My dear son,
Was it not just yesterday that I cradled you in my arms, your little fingers curled around mine?
I can still see your newborn body rising with each breath, feel your silken little head, and hear your innocent wail. How have the moments passed by in a flash?
You were born on the holy day of Shabbos.
After havdalah, your grandparent’s, Bubba and Abba Zayda, came to meet you. They brought your little siblings along. Laughter and shouts of mazel tov filled the room. We walked together to the nursery to find our baby. Amidst the bundles of blue and pink we finally found you, eyes wide open.
My father motioned to me to come close.
“Slova Channalah,” he said, “yesterday this little neshamalah was studying Torah with the angels in the heavens above. Now he is here with you. Teach him. Guide him well. He is a priceless gift, a pure soul. Watch over him, my shayfalah.
I’ve tried my best to follow your Abba Zayda’s words. I never imagined he would not be at my side as you grew.
You had just a year together but how you loved one another. Your favorite place in the world would be nestled contentedly on your Zaydie’s shoulders. You had a language of your own. When it was time for us to say goodbye and leave, you would hold on tight protesting with tears. Then came that awful time. Abba Zayda was taken to Sloan. I asked permission for you to visit. Your sunshine radiated the hospital walls and pushed the heavy darkness away.
You’ve always had such spirit and life.
I remember one cold morning when we were on a family ski trip. The air was frigid. It was early and eerily quiet. Around us people were moving slowly, holding their cups of coffee and trying to wake themselves up. You were a toddler, running and singing on the top of your lungs.
A man stopped us. “Hey kid!” he called out. We both froze for a moment. “Never lose that! You hear? Never lost that! It’s awesome.”
You taught me how to play hockey, baseball and football. Nights you’d drag out your hockey net and we’d take turns being goalie (and I’m no goalie). Abba and I would love to watch you play. We’d cheer you on wildly as you’d slide in the grass and yell “safe!” But greater than any sport, you taught me how to cheer for life, to be in the moment, and relish each experience absolutely, just as you did. You’ve opened my eyes to the wonder and magic of this world.
I wish your Bubba could be here with you today.
Each Friday night when you would share your words of Torah at the table, Bubba’s eyes lit up. If others may have gotten a little distracted, Bubba would say “Don’t worry, shayfelah. I am listening.” You’d smile at each other and keep going.
You’ve been blessed with the gift of grandparents who have loved you, who made a path for you. Despite the fire of the Holocaust they lived through, they ignited the fire of faith within your soul. Your Bubba whispers to you from above: “Don’t worry. I am listening. ”
When Shabbos would come to an end, you would walk over to Bubba’s house and sing havdalah for her. After extinguishing the flame of the candle you’d laugh out loud together so that your week would be one of joy. Then Bubba would place her hands on your head and bless you. That last year of her life you would return home with glistening eyes. I know that Bubba wanted so much to have more time with you, and you with her. I know that as you walk to your chuppah you will be looking for her. Me too.
Here’s what I can tell you. The same message my father told me as I was about to begin this new season of my life. I will never forget the moment. The music began to play, the doors were about to open and the white chuppah canopy was beckoning.
“Before we go, I want to tell you this. My Slovelah, all the Zayda’s and Bubba’s in the heavens above are here with you tonight. All the holy neshamahs come down to walk with you. Never be afraid in life. No matter what happens you are never alone. Your Zaydas and Bubbas are with you.”
With those last words the doors opened. I have carried them in my heart all these years and now it is my turn to pass the message on to you. There are those whom we loved mightily and it hurts when their days with us comes to an end. But know that they have made a path for us, prayed for us, and created merit and blessings that remain forever. Time can never take that away.
As you and your bride build your own home with God’s help, I pray that you take the legacy of your past and bring blessing into this world. I thank God for giving me the privilege of carrying your soul and raising you together with Abba. I have watched you grow from a little boy into the young man that you are today. Along the way you have inspired me to swim upstream, as you like to say. To try harder, be more, discover the strength that lies within.
Mazel tov my dear son.
May God bless you, watch over you, carry you, and grant you peace.
I give you my prayer: together may you establish a true mikdash me’at, a sanctuary filled with holiness, and generations who bring nachas to our people and our God.
I love you with all my heart and soul.