Peace in my Mortality

Certain moments and places fill me with peace.  Awash in a tranquil weighted weightlessness — I find myself connecting to The Infinite in relief.

Slowly calming a fussy newborn baby; watching her eyes grow heavy, her perfect pink lips yawn, she gives me one last soul deep gaze and we are complete — there’s no where else I need to be, time stops; the world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second.

Digging in fresh, warm, moist earth.  Removing weeds, really uprooting them, seeing an earthworm and thrilling at the endless potential for life.  The butterflies fluttering from flower to flower.  The Palestinian Sunbirds cheerfully calling to each other.  Gently separating a new plant from its plastic container, loosening a few roots, placing it in a new home and as I bring the earth back to fill in the space (created for my new friend) I ask G-d to please help the plant do well.  I see all of the pleasure it will bring; again, the world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second.

Sunset approaches and I’ve been on my feet for most of the day.  Now — freshly showered and wearing my most favorite clothing, I feel prepared to greet royalty when I approach the Shabbos table.  Set with my china, goblets, cutlery and pretty floral napkins, the challah sits under a velour cover, the silver kiddush cup awaits and in the very center are my candle sticks.  I take a deep breath, I’m anticipating the complete separation between the mundane and my essence.  Picking up matches I smell the freshly baked bread, a hint of curried salmon lingers with an overlay of fudge brownies, still cooling on the dish rack.  The world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second.

At Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb), in the city of Bethlehem, passing through security, circling around the gigantic cement barriers, then washing my hands in preparation to fully ground myself in the here and now, glancing over I see a beautiful bridal gown laying across the grand tomb which marks where mama Rachel sleeps.  There was a young woman murdered  the evening before her wedding.  She will always be a young woman waiting to start her life.  Mama Rachel also died young.  My twins were born on her yartzeit.  Whenever things get sticky I think, “Mama Rachel would be thrilled to have one more day with her boys.”  Here, at her kever, my feet begin to tingle and I sense her energy all around.  It pulses and flows from me to her.  I cry because Rachel is the One who cries for us. She was left out of the familial burial plot, in order to sit here, ever ready to intercede on our behalf. I float in the vibrant beat of Mama Rachel’s heart and I am connected to her; the world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second.

The solar powered “fairy-lights,” go on at sunset and my garden becomes a fantasy of scents, breezes, hundreds of tiny lights, colorful blooms; the world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second.

My sixteen year old man-child comes to me, for no reason, and gives me a great big bear-hug with his 6’2” arms; the world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second.

After almost 24 years together my husband calls for me, from the kitchen, to say he made me scrambled eggs.  We sit together.  It’s just the two of us.  He says something funny and my eyes moisten, my cheeks ache; the world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second.

A nine-year-old student of mine sits down to read and although he struggles with words like “know” and “could,” he’s reading, on his own, avidly looking for what happens next, sometimes stopping to look at the pictures a few pages ahead then returning to the current page.  Turning the page he reads something funny and starts giggling; the world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second.

And yet the perfection of the universe is not always obvious to me.

I’m referring to a current heartache I live with.

My sweet-tempered, generous, compassionate, creative, curious child disappeared, or started to disappear, two years ago and I am left with a shell of my middle child. He’s been hi-jacked by an angry young man who hates me and wants me to declare him a “lone-soldier,” despite this fact: we wholeheartedly support his enlistment.

I’m waiting for him to recognize that in Israel an 18-year-old is NOT expected to be a fully independent and functioning adult. In Israel 18/19 year olds enlist with the military’s full expectation that there is an adult at home for a home-cooked meal, the running of basic errands soldiers aren’t given time to perform, a comfy bed, a place to do laundry, someone who pays attention to health issues and whatever else the army expects but I’m currently clueless about because this is my first son to enlist.

In Israel every soldier belongs to every mother and every father — it’s a family business and an integral element of acclimation, of fulling finding your place here.

Despite living in Betar Illit, a city established by a mix of different orthodox sects, we told our children (from a young age): “be passionate about learning Torah or think about what you want to do in the army.”

It’s a wordy policy but we’ve used it for most of a decade and it doesn’t offer an angry child room to claim his parents kicked him out and refuse to support him while serving.

Bringing myself back to those places when/where, “the world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second,” I arrive at a section of the Kotel tunnels where those in-the-know go to physically stand as close as possible to the “Holy of Holies,” of our (currently, temporarily, destroyed) Temple.

I’ll admit it took me a few minutes to find myself, to connect to the time and place, to tune in to the heart-beat of the universe and its Creator because since I survived blood clots and pulmonary embolism I can’t pray while standing and there weren’t any chairs.

I’ve perfected the art of feeling grounded with feet flat to the floor.  I’ve been led through hundreds of meditations — which begin by concentrating on my feet, the sensation of cotton socks touching my skin, the sturdy shoes, the solidity of the ground beneath me and the interchange and flow of energy coming up my legs to meet and mix with the breath inhaled from above, followed by energized breath radiating out; I know how to fill myself with an aware consciousness of the HERE-AND-NOW.

Today it wasn’t until a classroom of school girls crowded in the antechamber and began praying loudly, together, and with feeling that my own deep connection jump-started.

In the sensory experience of the world being perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second I went back in time.

Seventeen years ago, this February, will be the anniversary of a time in my life when I developed deep vein thrombosis and my life was at risk for eleven loooong months.

I became aware, constantly so, that my life might end at any second and there wasn’t anything I could do to change Reality.  It was what it was and I did my best to be calm, peaceful, cooperative, aggressive (when needed) and cheerful too.

And I did my begging.

G-d and I were close before that Presidents’ Day Weekend but from the moment someone first used the term, “DVT,” and I began to comprehend “pregnancy induced protein S deficiency,” — ever since that pivot in time I’m one of G-d’s constant companions.

I felt confronted by mortality and the fragility of life, it’s humbling.  It’s terrifying too.  Once I stopped crying for the children I wasn’t going to have . . . when I stopped hysterically mourning, I found an incredible acceptance of the situation.

Two weeks later, after my husband left for evening prayers and the two year old twins were quietly in bed (still talking to each other), an indescribable pain pierced my lungs.  I truly cannot convey the experience — childbirth pales — and (via understanding my situation) a dread calm filled me.

I thought, “This is it.”

Without doubt, without question, without fear, without panic; with total calm, with total peace, with total acceptance I knew I was dying.

In that moment, I knew, “Everyone is okay and everyone will be okay.”  Furthermore I knew, “It’s okay to ‘let go.’”

The world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second.

While praying I relive this moment, I relive the peace and clarity, and it hits me:

If seventeen years ago my 2-year-old son was going to be fine . . . then, obviously, I don’t need to worry today.

He’s had 17 “extra,” years of my adoration, my support, my encouragement, my nearly impermeable belief: he is a gift from G-d to the whole world.  My implacable opinion: the world is a better place because he exists.  My certainty: he is unique since the creation of time, he is essential to the continued functioning of the world.  With 17 years of bonus time — time G-d didn’t owe me — I have been the very best mother but I wasn’t given more time in order to be appreciated by someone else.  I’m grateful for every second and no matter what my son’s story is and will be, “The world is perfect, exactly the way it is, right this second.”

About the Author
Adrienne was born in California. While attending university in Davis, CA she met her husband. He proposed within 36 hours and announced, "I'm moving to Israel." Adrienne (who never thought of living anywhere) said, "That sounds like fun." Within six months they moved to Jerusalem where she was able to continue her studies at Hebrew University. After four years they were blessed with twin boys and Adrienne became a full time mother. Today Adrienne works as a professional gardener in Jerusalem, teaches English (she calls it her "shmittah" job), assists with three day Imago workshops, writes material which seems inappropriate for the Israeli Charedi community (despite living in an intensely Israeli Charedi city) and manages to love, feed and clothe the four men in her life.
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