The reports showed up quickly on my Facebook feed, though the details were still murky. Parents killed in front of their children. Four children? Six children? Six children but only four were with them?
I have four children.
Then I see a report of their ages: 9, 7, 4, and 4 months.
I don’t even know if that report is accurate, and it doesn’t really matter; the horror doesn’t change because some news source got their ages wrong. But the ages hit me, because mine are the same. Except the youngest; Eitam and Na’ama Henkin were killed on the day my beautiful baby girl turned 5 months old.
Odd, the things that really bring home the reality of a horrific tragedy like this. So often, the reports are just words. Sad words, but just words. And then, one day, there’s a detail that feels familiar and makes the whole story feel real. Something your children have in common with theirs. Or a name you recognize.
I know Rabbanit Henkin; I have heard her speak, spoken to her. She responded so wonderfully to my oldest a year or two ago, when my daughter accompanied me to a shiur (Torah lesson) and asked Rabbanit Henkin a question afterwards.
“How could it be,” she asked, “that a dead person spoke to a rabbi in the Gemara’s story?”
Rabbanit Henkin replied that it was a great question, and that most likely the encounter had actually taken place in some sort of vision.
Because yes, my little girl, death is final. Our loved ones don’t come back.
I was feeding my youngest, scanning Facebook on my phone, when I saw the words. “Now we, the grandparents, will raise the children. Eitam and Na’ama, we’ll raise them as you would have.”
I held my baby to burp her, and I cried. And I held her some more and cried some more, getting my tears on her cheeks, my kisses on her head. Taking advantage of the fact that the child home with me when the reality hit was the one who wouldn’t be surprised or upset by my tears, who just thought it was an interesting new experience, who held herself closer for more cuddles.
Even at this young age, my baby prefers me. But if God forbid she lost me tomorrow, she would never remember me. Someone else would raise her.
Nobody’s children should ever have to be raised by anybody else. No child should lose the chance to know their parents. No parent should ever have to bury a child.
The idea that any human being thinks they have the right, even the duty, to make all those things happen to other human beings makes me ill. And it terrifies me.
Often, when tragedy strikes, we take it as a reminder to appreciate what we have. To hug our children, our parents, our spouses a little more.
Well, I’ll do that. My little baby, happily watching me type this with tears streaming, doesn’t know what cuddles lie in store for her today, and she doesn’t know why. I wish none of our children would ever have to know why.
Rabbanit Henkin, and all the family and friends of Rav Eitam and Na’ama, I am so very sorry for your loss. Especially, to the children. The children so similar to my own.