Someone Called the Rabbi on Me…

I debated writing this post…I thought that maybe I shouldn’t stir any trouble…that if I did say something, I would only be hurting myself more.

But I have to write how I feel and I have to put it out there where it will be seen. This is who I am; this is how I can keep going through all the twists and turns of my life.

So here it is…here is how I felt when I found out that the Rabbi of the community I am currently living in was called about me and my family…how we had left Orthodoxy…and the subsequent tangible murmurings and distance we’ve felt.

Making this decision was agonizing for me and my husband, and extremely challenging with children old enough to understand the process. We never really felt a deep connection with this community, but we had built friendships within it and had a surface-level kinship with most of the members as coreligionists.

Now that we have even less in common with so many of the people in our small community, the emotional baggage of our childhoods has resurfaced along with the need to fit in or blend in so that we can avoid the pain of living on the outside. We’ve worked on that, and we have embraced our decisions and our truths and no longer feel shame or fear about who we are.

I write this for that person hiding in the pack, afraid of someone finding something out and having the shame of the protective blanket of lies wrapped around them ripped away in unwanted exposure.

You may be feeling alone right now, but feeling alone with a truth you can live with is far better than feeling alone with a truth you cannot face.

I don’t know how old I was when someone told me telling the truth was shameful and should be avoided at all costs.

I did not want the shame I already felt to be seen by anyone else so I made lying my truth.

When I was 12 years old, someone called my mother to tell her that somewhere along the way, I had not learned to read. My skin burned red and no one wrapped me up in comfort and told me I did not have to lie.

When I was 13 years old, someone found a packet of my lying truths I wrote to test the waters of friendship and trust and returned them to sender. My parents read my spun tales and believed me when I said I had lied but the shame washed over me like he had said it would so I dug the truth deeper under my skin.

When I was 15 years old, someone thought I had disappeared and searched all over for me, finding me walking back to safety with a boy who had bought me pizza and listened to my hopes and aspirations without judgment. I was dragged back to the security of taped mouths and bound bodies and saw shame in my parents’ eyes. It felt like daggers stabbing a dead corpse and I knew that my heart had been stolen.  

When I was 16 years old, someone called my father to tell him about something I had done in a dark garage at the end of a long driveway where my heart was pounding and fear was forcing my eyes shut and my body to learn the fine art of floating into the trees outside. We didn’t speak about it because I no longer existed.

When I was 17 years old, someone called someone every time I came up for air.

When I was 20 years old, I found something deep within that felt like a truth and everyone I loved was able to breathe again because they could bear the truth I wore.

When I was 30 years old, I could no longer let that truth that had been a lie drain my soul. I decided I was going to learn to love that little girl who was so afraid of shame.

When I was 32 years old, I found that I had absorbed all shame and could finally live a truth that was mine.

Then someone called the Rabbi on me…

And now I am 10 years old again and I am nodding my head and promising that I will never tell.

As The Candle Burns

My mother calls and brings it up before I do.

“It’s tonight…I’ve been thinking about it…remembering….”

I choke back a sob.  “Yes.  It is tonight.  And I’m sad…”

I fall apart.  I tell her the thoughts I have.

She listens, she shares and she hurts with me.

I feel something shift.  The depression lifts and the sadness rolls in.

“I wrote something,” I say, and I send it to her.

The day ends.  The darkness comes.

He walks in and looks at me.  His eyes are sad…but flashing with life.

He hugs me.  I shrink a little.

“I spoke to the Rabbi,” he says.

I pull my head off his shoulder and wait.

“He said we can light a candle.  He said it’s ok.”

My heart stops.  I don’t know how I feel.

He looks at me and whispers, “the Rabbi said it must be so hard for you….he thought of your emotions…he didn’t just rattle off an answer…”

I am surprised.  Someone with religious authority thought of me as an emotional being and gave me a right to emote.  I am beginning to feel alive again.

We sit down to dinner, the candle ready in the center.

I stand silently and strike the match.  My hand shakes as I lower the flame to the wick.  The candle burns.

After seven long years, a candle burns.

And now I am sobbing in my husbands arms and he is holding me the way he wanted to hold me that night, when I last let go and cried from the depths of my soul, and I am weeping and weeping and I can’t stop and I hear a little voice…saying “Imma!” and I shake even more and wipe my tears and turn to my beautiful little girl.

“Imma, why are you crying?” she asks as I sit her down in her seat and place food on her plate.

So we tell her and she takes it in and process it and tells us about a girl in her class who’s Imma had a baby but the baby wasn’t strong enough to live so it died, and our little boy also wasn’t strong and there wasn’t a medicine that could make him better and we look into each other’s eyes across the table and something settles over us as we begin to heal.

I go to the grocery store in the morning and cook dinner and feel normal as the candle burns and my thoughts are with a departed soul at the same time that I am with those around me.

I have never felt that on this day.

As the sun sets and the flame dies down, I breathe deep and remember how I felt yesterday.

My mother responds to the tormented words I sent her when I didn’t know today could be a real day.

Thanks for sharing.  I spoke to the girls yesterday about your (our) loss.  It was therapeutic for me as well and I’m glad you can light a candle.  Secrets and hidden things don’t sit well with our family.

Love,

Mommy

The support gives me strength to put my pain aside for another year and keep moving on.

Next year I will have the table set, the food warmed and the candle ready.

Next year I will invite a friend in to share the memories.

Next year I will let the tears fall slowly.

And maybe next year, his mother will call to acknowledge our loss and we can finally feel supported enough to grieve.