It's been forty years since my mother passed away. I had been upset with her for fourteen years even before she passed away. But when you do second readings on painful life events, sometimes strange things happen. The present has a way of positively reframing the past – which is perhaps why it is called the present.

In 1950, my father passed away, but I didn't know about it until the morning of the funeral. I woke up all excited because not only was it my elementary school graduation, but I was supposed to sing a lullaby that I had composed and written myself. Instead, when I walked into the kitchen, my mother said in a matter of fact voice: "Your father died last night. I will go to the funeral and you will go to school." That's when I decided never to forgive my mother, until this year.

My mother had cerebral palsy and my father was deafIn no way was my childhood ordinary. My mother had cerebral palsy and my father was deaf. I was, thank G‑d, considered "normal" though my only living grandparent, my father's mother, thought I was the "wrong child" because my nose was more turned up than everyone else in the family. My parents were on welfare and separated, and later divorced, since I was seven. Hence, on that fateful morning, I was totally in the dark as to my father's physical condition. I had reluctantly been living with my mother since she could take better care of me, but my heart was with my father. At the time, I did not even think of expressing the inner outrage, shock, and betrayal that I felt on that beautiful June day.

I went to school, sang my song, and staggered down the staircase to go home. When they clapped after the lullaby, it reminded me of the sound of dirt being shoveled over a grave.

I had no real friends to speak of in those years. My mother, even though she escaped from Europe at the age of twenty, still bought kosher food and had the nostalgia or foresight to send me to a Jewish day school. This was spiritually good for me, but not socially, since all the other children were middle-to-upper class. I don't even recall having a birthday party or getting new clothes until I was a teenager. So there I was, my lonely self, walking home on the day that I should have been with the only person I ever really felt close to. But instead, I was coming from a celebration where I had felt like I was receiving applause like a trained monkey.

Many years and seeming lifetimes later, I finally learned to share my feelings and memories with close friends. One of them remarked, "Don't feel so bad; it's like you were saying goodbye to your father with your song." That felt a little better. Some time passed, and I got an alternate interpretation from another friend who is a poet and a very sensitive person. "Well, Yehudis," she said after hearing the words of the lullaby, "that other insight is nice, but it doesn't quite match the import of the words of your song. Listen to what you yourself wrote."

Lay down your weary head, then close your sleepy eyes,
And dream of all the things in the world you idolize.
It may be on earth below, or even in heaven above,
It may be sadness or sorrow, or it may be even love…
I caress you in the night; I dress you by the light.
I love you with all my heart, and I hope we'll never part.
Little child, please go to sleep and sweetly dream, dream, dream.

I gradually began to put things in a meaningful light"Yehudis," she pushed, "those are not the words of a child singing to a parent. Those are the words of a parent singing to a child!" Boom, clear, obvious! But I had simply needed the healing of time to be receptive to a message from a good friend, maybe channeling my father, or maybe even G‑d. Phew! Guilt melted off me with those words.

But anger at my mother – that was a different story. That takes us to now, 2008, about ten years later, and hopefully, wiser. My mother passed away the year I went to Israel for the first time, in 1968, the year after the Six Day War. She had been ill when I left, but was not doing worse than many other times in her life. A few days into my three week trip, she passed away, but the rabbi who handled the funeral chose not to let me know because I wouldn't make it back in time. However, without any conscious awareness, what I wanted most to do in Israel was to visit the graves of tzaddikim, righteous people.

You can imagine the shock and the guilt I felt when I got back home! Here, too, I gradually began to put things in a meaningful light; maybe my mother knew that I would try to keep her in this world, if I were nearby. Maybe she was waiting to put me in the arms of my "motherland" before she would leave this earthly plane. But I was still angry at her for not letting me be at my father's funeral.

This year, however, I saw things a little differently. On the first day of Chanukah, I was driving to teach a Tanya class when someone ran a red light and smashed into me. My leg was broken, but my life was spared. In a wheelchair for a few months, and then hobbling around for a few more, I began to think about how hard it must have been for my mother to raise me by herself. I, her only child who was not physically handicapped, had to learn from my mother's inner fortitude. I could not have survived without my parents. As we will begin reading in the month of Elul, "When my father and mother leave me, G‑d will gather me in." I have finally learned to forgive my parents, as I hope they forgive me for my insensitivity.

May we all be blessed with the continual wisdom to see with more and more clarity, how what happens to us is meant to be, and how we continue to grow, not just in years, but in true understanding.