Friday, March 14, 2014

Footprints in the Snow

I officiated my first funeral yesterday for a dear friend who died suddenly on Monday. It was my first time as a rabbi, and not as a parent, returning to the cemetary where Sammy is buried. I was comforted to see that my friend was being interred only a 1000 feet east of where Sammy is buried. I thought to myself, "At least my friend has Sammy as a neighbor."

I held myself together and calmly read the liturgy and the mourner's kaddish. I held my walls as firmly in place as I could, only wavering at two points during the mourner's kaddish. I gave the family hugs and watched them leave, slowly one by one, after the burial. Then I drove west, looking to see if I could find Sammy's grave on my own. It took a moment and one turn around (there was a lot of snow covering up the landmarks I know to look for). I followed the footsteps in the snow of those who had come to see their loved ones before me. I stood at Sammy's grave and cried my eyes out wanting to scream at the world.

Sammy was my rock. I was Sammy's person. So many times when I had to leave to go to work he would so "No Daddy, don't go." And I hated leaving him even if I needed the time away. I always came back to him and he always came back to me no matter what, even if we had an awful day together not getting along. At the end of each day we always forgave each other and found our way to lying next to each other just before bedtime, side by side in the dark. Sammy always asked me a thousand questions. He was always curious about this and that. He always wanted to know more. I hope he has all his answers now. He would love that.

These days I feel like I only have one question, "Why?"


  1. There is no answer to the question why. If you need an answer ask a different question. G-d's blessings, peace and comfort to you and your family.

  2. We continue to hold your family in prayer. May you have God's peace, that which passes understanding.

  3. Your friend's family may be asking Why? too, and your kindness, with Sammy by your side, no doubt helps them follow some footprints, too, not to the "answer" perhaps, but to sharing the journey.

  4. Why indeed. We'll never know, which is hard to accept. I followed your footprints in the snow yesterday to go visit Sam. I left him my special rock that has the word faith painted on it. Maybe in the absence of why, faith will have to do. Xoxo

  5. I hope he has all the answers now, too.

    I am holding you and your beautiful family in my heart.

  6. sending you warmth and love. thank you for sharing with us,

  7. Dear Rabbi Michael,
    It's 3am on Sunday, and as I've commented to your incredible wife, Rabbi Phyllis, when I can't sleep during the night because my chemo wiped me out and I slept most of the day, I look to see if my daughter Judi has shared another part of your blog about Sammie. The story of your Sammie and my granddaughter Sammie playing in the "secret garden" at the hospital while Debbie was having infusions brought tears to my eyes and laughter to my lips. In the middle of the insanity of childhood illness, they were able to play and giggle together as only children can.
    Thank goodness for those stories, and for the gorgeous pictures you took of your Sammie!
    I so hate it when people say the "Why" is God's will. I will never believe that any God would want bad things to happen to anyone, and certainly not to our children!!!!!
    I think of you and your family so often. Be ok.
    With love,
    Grandma Joan

  8. Hugs and love to you all.

  9. Four years ago, my 34 year old cousin suddenly died at work. She left a husband and 2 preschoolers asking why along with the rest of our extended family. Ironically, I wrote an article on my blog on the same day that you wrote this. My article is about what to do as parents when there is no answer to the question "why?" So many of us encounter circumstances for which there is no reasonable answer to that question. It is about what we do next and your willingness to share this experience with the world is so powerful.

  10. Lots of love to you and your family.