Friday, December 20, 2013


I'm constantly distracted. I start one task and then jump to another. I compose a blog post in my head and it is lost a few minutes later. I go to get something for one child and I end up with another thing in my hand. I start a sentence and I trail off…perhaps I have forgotten how to think, how to breathe, how to write…? I have started and restarted this post so many times...
Remembering…Sammy and Solly at OSRUI
The silence in the room when we walked into the funeral was thick. It was breathtaking. It was filled with pain. I could hear the collective breath…

The snow fell on Sammy's grave and the edges softened…so many shovelfuls...

The room of shiva was never empty...The hugs were never ending. The love was palpable.

I hugged small children. So many of Sammy's friends.
I hugged 8 year olds and consoled them on the death of their friend.
I kissed their sweet little heads and I told them how much Sammy loved them.
I remembered birthday parties and playdates and excursions.
I saw their parents' eyes filled with the pain of knowing that their children will never forget this moment when their little people became mourners.

I hugged teenagers.
So many teenagers.
They feel the pain of death so keenly at that age.
They believe they are immortal -- this cuts them to the core.
I have seen teenagers in grief and it is heart-shaking.
But I felt such a swell of pride in my heart as each of them embraced me.
These are the students we have taught, we have taught them oh-so-well to love and care and bring comfort.

I have never felt such shared grief before. We are all mourners, such deep sadness.
And yet I am the one who types this at 2am, in a house that has one child missing.
Thank God for all of you, God's Messengers on earth who hold me up.

I can't keep up with the messages and emails and texts.
I am overwhelmed with them.
I think it is in a good way.
I scroll through my Facebook feed, my email, my texts... and cry.
My friends, my sweet wonderful friends, who are doing what they do best.
Writing…sharing…posting….and of course, fundraising.
So many posts.
Articles….oh, so many articles.
(Would a good mother keep a scrapbook? A good blogger might have a list of links.)
Sammy is famous.
I can think of a hundred million billion other ways I would have wanted it to happen.

I can begin to understand the hair-ripping mourning custom of ancient days. Outwardly, I look the same. I am not shaving my head* until March. I think that will be the right time. I know I need to wait. (It's also very very cold…)

But there's a piece of me that wishes I was doing it right now.
Today. A huge, painful, visible change…many years ago I gave a sermon about perfectionism. I started out by talking about Yael's head-lice, and how I had shaved her head (and Sam's too, by the way). I said something like, "she is now a bouncing, giggling, bald reminder that we are very far from perfect."

Oh, how far from perfect we are...
Oh, how far from complete.

So this is what it feels like…

*That link is to Michael's St. Baldricks donation page…just to balance out the fundraising…#baldestparentsontheblock - we feel equally helpless…
Remembering…September 2008…the headlice shaving incident


  1. My heart goes out to you and your family. I am grieving with you even though I have never met you and I live halfway across the world. I pray to the Good God to you all the patience to deal with your loss. And may God bless you and your family.

  2. I don't have anything profound or deep to say, just wanted to say that you and your family are almost constantly in my thoughts and always in my tefillos.

  3. Virtual Hugs!! A special blessing to remember Sammy this Shabbat

  4. My heart cannot begin to fathom the pain. I am in awe of the beautiful words that you and Michael continue to share with us, giving us insight into your family and your mourning. The virtual world that your blog reaches mourn with you and will honor Sam and his memory through 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave. Thank you.

  5. I had not thought about Sammy's friends -- children -- becoming mourners. What that is like for them. What it is like (oh, my heart!) for their parents to watch that in them.

    You and your family have not been absent from my thoughts for an instant over these last weeks. The eternity and the eyeblink since you posted to say that there was nothing more the doctors could do.

    It feels as though the whole world is mourning Sammy. Surely everyone I know in my rabbinic worlds joins you in mourning him. But as you say -- you are the one awake at two am in the house where he is missing.

    I send love from snowy western Massachusetts.

  6. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and all your kids and family. We in Maine have been following Sammy from our Congregation Bet Ha'am, we said his name every week, he was always in our prayers, we all wore superman outfits and had a lot of fun from my grand kids to my mom, we all had such fun because of Sammy. We lots my mom this past March and i still laugh when is her at 88 in yellow curlers, a superman cape and tee-shirt, it was a a scream. For us Sammy will always server as a blessing.

  7. Yes, "we are all mourners", how can we not be.

    Thank you for continuing to share your loss and all it encompasses, with us.

    My thoughts and prayers are continual.

  8. I am in AWE of your strength and beauty! How lucky Sam was to have such a beautiful mother and amazing family. How lucky we all have been to know him through your blog. You are in my thoughts everyday.

  9. I fell in love with you when you gave that sermon. Every mom who had ever had lice in their house knew exactly where you were coming from! How can that have been 5 years ago? The girls and I still laugh when we think of poor little Yael having her head shaved! Stay strong....

  10. A month out from my partner's death, I find I get distracted like that much less than I did closer to his death. I try to be patient when it comes and not judge myself for the fact that it can take me two days to do dishes from one meal. I would say to myself, "Breathe. Okay. Wash the cup," probably fifty times before actually watching the cup. I had a sense that if it were possible, my body would forget how to breathe. It was like I was subconsciously resisting existence. Gradually, I find that dissipating. When my partner was diagnosed with lymphoma, we took strength from you sharing about Sam. I was amazed to discover that even in the midst of my grief for my partner, my heart had room to break more for you and Sam. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    1. It takes strength to reach out to someone else in grief when you yourself are going through it. My deepest condolences for your loss.

  11. Shabbat Shalom. Remembering Sammy on Shabbat.

  12. I just read this article and it meant a lot to me:
    I know we don't know each other so I hope you won't be offended by my suggesting it. I have been following your journey and your family is on my mind a lot.

  13. You don't know me. I was led to you bog through Facebook. Your story is all too familiar. More must be done to invest in research so that no parent hears "your child has cancer". I'm not a parent but I am an avid childhood cancer volunteer. Others like me are out there fundraising for a destination beyond cancer for children. Here's another link - see what volunteerism in Canada is doing ... I have committed to raising $25,000 in 2014 (I've raised 3% of my goal so far)...

  14. Losing someone is something that no one can prepare you for. What you are feeling what you are living is so normal, all you can do, all you should do is whatever feels right at that moment. A new normal will settle into your life, but it will never ever be the same as it was, just what it is. My heart goes out to you as you travel this path, one that no parent should ever have to walk.
    However, you have been an example to the world of a beautiful caring parent.

  15. We treasure even your distractions, certainly I do, because everything reminds us of how tender our heart is and how we need to cherish its every beat.

  16. thinking of you and your family. sending warmth and hugs.

  17. Phyllis the shock and stress you guys have been through for the past year and a half does cause a temporary neurological damage. It's perfectly normal. That's why we have shiva and shloshim. It can take a year for your memory and concentration to improve.
    HaMakom yenachem.