To my dear children,
As I sat in synagogue, trying to remember the name of the girl behind me (who went to school with one of you and even was in our carpool many years ago), I was filled with panic when all I could come up with was that it was a double name that started with CH. I began to think about all the things I fear. I think what I fear the most would be losing my memory and not knowing who my husband and children are, or not recognizing my grandchildren. I was filled with dread, imagining a situation where I wouldn’t know who I really was.
I think what I fear the most would be losing my memoryTo me, this would be worse than death. For death is a final ending of life on this earth, and the continuation of the soul’s journey. But being alive and not knowing those who love you and those who you once loved—that was too hard to imagine.
Suddenly her name popped into my head. I smiled with relief—it was just lying there dormant, and needed to come to the surface.
But then I began to wonder: what if this really was the beginning of a mental deterioration that, once started, could only progress? I realized that since we never know what is in store, we must take the time now to say the things we don’t want left unsaid. And so, my dear children,
Know that more than anything else, I wanted to be a mother. The longer I had to wait, the more I knew how important it was to me. When you each were born, I was never happier than being home, playing, cooking, reading, singing or dancing with you. I admit to sometimes suffering from the “what if I worked outside” fantasy, but I always hoped you knew that in my life you all came first. I was proud of the fact that, while we did not always have as much material wealth as we might have had if I had worked outside the home, we were able to get by, and hopefully you were all content with the fact that there was a pervasive sense of peace in our home.
Know that I am proud of each of you. Of your accomplishments and achievements, but more importantly, of who you have become in life. Not what you do, but who you are. Your caring for each other, your sensitivities to those around you, your love and compassion, means that Abba and I succeeded in the lessons we tried to impart.
Know that I realize I made mistakesKnow that I realize I made mistakes. Sometimes I pushed too hard; sometimes I did not push nearly enough. To some of you, I may have seemed distant at times, usually because I was preoccupied with concern for another of your siblings. Sometimes it may have seemed that one or another of you got all the attention, and you were left on your own. Though I do not really think any of you were loved with any less intensity, I imagine you may have felt neglected or unimportant when my attentions seemed focused elsewhere.
Some of you were such “easy” children that it was easy to forget that you, too, needed me to encourage and support your endeavors. When success came easily to you and not your siblings, I thanked G‑d for giving me a little respite, not realizing that perhaps you were hurt at what you might have thought was indifference.
Parenting is the kind of job for which there is no practice (yes, being an older sibling makes you think you know what to do; and babysitting might prepare you for diaper-changing). You give it your best shot, and trust that G‑d will make your children resilient enough that they don’t suffer too much from a parent’s mistakes.
Your father and I have been blessed to see you grow and find your way in life. We have watched some of you stumble, and tried hard to let you trip and fall but still be there to help Band-Aid your cuts, as we did when you were small. The hardest thing for a parent to do is to let go—whether it is taking off the training wheels on your first bike, sending you off to camp, watching you go to Israel, or leading you down to the chuppah, the marriage canopy.
Parenting is the kind of job for which there is no practiceWhen I light candles Friday night, and pray to my Creator to watch over each of you, your spouses and children, I know that in the chain of our tradition I am but a small link. But that link connects me with my mother, and her mother, all the way back to our Matriarch Sarah, and it connects you and your children as it continues through time.
I am sure there is much I have still left unsaid. But if you did not know it before, then I trust you will all know now that you are the greatest gift given to me in this world.