair for us. Michoel happened to mention at one point in the day, ďWhen is Yossi coming back?Ē His voice was so heartfelt, so full of emotion. Such a simple sentence, and yet it struck such a nerve with me. I happened to be davening then, and I totally lost it, sobbing. I know that Hashem listens to tears. With the amount that I have cried in the last year, you would have thought I would have brought Moshiach by now. I donít know. Job security, good health, family, all of that is nothing compared to what Moshiachís coming would do. That is all I asked for, for Moshiach to come. That is all I truly want. (If I canít have that, then I will take all the other things. *wink* I am not an idiot, after all!)
Now I am almost caught up with the last two weeks. Today we went to Busch Gardens with the Leukemia Society. It was a great day. The kids had a wonderful time. It was very chilly. I mean, down right cold. Maybe that combined with the fear of terrorist left very few people in the park. We were able to go right up onto the rides, with no waits. The kids had such a great day. We remembered a lot of the stuff we did with Yossi last year. We went on some of the rides he enjoyed. I bought a pack of those ridiculously expensive rocks to take to Yossiís grave. (Letís just hope that no one steals them this time! Someone has already stolen some nice stones from his grave. And yes, we know that they were taken; not just rolled off.) The highlight of the day for me was when we took the kids on the bumper cars. Sruli had a very hard time working the kiddie cars, and was at the point of tears. All of a sudden, he figured it out. He had a look of sheer joy on his face as he was driving around and bumping into the other cars. For me, it was a moment of pure joy, to watch him. It was exactly the meaning of nachas, joy from your children. Even though Yossi wasnít there in a physical presence, he was there with us. Today was the first time since the week after Yossi passed away that I woke up and for a moment thought that he was alive. I forgot for a moment he wasnít here. That was very hard, needless to say.
Some kind hearted people have tried to tell us to ďget onĒ with our lives Ö we need to ďmove onĒ for our children. That isnít going to happen. First of all, by remembering him, even the horrible awful stuff, we stay connected to him. Itís all we have. I have pictures of him all over the house, and I donít feel guilty about it. I sit at my Shabbos table, and I can see all my live children. I donít have him there. Itís all I have left, my memories and my pictures. I guess people who havenít walked in our shoes just canít understand that you canít move on. The best analogy that I came up with is our lives are like a beautiful vase. Imagine that vase being shattered, and then trying to glue the pieces back together. You can get it glued back, but it will never look the same. That is how we feel. We do things with the kids, read books, go places, and watch them play outside. But in our hearts, we see Yossi Ö When I saw Sruli playing on the swing set on Shabbos, I remembered Yossi outside in Jan 2000 when we had the big snow storm. I order the lulav and esrog for us, and cry because this year we were supposed to order two sets Ö one for Michoel and one for Yossi. Michoel is going to use the esrog holder Yossi made at camp last summer again Ö but itís a hollow feeling. Plain and simple, we miss Yossi.
I meant to put this plea up before Yom Kippur, but didnít get a chance. The library fund has a little over $8,500. I would love to see it hit $10,000 by his yahrtzeit (anniversary of his death) to buy books with. Please continue to donate to the boys high school via RTA. The donations are tax deductible, and every penny will be used to purchase books. Just make sure you ear-mark for the boys high school, or put Yossiís name in the memo. I have ordered charity boxes, and they should be here by the end of the week, I hope!
That is it for now. Please pray for Shane, son of Sharon. He relapsed last year at the same time Yossi did. He just found out this week he has some tumors, and his family is very scared. Also please pray for Yaakov Elazar ben Zlata. He needs as many prayers as he can get. Why not donate to the library fund in honor of the two boys, and kill two birds with one stone? If you are interested in a complete tehillim list for the terrorist attack, it can be found at www.onlysimchas.com (too tired to make it a real link, sorry!). Good night!
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