On our way out to my daughter’s play, I feel like I am forgetting something, but squinting in the glare of the afternoon sun, I can’t remember what it is. I run back inside and glance around. And then I remember. I pull out a tiny drawer in my jewelry box and reach instinctively for the smooth pearl ring encircled by tiny diamonds. My grandmother’s ring. I slip it on, and it is still too big on me, but I wear it anyway. I wear it the way I have worn it on every holiday and joyous occasion since my grandmother passed away.

When my first son was born, I searched the house until I found it before the brit (circumcision). It is still too big on me, but I wear it anywayAs I slipped it on then, I remember whispering, I can’t believe you’re not here. I caught myself on that precipice of sudden grief and anger; I turned back to cradle my baby. But oh, how I wished my grandmother could have held him, just for a moment.

And as the days and months passed, I thought the grief would dissipate slowly, like an exhale of darkness bleeding into the dawn. But it returned before every Shabbat. It pulled me back right before each holiday. It became a permanent aching gap in the midst of every milestone.

When I was helping my mother while she was sitting shivah, people kept saying to me, “I’m sorry.” I knew they were just trying to be nice, but it bothered me.Those words couldn’t possibly even make entry into the seemingly endless chasm of my grief. They didn’t know. They couldn’t possibly know how much I had just lost.

She wasn’t just my grandmother, I wanted to cry. She was my best friend.

I didn’t get to say goodbye, I wanted to cry.

And when people asked if I was okay, I wanted to tell the truth: No, I’m not okay. Why would I be okay?

But I didn’t. I nodded. I helped. I went back to the land of the living without a sliver of protest. And I began to just accept that there would always be this aching gap where my grandmother’s presence used to be. I wouldn’t try to fill it anymore, because it couldn’t be filled. And maybe that gap was really a blessing; maybe it was a sacred, precious testament to the light and strength my grandmother brought into this world. It was a Grandma-shaped gap, and no one and nothing would ever take its place.

We even say a blessing thanking G‑d for the gap. The blessing is called Borei Nefashot, and we say it after eating certain foods: “Blessed are You, L‑rd, our G‑d, King of the universe, who creates numerous living things with their gaps, for all that you have created with which to maintain the life of every being. Blessed is He, the Life of all worlds.” We bless G‑d for creating gaps because we recognize that the gaps themselves are gifts. Because G‑d created a special gap for each person, and no one else can fill it. The crevices, the contours, the walls of that space are created specifically for the needs and abilities of that soul. Every day, we have a choice. To fill our gap or turn away from it. To find our place or hide in the shadows.

I sit in the audience later, with my grandmother’s ring glinting in the light that is streaming in through the windows, and I feel suddenly encircled by my grandmother’s love. I look up at my daughter, who is walking toward the stage. And when I catch her eye for a moment, we share a smile that reaches back across the generations and brings back just a whisper of her great-grandmother’s laughter. And my eyes fill with tears as my daughter’s voice echoes through the room. Fill your gap, I think as I look at her. Take your place. Only you can fill your space in the world, and without you, it will be empty not just for you, but for everyone around you.

It’s not easy for each of us to figure out We share a smile that reaches across the generationswhat that space is in the world that we are meant to fill. And once we know, we still need to search for countless ways to fill that space. Because there will be obstacles. There will be storms where we can’t see past the next step. And to fill your gap, you will need to believe not only in yourself, but in the importance of that space that is calling to you.

Sometimes we think our greatest moments are in the spotlight. When we are the first ones to break through that finish tape. But most of our greatest moments happen when we are all alone. When we are running beyond the limits of who we thought we could ever be. When we are so hot and exhausted that we think there is no way we can take another step. And instead of giving up, we go on. With sweat and tears and everything that we have inside of us, because we won’t stop until we find our place. Until we fill our gaps. And watch our gifts take their places among a long line of blessings of those who came before us, illuminating the way.

Even when we think no one is watching.

L’ilui nishmat Gitel Rochel bat Miriam. May her soul continue to rise through the deeds of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.