A birthday and a Yartzeit

IMG_1060Quick post for the day.  I am enjoying the calm as I await the weekend and the thought of 10 12-year-old boys descending on our house for a sleepover to celebrate my son’s 12th birthday. As I am preparing, I start reflecting as I am reminded that this is also the anniversary of my father’s death. It will be 6 years ago tomorrow December 1st that my father passed away. I have mentioned in years past that many Jews observe the death of a loved one on the Yartzeit date which fluctuates from year to year.

When my father first died, a colleague told me it was a blessing that he had passed away on my son’s birthday. As the years have passed, I have come to realize that I believe this sentiment is true. Time eases grief in many ways but so do new memories and journeys and the lessons we must all take away and learn from loss.

Perhaps, I think about my father less these days than in the initial days after his death but he is still part of my psyche encouraging me and cheering me on in my life, even if it is only through my mind when I get quiet. My birthday present to my son this year is the knowledge that he is loved, encouraged and supported as well as he celebrates another year of growth and maturity.

Happy Birthday Solomon! Dad, you are gone but not forgotten.


An introspective birthday


Yoga in the Yurt

Tuesday was my birthday. I love my birthday and I am sure many of you like yours too. Mine is in October. If I am lucky the weather is just turning a little more crisp, the leaves are changing and there is a sense that the school year is back in swing. We are in a period of renewed self-awareness, at least I always am because the Jewish High Holidays also often occur on or near my birthday.

This year, I decided to spend the entire day doing personal Self Care. A friend of mine recently wrote a booklet about self-care and for anyone who is a parent especially a mom, you know that often times we take care of everyone else and sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. So I chose to spend the day at a yoga class, getting a massage — yes, I have finally established with my husband that massage is not just a luxury but truly is a way to help maintain our health and wellbeing — and finally in the evening my husband and I  attended a cooking class/supper club with two local Oregon chefs that I have admired for years. The cooking classes were something I had wanted to do but had never prioritized doing before.

In my 20’s, it would have all been about the party. I would have wanted lots of people and a celebration, but in my 40’s I am beginning to realize that I love my own company and spending  a day with many hours in a quiet reflective space is just fine with me. In fact, it’s what I purposely chose to do for this birthday. The morning affirmation at yoga that day was, “In stillness I find my inner strength.” I think with our smart phone, 24/7 lives we sometimes lose sight of the fact that quiet time is not just a luxury it provides sanity and centering. It’s amazing to me that as I age I am gaining wisdom I didn’t expect and it’s a powerful thing.

Don’t wait until your birthday to do some self-care. Take some deep breaths, commune with nature and give yourself some reflective time with your own thoughts. It’s one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.

Happy 75th Birthday Dad!

If my father were alive today, he would be celebrating his 75th birthday. It’s a gorgeous spring morning in the northwest and the sun has finally come out. The cherry blossoms are blooming along with the daffodils and crocuses and the world seems to be waking up from it’s winter slumber. What a wonderful time of the year it must have been to celebrate a birthday.

When I think about my father now I can still remember his voice, his big hands and his bear hugs. I have moved past some of the sadness I had that our relationship was stuck in a difficult place for so long and we spent so many years angry and frustrated with each other. Luckily, we did resolve some of those difficulties but I wish it hadn’t taken until the end of his life to finally get there. I know how tremendously he loved me and have found peace with the journey my life has taken since he has been gone. His spirit and counsel guides me and when I close my eyes and need him he is still available for me.

As my stepmother and step siblings eat chinese food today in tribute to my dad, I will walk along the pacific ocean and remember some of our good times together. I also donated some food to the Sunshine Pantry.

Jack Lemmon says it best, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” My relationship with my father has deepened and grown in the years since his death and I only wish I could give him one more of those great big bear hugs and tell him I love!

Miss you dad. Happy  Birthday!

A Birthday and a Memory

It’s December 1, 1010. Today is my son’s 10th birthday. He has waited for his birthday  as he does every year with anticipation and excitement. This year is a special treat because I have agreed to take him out for a special Sushi birthday lunch–yes he will be missing a few hours of school–but my daughter still remembers when she got taken out to lunch for her 10th birthday so it’s worth a few hours of lost school time.

It’s also the 4th anniversary since my father died. I have mentioned in previous years that in Judaism we mark the anniversary of someone’s death by the Hebrew calendar so the date moves each year. I have already observed this anniversary of his death or Yartzeit. It fell this year on Friday, November 12th. That night my daughter and I attended synagogue and heard his name read by the Rabbi, said the mourner’s prayer and lit a Yartzeit candle in his memory.

I spoke with my stepmother over the weekend and she prefers to use the English calendar to mark the date since it’s easier to remember. However, I decided in that first year after my father’s death that while I would note it like I am now with a blog post or mention, I preferred to really separate the dates so that my son can feel that my full attention is on his birthday.

The spring before my father died when I had just learned of his terminal diagnosis, I flew back to Vermont to spend several days with him. One of the highlights of that weekend, was seeing a Woody Allen movie, as I remember it wasn’t one that was particularly fantastic but afterwards he took me to one of his favorite sushi restaurants in Burlington, Vermont. We sat at the sushi bar, eating, talking and being in each other’s presence. In fact that entire weekend, I remember was filled with love, lots of food and laughter and none of the angry words that were more typical for our relationship before that point. I hold the memory of that weekend very dear to my heart since we both acknowledged at the end of the visit that it was hard to understand why it had finally taken a terminal diagnosis for us to forgive each other and just love and accept each other warts and all. I know we both left that weekend feeling better understood by the each other and more at peace with our relationship.

So as my son turns 10 today,  I will think about my dad and remember the Sushi meal we shared together, while I enjoy my son and our  celebratory birthday lunch. Perhaps in honor of my dad today, I will even consider letting my son have his dessert first!