Mourning my Son with no Name

The flutters intensify every year as we light the last candle. Eight flames burning is the signal; the moment we start counting down the week until our baby’s birthday, three days before his death.

This year, my womb contracted wildly with the news of another boy torn from his mother too early… too violently.

I held my breath for as long as he was fighting.

I could see him in that same place, under the loving watch of angels of mercy who call themselves nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit of Shaarei Zedek.

And my soul ripped apart when I knew they had taken all the tubes and wires out, cleaned his translucent skin, and wrapped him in a blanket gently so that his parents could hold him and say goodbye.

The cries that came out of me that night 13 years ago echoed through time and shot me where the bullets made another 21-year-old a mother, a mourner, and a broken soul.

The entire country is mourning a life cut short, mourning for his family and for the children we continue to bury who are always too young. Their names are etched in stone, dotting this land with reminders of who they were and who they could have been.

My sorrow, deeply embedded in this tragedy, greased and separated slowly, as this feeling I could not escape bubbled to the surface, as the funeral procession choked through the night air and heaved.

When my firstborn died, there was no funeral. The Chevra Kadisha took his body, gave him a quiet brit and an obscure name of an angel that I won’t ever know, and waited for someone else to die so that they could walk along the procession and bury him in the mass grave set aside for fetuses adjacent to the cemetery on Har Hazeitim (Mount of Olives). There was no other option, halachically and legally.

They’ve changed the law since and given people a choice.

Our nation’s baby boy was buried, having spent the same amount of time in the same NICU as the son I wanted to name Betzalel because of his long fingers I knew belonged to an artist.

They named him Amiad Yisrael and eulogized him and cried for him and marked his little grave and left me feeling shattered and lost and ugly because, as much as I want to cry for them, I can’t help but cry for me as I wait for my son’s 13th birthday to come on Sunday so that I can count three days and the light a candle for the 13 years that never were.

And I think I am crazy, and I think I am jealous and resentful and incredibly selfish, but I am not sorry or embarrassed, because if you are nodding your head right now and crying with me, then these words needed to be said so that you know you are not alone.

Burial is a grounding act.

It allows pain to dig a hole and create a space to exist — a space that can be visited or left alone, a space that contains all the complexities of broken hearts and loss.

Without the act of burial, the pain, having nowhere else to go, becomes the air all around you. The only way to escape it is to stop breathing.

I am breathing the pain of my son with no grave and feeling the jagged shards of children wrapped discreetly and taken from empty wombs and incubators. I am with them on their last journey, alone, as they tag along with another death, and I am with them as they are placed in concrete tombs with other limbs they won’t call whole. I am unmarked and unmourned, and I am decomposing as though I have never been. I am the cold breeze and the heavy cloud and the sun that can never shine as bright. I am scraped from the inside and left to watch the funeral procession create a space to mourn that doesn’t belong to me.

I am angry and hurt and afraid to tell the world how it feels because I know you might squirm and hesitate and maybe even call me selfish when you are confronted by these thoughts I’m not supposed to say out loud.

I say them anyway because I know the only way to brush this away is to hold my breath until I die.

And I don’t want to die.

My son, Betzalel son of Bracha, son of Naftali, is somewhere on that mountain together with the sons and daughters who never got a name.

And maybe Amiad Yisrael’s tiny grave is big enough and deep enough to hold the lifelong loss of parents throughout this country and tether us to the ground.

Yehi Zichronam Livracha.

*Please read the updated law regarding burial after a loss of pregnancy to be sure no one ever has to feel like they have no choice.

Source: Times of Israel

My Heart Writes

Most times…I write.

I write what I feel and I pour my own heart

into words on a page

that someone may read

on the other side of a screen

where perceptions and life experiences

will slowly change

the words my heart meant to say into words you understand

your way…

But this time…

My heart refuses to be heard in any way other than how much it hurts

as people die and other lie bleeding and other hearts

quicken their beating

while bloody hands press down on their chests

and pray to any god that the bodies of lovers, strangers and friends

will muffle the sounds of those hearts…

those hearts…

that cry out to a god who answers with gunshots and convictions that men die for…

but I don’t want to die

for a god who hates

a god who calls to arms the deranged

and lets his goddamn name be said in vain

in vain his goddamn name is found

in every blood-soaked temple of the innocent

clotting lives of those who dared to live

against the wishes of some goddamn god

my heart refuses to let it

my heart…

writes.

 

paxp-deije

Our Dying World

The world is bleeding.

She is heaving her last breath…convulsing in pain…as she tries to heal wounds she doesn’t know how to lick.

She has been beheaded…stabbed…shot…

She had been blown to bits…burned alive…ravaged…

She has been raped…sold…defiled…

She has been trampled on…spit on…stoned…

She has been through every imaginable torture…and even more unimaginable deceits…

Yet she still struggles to survive…even now as she slips away…

Because she only knows how to love…how to give…how to believe…

She will not understand that to stop the pain she will have to open her core and swallow humanity alive so that she can continue to exist.

She will never do that.

She will die.

And we will die with her.

I Am Israel

They want me to live in fear as great as their hate

To cower as I walk

To tremble every day.

But I will not.

For I am stronger than they can ever understand

Taller than I seem

Fearless as I’ll ever be.

I represent love

Beauty

Peace.

I am filled with purpose

I am resilient

I am powerful.

I am Israel.

And no matter how many wounds I lick

No matter how many bodies I bury

No matter how much blood seeps into my core

I WILL NOT DIE.

Intifada: Take Three

Today, I was on a bus.  And I had my headphones on because I like to listen to music on the bus.

But the driver…

He was in a bad mood…and I couldn’t tell why.

I didn’t know if it was because he had a fight with his wife…forgot his lunch at home…had to go through a checkpoint to get to work…was pissed off because I am a Jew…was frustrated that no matter what he does he is judged terribly…or because he is a radical Islamist who wants to kill Jews so he can be a martyr.

I couldn’t tell.

So I kept taking my headphones off and checking his face and his body language…and he was driving fast and I was waiting for him to crash into a bus or a truck or a tree and there were only old women and young girls on the bus and we didn’t have a gun and then I thought maybe I’d be the one to knock him out and grab the wheel but I wasn’t sure I could even turn the thing or reach the brake…and then Goodbye Yellow Brick Road came on so I put the headphones back on and cranked up the volume and thought it was a good song to die to.

On the way home the driver was a nice Ethiopian man and I smiled widely and thanked him profusely and wasn’t in the mood to listen to music anymore.

Because when there is an intifada…you do as you feel.  And you try to stay alive.

Tears

 

The words are piling up behind my eyes…

pushing past resistant eyelids…

spilling…

letter by letter…

down my cheeks…

where I angrily brush them aside.

I don’t want to write…

I don’t want to feel in text…

I don’t want to say the things my heart is dictating.

So I rub…

I destroy the words that must never be spoken…

the dreams…

the hopes…

the why….

the how…

the deafening shriek filling my mind…

the absolutely gut-wrenching pain I have no right to believe is mine.

I want to say…

that I cannot say…

anything at all.

 

When Terrorists Die

On December 1, 2001, my husband stood on an unfamiliar street in the heart of an unfamiliar country.  He had just turned eighteen and his life was shit.  He just wanted a little something to numb the pain.

This was the place to be, he was told.  Here was the action.  By day, a bustling pedestrian mall, by night, a refuge for the down and out to come nurse their pain with whatever was available.  This was where the action would be.

The street was full.

He was standing in an alleyway, right next to Burger King, when the first bomber blew up.  He told himself it was a sonic boom.  Then he walked a few feet forward and saw the carnage.

A man lay on the floor in front of him with blood pouring out of his head.  People ran past, up and down the street, oozing blood, their clothes torn…their hands holding pieces of themselves.

He walked down, to the right, propelled by the masses of people.  There were bodies on the floor.  It was surreal.  Smoky.  Dark.  Chaos.

And then the other bomber burst into a shooting flame, rising above the buildings, right into the crowds running away.

That’s when he realized there was nowhere to go.

That’s when he realized what it means to live with enemies.

By the time the third bomb, hidden in a car up the street blocking access to emergency personnel blew up, a new reality had formed in his mind.

Half a bottle of vodka later, as he watched the news play the scenes he witnessed over and over again, he noticed he was still shaking.

He was eighteen, in an unfamiliar land.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

We’ve been reading the news and following up on what happened in Boston.  I don’t know if we have a right to comment.  I don’t think it’s fair to compare.  But I do have one thing on my mind.

That night, back in 2001, 13 people died; 11 civilians and 2 terrorists, and 188 civilians were injured.  When the death toll is counted, there is always a pause before this is said, but it is said.  Two bodies, however mangled and destroyed they are, are gathered and taken care of.  I don’t know if they are buried with anything more than a shovel and a box, or how often they get returned to their families, but they are not left to rot.

Because the dead, despite who they were before or what they did, deserve a bit of dirt to disintegrate into.

It’s not the least or the most we can do.  It’s not a favor.  It’s not anti-justice, or pro-terrorism.  It’s humane.

We live in Israel.  We suffer at the hands of people who think we have no right to live.  But we maintain a spirit of humanity that we can’t deny.  We come from dust and we return to dust.  Once we are nothing but flesh and bone we must return to the ground, despite our breathing moments.

There is a terrorist who is nothing more than a body now.

As long as he lies on a table with nowhere to go, he has taken away an entire country’s ability to rise above in the fight for a higher ethical code for humanity.