Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Second Chances

Today is Pesach Sheni. The origin of this semi-holiday is quite fascinating. On the first anniversary of Yetzias Mitzraim, while all the Jews were occupied with preparing their lambs for the annual Korban Pesach, Moshe was approached by a small group of Jews who were ritually impure and thus excluded from offering, or partaking of, the Pesach offering. They weren't satisfied with their "exemption" from this mitzvah. "Why should we be deprived?" they exclaimed. "We, too, want to experience the spiritual freedom gained by participating in the service!" Moshe agreed to convey their grievance to the Almighty, and incredibly, the heartfelt wishes of this small group caused G-d to add a mitzvah to the Torah. Hashem instructed that from that year and onwards all those who weren't capable of offering the Korban Pesach in its proper time on the 14th of Nisan, due to impurity or distance from the Temple, should offer it exactly one month later, on the 14th of Iyar. The day thus represents a "second chance".

It's never too late. There's always a second chance.

Is there….really?

My big boy was 5. Maybe 6. He woke up one morning in pain, his left cheek swollen. It was a Friday, and I remember thinking about the bad timing. There's never a good time for something like this, but that day was particularly inconvenient. Maybe I was really busy…maybe I had a lot planned….maybe I hadn't done any of my Shabbos preparation…I don't remember. I also don't remember what arrangements I made for the other kids. But, somehow, we ended up at the dentist, who referred us to an oral surgeon. His tooth had to come out.

So many years later, I still feel a pang when I think about that episode. I was asked to remain in the waiting room, while a nurse whisked my son away. He was taken into a room where the surgery was to take place. He was given general anesthesia, the tooth was removed, and he was brought out to a cubicle to rest before going home. Only then was I able to be with him.

He went in there all by himself. He was given the anesthesia…and I wasn't there to hold his hand…to reassure him….to make sure he knew he was not alone. And I wasn't there when he awoke. How did I allow that to happen? How could I not insist on accompanying him until the drugs take effect? How did I let him go through that all by himself? He must have been so scared. He had to be. He was so little.

I wonder if this experience scarred him in any way. I wonder if he even remembers.

He seemed ok. He didn't cry. I hugged him before he went in, and he smiled at me. He seemed so mature. He seemed older than his five years. He always did. He was the oldest of three, at the time, and I'm not sure I realized just how little he really was. He was my big boy then, just as he is now. But he was really only a baby.

My youngest is 9. My relationship with him is so different than it ever was with my big boy. He's my baby, and that's how I relate to him. I wish I can go back and let my big boy be a baby for a little bit longer. He was a big boy too soon. Did I spend enough time with him? Did I expect too much from him? Did he grow up too fast…and did that harm him in any way?

I can't go back and redo any of it. There's no second chance.

Is that what is meant when we talk about a second chance? Is it the ability to be transported to a previous point in time and do it the right way this time? Is it the opportunity to fix all our mistakes? Would I even want to do that? Would I want to live my life all over again so that I can do things differently? And…if I lived my life again…would I do things differently?

He's still my big boy. Still mature and responsible. He's an adult now, but he still needs me. He still needs my time. He still needs my advice. He still needs my love. And I'm going to make sure he gets that. I can't go back in time and fix my "mistakes", but it's comforting to know that those mistakes, and the consequences, can be springboards for growth and change.

I'm grateful for my Pesach Sheini.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Blink Of An Eye

I am outside talking to a neighbor. She is in her late 50's. An empty nester.

I look at her, try to focus on what she's saying, but my mind is somewhere else. I am looking through her...seeing her in a way I've never seen her before. I am seeing her 20 years ago...young and busy, lively house full of kids...wiping runny noses, picking up toys.

And I'm sad.

Strangely, I don't think she is sad. She seems happy enough...content with her life.

But I can't shake the sadness.

I walk to work, and I see an elderly couple, arms linked, walking slowly and with difficulty. I watch them. They were a young couple once...not so very long ago. Did they raise a family? Were they happy? I want to know. I need to know. I need to know if their lives just passed them by so quickly that they are wondering where the time went. I need to know if they are mourning the passage of time....their loss of youth.

I'm sad.

For them, too. But mostly for me.

I do Taharas. Sobering work. But never sad. The women are generally old, have lived a full life, and I am preparing them for their meeting with their Maker. It's work that puts things in perspective...puts life in perspective. It reminds one of what is important, of where we are all going some day, and what we take with us. It's beautiful...and holy. But not sad.

I did one last night. I work mind going to a place that is becoming very familiar to me. When did this woman stop being a young mother and become the frail woman I see before me? At what point was she no longer needed? When did the transformation take place? Did it happen slowly....or did she suddenly find herself there one day?

I continue my work.

But I'm sad.

How long before I find myself in that place? How much more time? How long before my roles change from mother...or wife...or whatever I am what? I depend on these roles to identify myself...even to myself. When will they no longer apply? And...when that happens...who will I be?

Within ten years, I may have an empty nest.

Ten years....

I think back to ten years ago. In some ways, those years seem to have flown by. And every year seems to pass faster than the year before.

I'm almost there. And that thought makes me so sad.

I wish I could freeze time. I'm happy with where I am today. I'm happy now. I want to stay here for a little bit longer. I'm not ready to move on.

I just want more time.