Jul 29 2013
About a month ago, one of my husband’s closest friends lost his father. As so many deaths go, this one was one of those that happened too soon and left little time for his family to contemplate and digest what was about to happen to their family and to say goodbye. A gorgeous, sentimental obit appeared on Facebook thereafter, and my husband, Heath, quickly hopped a flight to support his friend through the trauma, albeit necessary and cathartic, of burying a parent.
Naturally, Heath remained in touch with his friend over the next weeks to see how he was doing. After one late-night conversation, Heath asked me if I wouldn’t mind calling his friend to suggest “what to do with his mother.” As if I were some expert on how to handle the parent who survives? I immediately bristled and went to bed before I could compose a single thought about “what to do” with the parent who just lost the love of her life, and who, it seems in the moment, won’t be able to survive the death of her soulmate.
I still haven’t called our friend. But I’ve been thinking about him, and his mother, for weeks. In these weeks, I’ve also been thinking about whether I’ve done my part in helping my own mother survive my beloved dad’s passing (it was six years ago this past June). I can’t say I’ve been as dutiful as maybe I should have been. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 7 2013
I don’t believe in God.
I am uncomfortable admitting this here and I mean no disrespect to those who do believe. If anything, I’m envious. I have books on meditation stacked by my bed. I have a gift certificate for yoga classes burning a hole in my wallet. I’ve read studies and I’ve witnessed the effects of a strong spiritual center. There’s security, sometimes there’s even peace. I wouldn’t mind some of that.
And yet, I don’t believe in a higher power that calls the shots. I don’t believe that things happen for a reason (though I’ve repeated this cliché in an attempt to comfort friends). I believe that when bad things happen to good people, it breaks your heart and all you can do is get up each morning and try to be good to the people you love who are still here. I often fail at even this. It would be helpful to have a little faith. And yet. Read the rest of this entry →
May 13 2013
This post is part of our month-long series featuring different ways that parents of various religions have talked to their kids about God.
It wasn’t until I was asked to contribute to this series that I realized I had never spoken with my children about God. Or so I thought. Sex, yes, doubtless too soon and too often. Death, yes, memorably. But God? I couldn’t remember. So I asked my kids.
Miriam, our 13-going-on-28-year old, simply said, “Probably not,” then returned to reading her book (David Copperfield? The latest installment in The Clique series? You can never tell.) Ben, our 16-year-old guy’s-guy-and-proud-of it, had a vague recollection that some conversation had taken place, somewhere, some time. Maybe. “I think you told us we could believe whatever we wanted about God, and you would support us,” he said. “But then again, that’s the kind of thing you would say,” he added. I was still patting myself on the back for my parenting skills when he asked me for a ride to the mall, and it wasn’t till I got there that I paused to admire his highly effective flattery. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 11 2013
I let my children see me cry this morning. It was one of those drawn out dawns when everyone wakes up waaaaay too early, and the countdown til preschool drop-off stretches into forever until the last second before we need to leave RIGHT. THIS. MINUTE. DAMMIT.
And in that frenzy, my daughter flops on the floor like a 30 pound pile of jelly, and she shall not be moved. (People, it’s like she studied Nonviolent Resistance with Gandhi, and while that’ll be super awesome when she’s out there changing the world, it sure don’t fly at 6:55 a.m. when the carpool driver is waiting waiting waiting to take us to school.)
And when it’s time to go, and my daughter won’t get up off the damn floor and put her shoes on, and the phone is squawking and I know unless we get our asses outside RIGHT NOW that the person driving us who has her OWN commitments will be late and may say “no” next time we ask her to drive us, I want to scream.
And so I do. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 7 2013
Last week, my mother had hip replacement surgery. I don’t come from a family of medical professionals–I come from a family of active imaginations. We quickly imagine the worst.
I cried in bed every night last week leading up to the surgery. My husband was unable to console me about something that hadn’t happened and would probably not happen. I was shaken to my bones with the idea that I might lose my mother: my mother, my nucleus, my magnetic north, my everything. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 23 2013
Tu Bishvat begins this Friday. For some, this holiday will only register because a child enrolled in Hebrew school (or Jewish Day School) will come home with a sandwich bag full of dried fruits and nuts or with a story about the Tu Bishvat Seder she participated in at school.
But for most of us, this admittedly minor Jewish holiday will pass without much (any?) fanfare. The concept is great: a New Year for the trees. The winter rains in Israel are on their way out; its time to welcome spring, to honor the earth in all of its life-sustaining glory, to get our fingernails dirty and plant something. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 5 2012
Sunday afternoon a 2-year-old was killed at our zoo in Pittsburgh after falling into the Painted Dog exhibit.
The words “mauled to death” almost made me sick as tears welled up in my eyes. I take my kids to that zoo almost weekly. My 2-year-old just started walking on his own instead of seeing the animals from the safety of his stroller. I wear my infant and push the empty stroller, just in case he gets tired and wants to climb in for a ride. I am often preoccupied with the bulky stroller or fussy baby and he runs ahead a little. The other day I turned my head for a moment and lost him over near the Komodo dragon exhibit. A moment.
Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 1 2012
As a parent, I’m fully aware that I have a slew of difficult, but necessary, conversations with my son ahead of me. We’ve already tackled one of the toughest: Where do babies come from? Despite reading a variety of parenting books and blogs, I still wasn’t sure how I would handle it when the time came, but at 3.5, when my son started asking questions, I found it was actually pretty easy. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 21 2012
“Mommy, who’s going to take care of me when you and Daddy die?”
This from the mouth of a child who is not yet 4 years old. My child. My first born, my daughter who has a tender, anxious soul and wisdom beyond her years. She made me a mother and challenges me every day to question my beliefs and face my fears.
She’s been curious about death lately. I’m not sure where she heard the word, but she seems to have grasped the concept. She understands that death means someone is gone and that they’re not coming back. She’s still struggling with the details; she recently asked “where we fall” when we die, or if we “pop.” I can handle those questions–even if I don’t have the right answers, I’m ok muddling through until I find something good enough that seems to work for her little brain. (We finally settled on “you just stop” as the answer to what happens, and that seemed to work for her.) Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 6 2012
In Judaism, the anniversary of a person’s death is called their yahrzeit. On that day, the mourner lights a candle, says the mourner’s kaddish, and reflects on the meaning that the deceased person had in the mourner’s life.
These rituals are, generally, not done for a dog.
If they were, though, Captain’s yahrzeit would be sometime in the beginning of August. He died two years ago under somewhat sketchy circumstances. First things first: Captain wasn’t even my dog. And truth be told, there were plenty of moments when I really didn’t like him. But the fact of the matter is that Captain actually changed the course of my life. Read the rest of this entry →