September 22, 2015

Letter of the Year

 by Margot Gran

My nephew Yarden was four when he died. His sister Naomi was a year and a half old and his brother Yoav was born two years later. It was between the Jewish New Year and the day of Atonement, like now. Now Michael is with us. My sister Audrey says Michael reminds her of Yarden in some ways - In his coloring, his alertness, his maturity. There is a resemblance. Yaara sees it too. A week ago we let Michael taste olives that Uncle Sagi made. Bitter olives that grownups eat. He liked them. Yarden liked olives too, as do Naomi and Yoav.

Recently Audrey shared that nowadays she imagines what Yarden would look like if he were still alive today, at twenty-one, like her college students and like Mikey, the son of her best friend who died a while back. She feels Yarden is with her all the time. I, on the other hand, can't imagine him older.

For me he remains little; four years old. I remember the things we used to do together in the hospital and between treatments. I remember the night before we discovered he was so ill. I remember the seven toy dwarfs that he loved so much, that stood on the living room table when I came over to say goodbye. I told him I loved him and that we were all with him, including his seven dwarfs and that we'd love him forever. It was awful. I couldn't find words to sum up the meaningful relationship that we had. It was the most painful goodbye I ever went through – a painful goodbye for many of us.

All these years I have felt admiration for my sister. She survived. She flourished. She is alive and loving and a wonderful sister, woman and mother. Now that I am a mother I admire her all the more. She has a huge smile and a giant heart. She is a mother who knows how to let go, to love, be giving and respectful. In my eyes, my sister is an example of an outstanding person. My appreciation of her is heightened now, when after all these years, I have been given the opportunity to experience the joys and anxieties of parenthood. Sometimes I imagine myself in her shoes and know I could easily lose my mind after such a loss…and I actually did for a few years after that loss.

Since Michael was born, I admit I have a lingering sense of dread, anxiety that comes and goes and sometimes a sense of sheer terror that all this that is good will be wiped away in a moment. This is why I grasp onto life so tightly. I cherish all that is mine. I've learnt to be happy, to love, to praise, to open my heart the best I can. Yarden's life and saying goodbye to him led me to work in the field of therapy for over ten years, spending time with young children and their parents. There was something in it that helped heal me, something joyous and meaningful.

Most mothers experience fear, anxiety and a need to protect their young at different times in their lives. It is natural. With me it is entwined with memories. Memories of that night when my sister called to tell me I should come over to say goodbye to Yarden. The following morning when I got her phone call telling me he had died in her and his Dad's arms, in the bed in their living room. That morning when I went over he was in his own bed and I didn't go see him. I picked baby Naomi up and carried her to the little park downstairs, so she wouldn't be there to see her big brother being taken away by an ambulance forever.

Aunt Pnina was right when just after Michael was born she suggested we get a big jar for all our guilt feelings. She said we should put a shekel in the jar every time we felt guilty. With these coins Michael will be able to go to a good therapist when he needs one,  is what she said. A coin for every time I lose my patience, for the times I don't understand his difficulty, for moments when in my helplessness I trusted mostly him, Yaara and a power greater than me to save him, when it looked like he was choking on a piece of a leaf in the park and in the moments during his birth when his pulse disappeared.

Michael's life reawakened my feelings. They had been in a type of calm and quiet ever since I healed from losing Yarden. Now I am full. I thank every moment I have with our Michael. He is a strong, healthy, sturdy child. I thank Yaara who gave birth to him and gave me the privilege of being a parent beside her. I apologize in advance for all I have and will do wrong and imperfectly. Before The Day of Atonement I want to thank little Yarden, who showed me the power of laughter and living in the moment, while he dealt with pain and illness. I'll remember you always. Kisses. Aunt Margot
This letter was written by my amazing artist and writer sister, Margot Gran, who has always been there for me. Thank you Margot. Please forgive me too for all I have done and will do and all I mean to do, but hardly ever get around to doing... (like calling!) Love you ! 

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