Monthly Archives: September 2015

A Gift from the Choir



When we go come to Shabbat services on Friday evening, the services are held in the small ancillary sanctuary off the lobby. It is smaller, more intimate, and holds no memories or images for Dorothy and I. we enjoy that service, and rarely do we miss Friday evening services. it is a safe place for us. We enjoy the spirituality, the prayer, and of course seeing the hand full of regulars we have come to know well.

But when they have services in the large sanctuary, it is more difficult for us.

MUSICWe sit together in the main sanctuary for the high holidays and we look up front, below the bimah, in the space before the stage where the Rabbi and Hazan chant from. What we see there now in this space is the beautiful holiday choir. We think of the music and joy that these five young men bring to bring us, and the entire congregation. We listen to their songs and melodies. We see the smiles on their faces, and everyone there can tell that they love to sing and to spread their joy of music. They move with the music, their bodies sway and their hands follow as they sing. We sit there and smile, as everyone does, while we listen to them sing.

This year we watched as one of the members of the choir, before they started to sing, went off to the side of the sanctuary to greet and kiss his wife and to hold and kiss his young baby.  It was the look and the love in his eyes only a father can have for his daughter.

And then we also tear.

For in this very spot, in the spot these young men, not much older than Andrew was, stand and sing and bring joy to everyone, that we saw our beloved Andrew for the last time. It is in this spot that we sat as our friends and family came up to us and hugged us and said how sorry they were. It was where we sat and stared at his plain pine box with a Star of David carved on the top. Where the Rabbi talked about how it is a tragedy when someone so young passes, and how he and Andrew talked about hockey and exchanged hockey stories. Where Uncle Roy talked so emotionally about his memories of Andrew growing up and cooking with him, and how we were all robbed of so much by Andrew’s passing. Where his friends and family talked about their special memories with Andrew and how he would be missed for the rest of their lives. We were numb that day, as we were for days and weeks and months afterward.

Now we look at that same spot, and we listen to this beautiful music coming from a few young men so much like Andrew was. You can see they are all full of life, they love what they do, and the joy they bring is a wonderful thing. I smile knowing that Andrew did get a chance to hear them sing a few years ago before he went off to college. If they were not there singing and brightening up that very spot, I don’t think Dorothy or I could sit there looking at that blank void space on the floor. I also smile knowing he is there somewhere right beside us, still listening to their music, still holding our hearts, still a part of our lives. I just want to thank the holiday choir for bringing joy and peace and music to a spot that holds such a dark spot in our lives.


Black, and the New Year

PG3_2063I am sure you have seen them, and maybe even wear one or two – those different color silicone awareness bracelets – and they all have their own meaning.  Camouflage to support the troops. Orange for Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus and Melanoma. Silver for Dyslexia. And on and on.

Black, the color I focus on, is for mourning, POW/MIA, and for some reason Restless Leg Syndrome and Colitis.

Matt and I were talking about the black bracelet and what it means to us, the bereaved parents, and why black. But we both agreed it was very appropriate.

Black is the color of death. It has long been associated with mourning, with death, with the end, with the unknown. There is a very long Wikipedia page on black:
and it is very interesting, you should read it some time.

But to us, the bereaved parents, black has its own meaning. It is the color that you can look at and it does not have anything to give back to you. There is no reflection, no tonal changes, there is no joy, there is nothing there.  That is the way most of us see our lives after the loss. A very precious and dear part of our lives has been taken from us and we have been left with a void. A very large, black void. We look into it, into our future, into our hopes and dreams, and nothing looks back. We see just that – black.

Our children, who were our rainbow of life, are now gone. And with them they took the blue from the sky, the green from the trees, the yellow from the sun, and the red from our hearts. And what was left behind is black hole. Our lives are now just shades of grey and black.
CCI06012015_00003 But as time goes on, and we live past the initial shock, past the numbness that embodies us, past the deep, deep crevices that we try to crawl out of, we start to see something. For some of us it is months, for others years, for some many years. But we all do start to see something more. We start to remember the joy our children brought us. We start to remember the pink in their smiling faces. We recall the green lawns that they played on as a child and enjoyed for soccer. We see them swimming in an ocean of blue water, or sliding down a tan water slide.




andrew hockey 3We remember their blue hockey jersey, and their orange soccer shirt, and their red band jacket. We see pictures of the colors of their graduation gown, or their first, and maybe only baby blanket, and the colors of their bedroom.  We start to recall the colors that were their life. We recall the color of their favorite clothes. We can see them drawing with a crayon and recall the colorful picture. We somehow remember one day what their favorite color was, and we all of a sudden cherish that color. We even remember them when we see their same make and model and color of their car.

A green or red or white VW Jetta means nothing to me. But a dark blue one, any year, and I remember him. I see him driving his first car again in my mind. I feel so happy and at peace recalling how he loved to drive his blue Jetta. It brings a tear of joy, and sorrow to my eyes. Of course, wouldn’t you know it, his last car, his favorite car, the one we searched for and almost went to Florida to purchase, the one with the most memories – was black. But I’ll get over that.
We all learned something that seemed so insignificant when we were kids that is so important now, that means so much. What really is black? What is black made up of? What happens if we decompose black? It is made up of all of the other colors. It is not just black – there is no such thing as black. It is a combination of all of those colors that were our children. It is Andrew’s blue jersey mixed with his maroon graduation gown, mixed with is tie dye concert shirt, mixed with his orange lava lamp, mixed with his red hair, mixed with his blue blanket. It is all of Andrew, all that Andrew was, just mixed together.

005_5For some of us the black that has painted our lives is still too wet to touch, still to hard to penetrate. But for others, we have to start to un-mix the black. It my job, our jobs, to start to separate those other wonderful colors from the black. To come out of the black – or to look deeper into the black and to see what really makes up the black that has immobilizes and encases us and embrace it. Yes, I will always miss Andrew, more than anyone can really comprehend. I will always cry for him and mourn his loss and have that hole in my heart forever.

But instead of seeing black, instead of staring into a void of nothingness, instead of just black, I can separate the black and see the colors that were Andrew. And I can smile and be happy that he was such a colorful person.

This New Year will bring colors. This year, grandma’s Christmas tree will be green again with an overflow of colorful lights and tinsel. The menorah candles will be blue and white with their dancing orange flame. The snow will fall white. The sun will be yellow. And I will see Andrew in all of these colors. And I might smile, maybe, once again when I think of him.PG2_4929a