Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bittersweet Birthday

Today’s my birthday.  When I was a kid that meant my mother made my bed, I didn’t have to unload the dishwasher, and dinner was a meal of my choice (which for many years of my childhood was roast beef and oven brown potatoes) served on the big red “You are special today” plate.

Today, my birthday was marked by endless Facebook and email messages (thanks, everyone!), lots of phone calls, and dinner with a few friends at my sister’s apartment.  Although my meal (delicious and lovingly prepared, as always) still was served on the big red plate, so much else has changed…

I can’t help but recall last year’s celebration, one of the last times we Hermans were all together in the configuration in which we’d always known our family.  Thank goodness for the gift of these memories…especially as I came to realize that this day--that more than any other bonds mother and child--will never be the same for me.

My birthday also means remembering others who died at this season in years past. 

On January 28, 1986, it was the members of the Challenger crew:
Greg Jarvis    
Christa McAuliffe    
Ron McNair
El Onizuka    
Judy Resnik
Dick Scobee
Mike Smith
On the morning of January 29, 2004, it was 11 victims of a suicide bomber who blew up the #19 rush hour bus in Jerusalem’s Rehavia district.  (I happen to have been a few blocks away at the time and never, ever will I forget walking past the scene later that night, the silent, swirling blue light of a lone police car the sole reminder of the morning's events.)
Avraham (Albert) Balhasan, 28, of Jerusalem
Rose Boneh, 39, of Jerusalem
Hava Hannah (Anya) Bonder, 38, of Jerusalem
Anat Darom, 23, of Netanya
Viorel Octavian Florescu, 42, of Jerusalem
Natalia Gamril, 53, of Jerusalem
Yechezkel Isser Goldberg, 41, of Betar Illit
Baruch (Roman) Hondiashvili, 38, of Jerusalem
Dana Itach, 24, of Jerusalem
Mehbere Kifile, 35, of Ethiopia
Eli Zfira, 48, of Jerusalem
This year, my birthday also means trying to wrap my head around yet another death, this one from just yesterday and, saddest of all, from within our own circle of longtime family friends. Even as I type these words, it remains surreal to me:  Mr. G. (I still cannot call any adult I met before 1985 anything but Mr. or Mrs. So-and-So) died in a terrible automobile accident yesterday morning.  For nearly 40 years, right from the start in 1972, he and Mrs. G. have been inextricably linked to our family’s involvement at Temple Emanu-El.  From Hebrew school carpools, b’nei mitzvah, and confirmations, to social gatherings, temple seders, oneg Shabbats, and, more recently, shiva minyamin, they have just always been there.  And now, one of them—a loving husband, father, grandfather and all-around good guy—is suddenly, tragically, and absolutely gone.

Baruch dayan HaEmet.  Blessed is the Eternal Judge.  May the Eternal Judge grant comfort and peace to all of us who mourn.  Amen.