A year and a half ago I made a bar mitzvah. My son was the first grandchild on my side of the family. He was born a year and half after my brother passed away at the young age of fourteen. My son was named after my brother, and my parents felt a measure of comfort then.
They were involved and loving grandparents. Although it was a long-distance relationship, my parents had the gift of knowing how to create strong, loving bonds through the phone wires. My Yecheskil was a tremendous source of nachas to my parents. The simchah they would have felt at his bar mitzvah would surely have been contagious.
So when I had to prepare for his bar mitzvah shortly after my mother’s petirah, I wasn’t sure I would be able to. Of course I had a lot of hakoras hatov to Hashem for giving me such a wonderful son. But the pain of my parents and two siblings [my brother and a sister who passed away] not attending was very overwhelming.
Baruch Hashem, I have a wonderful family who really supported me. We had a beautiful seudah and a beautiful Shabbos. We spoke about my parents and what they would have said and done. But it was with a fondness that didn’t disrupt the joyous atmosphere.
Three weeks ago I made my second bar mitzvah. I thought the second time around would be easier. But it wasn’t. “What!?” I screamed to my sisters. “I am making a second bar mitzvah without our parents. I’m telling you, they want to be here. People are always saying it’s better up there. They are happier. But I was never there. And I don’t know anyone who is alive today that was ever there. So I just know what I know. And that is that my parents wouldn’t miss this for anything. My father was a family man. He would want to be here to give my son a berachah and revel in nachas from all the grandchildren. He was also a cake man. He would want to sample from each type of delectable that entered the house. My mother is the proudest mother. She was convinced her children were the best. I know she would want to revel in this family simchah.”
My uncle quoted where it is brought down that a neshamah does attend a family simchah. I didn’t want the neshamah. I wanted them physically. I once again embraced all the preparation with gratitude for reaching this milestone. But the sadness at my losses was my constant companion.
Baruch Hashem, we were zoche to a really special bo bayom and a wonderful Shabbos, and I am left with warm and heartfelt memories.
Of course I was very excited to develop my pictures. It only took me about three weeks to get to the store. (Last time it took over a year.) As I sat there going through each picture, a certain pride welled up in me. My children are so cute, k”ah. I love each one so much.
But then it hit me again. The picture of my parents with my son was missing. They will never be here to enjoy any more family simchahs with us.
It is a pain that never goes away. At times perhaps it diminishes. But there are times when it wells up so intensely. Each time I look at the collage of pictures from the bar mitzvah I will be proud of my family – but I will feel the pain of who is missing.