There’s No Going Back

Two weeks after our relocation, my naturally upbeat and effervescent 6-year-old fell apart in the car on the way home from camp. Admittedly, it was the end of a long, hot week of fun in the sun. As I looked forward to a Shabbat of rest and reflection, my daughter was stuck in the past.

Tears streaming from her eyes in the back seat she choked out, “Mommy, I miss A an O so much. We have to go back to NYC….NOW.” My heart broke for her. She, with her open heart and adventurous nature had embraced the opportunity of a new home and new community even before we knew where we’d land. In that moment of exhaustion, sitting with the one with whom she could be most vulnerable, opening herself to her new reality, she forgot that O, too, was moving from NYC. Things would not be the same even if we could click our heels together and transport ourselves to the UWS for Shabbat.

From the front seat of the car (and not the adjacent seat on the subway), my new reality, I could not hold her close, protecting her in some way from the pain of moving forward. I calmly acknowledged her sadness and we thought together about what we could send her friends from our new home to stay connected (There was also a conversation about a vacation that I have yet to share with A’s parents. This is their heads up).

As she opened to the idea of bridging the past with the future, I thought about the delicate balance between moving forward and retaining the past. Our memories can hold us up; they may also hold us back. Our task is to breathe into the moment, lean into the waves of emotion and stay present to what lies before us.

As I settle into the first yarzheit for my father, I’m holding this wisdom close. My father and I did not have an easy relationship; yet, not a day has passed since last 22 Tammuz that I have not wanted to connect with my dad by phone, email or carrier pigeon. If only we still lived close enough for dinner at the 2nd Avenue Deli after treatment at MSKCC, to see him at the Team in Training (TNT) cheer station on 1st Avenue as I ran by during the NYC Marathon, or for him to enjoy lunch with his youngest granddaughter while I went to Shoprite. No matter how much Z and I want to go back, we cannot. Those moments in time are gone. My father has moved on and so must we.

Jewish tradition teaches kol hatchalot kashot, all beginnings are difficult. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year of mourning it is that every day is a new beginning – the seat of challenge alongside the springboard for potential. As I stand poised to leave this year of firsts and embrace new beginnings, I pray that the sweetness and sting of memory keep me and my daughter awake to our past and our present so that we may truly create the future.

@Rabbi Lisa Gelber
27 July, 2016 / 22 Tammuz 5776

About the Author
Lisa Gelber is rabbi, mother and spiritual director. Her journey to parenthood is profiled in the Emmy nominated documentary ALL OF THE ABOVE: Single, Clergy, Mother. She lives, writes and runs in Atlanta, GA.
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