Dear Yonah and Akiva,

I’m writing you this letter in honor of your grandmother’s 58th birthday. Three years ago today, your “Bubbles” was in Jerusalem, praying at the Western Wall. She could have asked for anything she wanted: lots of money, a big house, fancy trips, a new car. But she didn’t ask for any of those things. That year, she had only one birthday wish: to live.

That year, she had only one birthday wish: to liveBy then, Bubbles had been sick for almost a year. She had spent a lot of that time in bed, because the medicine they gave her made it hard for her to do very much. Many nights she would get fevers, and Zadie would take her in a black car straight across New York City to get to the hospital. She had surgeries on her kidney and her arm, which the doctors hoped would help make her better. But after all that, they still weren’t sure what would happen.

So Bubbles asked Zadie to take her to Israel, where she could talk to G‑d about it herself. She went to the Kotel, where G‑d is closest to us, and she cried, begging Him to help her. She wanted to watch her children finish growing up, get married and make families of their own. She wanted to play and sing with you, and to walk with you on the beach.

But G‑d decided that this birthday would be her last. Bubbles died a few months later.

You might think it was unfair of G‑d not to give Bubbles what she wanted. Would it have been so hard for Him to let her stay with us? Why should we have to be sad from missing her for all these years? I asked myself these questions for a long time after she died; but the truth is, my little souls, there is no answer. I don’t know why G‑d decided it was time for Bubbles to go, just when her children were almost done growing up, and you, Yonah, were not even a year old. I wish I could give you a story with a happy ending, but in this life, not every story ends that way.

I wish you could have known your BubblesOne night, after a visit to the doctor, Bubbles crawled into her bed, pulled the covers around her lap and told me what the doctor had said: She didn’t have much time left.

“Are you scared?” I asked her.

“I’m angry,” she replied. “But G‑d has a plan.”

That, my boys, is what faith is. We don’t always have to like what G‑d is doing; we can even be angry at Him if we need to be (don’t worry; He can take it). But underneath all of that, we can believe that G‑d loves us and knows what is best for us—even if it hurts, even if it makes us cry for a long time, and even if we never understand why He did it.

I wish you could have known your Bubbles. I wish you could have seen how much fun she was, the way she threw her head back when she laughed or pursed her lips when she danced, like she was kissing the air. I wish you could have watched her bake challah, kneading and braiding with artful hands as the house filled with the smell of yeast and cinnamon. I wish you could have felt her gaze on you, full of wonder and love, making you feel protected and cherished, as I did throughout my life. She would have thought you were little miracles, just like I do.

It is customary on your birthday to give a blessing to those who celebrate with you. Bubbles isn’t here to give you her blessings today, but I think she wouldn’t mind if I did it for her. Yonah and Akiva, you should be blessed with long, healthy and happy lives. You should know how much you are loved, and you should always love yourself. May you always be willing to learn and grow from your mistakes, and to ask G‑d for help when you are unsure. In the end, she did get to live: in youMay this life be a joyful journey for you, and may you walk knowing that you are protected and guided always, and that everything that comes in your path is for the good.

Your Bubbles liked to say that her legacy is her children. Perhaps G‑d answered her prayers in a way she didn’t expect. In the end, she did get to live: in you. You, my precious ones, are her birthday gifts.

Happy Birthday, Bubbles.

With Love,