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Should I Join the Family Celebration?

Should I Join the Family Celebration?

I had prior plans for that day. I didn’t know which to choose . . .


Has this ever happened to you?

For several months I had been planning to attend a Sunday morning organizational convention. This event is the one time a year I can count on meeting most of my colleagues and friends, and I view it as an opportunity to catch up and discuss the past year’s activities.

Then, the week before the convention, my wife’s cousin gave birth to a wonderful, healthy baby boy, and the ritual circumcision (brit milah) was to take place on the very morning of the event. Of course, one can never know when a child will be born, and I certainly could not blame them for the timing. In any case, the convention would not start until late morning, and I was sure the circumcision would take place first thing in the morning.

Well, I was wrong. They announced that the circumcision ceremony would begin at 12 PM, and I found myself in a quandary.

What should I do? Should I attend the family celebration? Or could I blow off the celebration and go to the convention I had so been looking forward to? What should I do? Should I attend the family celebration? Or could I blow off the celebration and go to the convention I had so been looking forward to? Could I stop in to the celebration for a few minutes and then continue on to the convention?

In coming to a decision I recalled my wife’s grandfather, Grandpa Mordechai.

The Picture Album’s Story

While dating my future wife, her grandfather in Montreal fell seriously ill and was diagnosed with a terminal disease. Nevertheless, he fought relentlessly day after day to stay alive. As anyone who lives in Canada knows, when the health system there gives up on you, it is only the strongest-willed that pull through. Unfortunately, I was not privileged to meet Grandpa Mordechai before the illness wracked his body.

Meeting someone who is facing certain and imminent death can be an unpleasant experience. Illness changes people. The grandfather I met was not the real Grandpa. The real Grandpa was a kind, jolly fellow who rushed to help anyone in need. Family chronicles are filled with accounts of his marvelous personality.

I had danced with each uncle, and with the grandfather, but beyond that I hadn’t seen much of them. For this reason, I have questioned if maybe it would have been better if I’d married six months later. Maybe, just maybe, there would be no unpleasant and unwanted memories, and I could have known him as the great grandpa he truly was.

Nevertheless, preparations for the wedding were underway while Grandpa struggled every day for his very life, undergoing treatments and being driven to and from the hospital. Our wedding would mark the first time ever that my wife’s entire extended family, including two families living in South Africa, would get together.

Where Are They?

My wife Chana Raizel with Grandpa Mordechai Chaiton.
My wife Chana Raizel with Grandpa Mordechai Chaiton.
I planned to arrive in Montreal on the day of the wedding. There was no time to meet my wife’s family, and I would have to do it at the wedding (or so I thought).

The wedding ceremony commenced under the marriage canopy. As I stood there under the stars of the cool Montreal evening, I began a new life, joining a new family. It was a joyous evening, one of vigorous dancing with friends and family. As the night moved along, I wondered where my wife’s family was. I had danced with each uncle, and with the grandfather, but beyond that I hadn’t seen much of them.

I finally found a member of the family and asked where everyone was. He pointed to the other side of the dance floor, and there I saw my wife’s entire family singing and dancing together in a circle. I was soon pulled into another dance circle and forgot about the entire occurrence.

A few weeks later, the pictures and video of the wedding arrived. From pictures you can always see not only what you yourself experienced, but also the parts of the event that you may not have been part of.

What I noticed most was the strong bond and family connection in my wife’s family. In the pictures and video, I saw the family harmony and celebration that took place at our the wedding.

What Did I Do?

Grandpa Mordechai’s family members at the ritual circumcision.
Grandpa Mordechai’s family members at the ritual circumcision.
In the short amount of time that I was part of Grandpa Mordechai’s life, there was thing that I noticed—the great joy and excitement he took in each and every family celebration. He would go to great lengths to join in, and looked forward to taking a part in them. Even while extremely sick, he traveled to New York so as not to miss a family celebration. When he could not make it to my engagement party in New York, because he was in the middle of receiving a blood transfusion, he held a small party in his home, listening to the proceedings and giving his blessings over the phone.

A few months after our wedding, Grandpa Mordechai looked at my wife and asked, “Nu! Where is the baby?” He desperately wanted to be a part of another celebration. Shortly before the holiday of Chanukah, we made plans to visit him in Montreal. The trip didn’t work out, but that night when we called his house, my wife told him that she was pregnant. He was overjoyed and broke down in tears of excitement, overjoyed to be part of another celebration.

Three days later he passed away.

We named our baby Mordechai, his namesake.

From Grandpa Mordechai I learnt the importance of family celebrations. When faced with my dilemma, to attend the circumcision or the convention, I did what Grandpa Mordechai would have done. I attended that ritual circumcision, stayed until the end, and remained to celebrate with the family, cherishing every moment of togetherness and celebration.

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Jack Midland Park August 3, 2011

Family Celebration or Convention ? This is an easy question.
The family event comes first because each one is unique and will not happen again. Also, some one at the family event may not be able to attend future events. Cherish everyone. Reply

Ilana Leeds Melbourne, Vic August 2, 2011

Actually a good call... B'H

I had this wonderful feeling of relief when I read the end of your story. Thank you for choosing the right way. :-) Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma August 2, 2011

Family "matters" My father always said to me, the most important thing is family. When I was married my paternal grandmother was quite ill, and so it was uncertain she would be able to attend the wedding. We decided to hold it in Montreal because that's where she lived, at the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. Sadly, she did not make it. But she knew, we made the effort, and how much she was loved. I am sure of it!

We have so little time here, really. Sometimes it feels like it goes so fast, speeding right on by, and the way to express this is with words of love, and acts of love, as express is also of course, fast forward.

Try hard to do things in the now knowing one day, not doing them, might provide deep regrets. What's important, IS surely, family, and sadly, many are estranged and have so much to be doing. To stop and to realize, others have necessarily slowed down, is to realize, maybe the git, to smell the roses, is to be with them, as best we can.

That's grabbing for eternity! Reply

Lisa Providence, RI July 28, 2011

Should You Join the Family Celebration? If you already have plans, you need to talk to your family about it. Ask them if they'll be angry if you don't attend. Reply

Martin montreal, QC July 12, 2011

Well written! Who is wise? Someone who learns from everyone. Let's try always to see the good in people and to emulate it. Reply

Circumcision is the first commandment given by G-d to Abraham, the first Jew, and is central to Judaism.
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