It's that time of year again. Shalom's yartzheit.
I see his face wherever I go, wherever I am. Everything is a trigger. Anything I see makes me think of him.
I remember his favorite cookies (Kitov softbites), his favorite chocolate (mekupelet) and our favorite treat (cheese snack-we shared it when we were kids and best friends).
I walk outside and notice a discarded matchbook. (No, not a Macbook :). No one throws out something like that.) You know, the little cardboard folder that has a strip to strike the match on one side...
And that made me remember that whenever Shalom a"h would find one of those while he was out, he wouldn't just throw it out. He would strike and destroy every single match to make sure it was not usable. He didn't want anyone to ever find it and be able to use the matches to light a cigarette.
I look at my son Shalom Baruch who carries on his name. At this time of year, he gets to hear a lot of stories about the uncle he never knew. He even reminds me of some of the stories he heard last year that I didn't repeat.
And then I think of the similarities between Shalom a"h and Shalom Baruch.
First, my big boy loves to climb...anything and everything. When we moved to our new house with a big tree in front of it, it wasn't long before Shalom Baruch climbed right up. One day, he sat on one of the branches eating sorbet with his legs crossed, chilling as if he's relaxing on the beach drinking iced tea.
It's a delicate balance for me. I need to let my child do what he is good at without panicking when he stretches his daring, adventurous muscles. I need to ensure that he stays safe and doesn't do anything dangerous. At the same time, when he is doing something that reminds me of my brother, I cannot let my memories get in the way. There was a time where he sat on a branch that was too thin and I watched it crack right off the tree. It was scary for me. Baruch Hashem he was supported by another strong branch. Although the fall would have been minimal, watching it unfold was enough to make my heart race.
During the nine days and until the yartzheit itself, I did not let him climb our tree. Since this is an unfavorable time in the Jewish calendar as well as in my emotional calendar, I didn't, I couldn't let. But he will be right back at it as soon as he has another opportunity. And it's okay. It is a safe tree to climb. It's easy for him to get up and the branches are big, they're strong. I just have to breath deeply and let go. I have to leave the rest up to Hashem.
Shalom Baruch also loves to take things apart, to figure out how things work. From the flashlight he took apart when he was less than twenty months old to the clicking pen with four colors that he reassembled this tisha b'av, learning about the inner workings of everything around him always fascinated him. He was wide-eyed when I told him about the time when Shalom a"h asked my mother if he could keep the blender she was going to throw out one Pesach. With her permission, he took it to his room and got to work. Shalom a"h separated the wires and buttons from the outside plastic it was made of and had a field day putting it back together and creating something of his own. He turned it into...an alarm clock! And he attached it to a timer so when it was time for him to wake up, the whole thing made a loud, whirring noise and spun all around the room! He had to actually get out of bed to turn it off!
The look on Shalom Baruch's face when he heard all this was priceless. "How did he do it??" he asked incredulously. He looked like he wished he could have asked Shalom a"h himself. But he can't.
He takes after him though.
Just like Shalom a"h, he is very musical. Not just with his voice, but with his ability to follow the beat of a song. His friend recently taught him how to beat box and it is the coolest thing ever. It's the drum behind the song. And that's what Shalom loved to do (although I wonder if he knew what beat boxing was! :)) I remember a game we used to play on Friday night at the meal. Shalom would drum his fingers to the beat of a song or zemer and each of us would have to guess which song it was. He was so good at it, that we were able to figure out the song just by listening to his fingers drumming on the table! When it was our turn, we would hum the tune of a song and everyone would easily guess.
Shalom Baruch loves chess. I taught it to him slowly when I saw he was ready for a challenging game, a game that would stimulate his brain and keep him thinking. He's a smart kid and can think a few steps ahead. Right now I let him win every time but I don't always make it too easy for him. I want him to think. I like watching his head at work and I'm sometimes amazed by his brain and the way he plans his next move.
Shalom a"h also loved chess. He was a good player and he thought before his moves too (on a more mature level). There was a point when every Friday night he'd sit down to a game of chess with my mother. All the kids would crowd around, watch them play, then someone would interject with a good move or a warning, and then there would be a loud announcement/reminder that no one is allowed to help either side...it was all good, solid and happy fun.
I often wonder what it would be like if Shalom a"h were still alive. What would our relationship be like? Would we still be the best friends we were when we were kids? Would I be really close to him? I know he'd go crazy over my kids. He always loved kids. (Besides, everyone goes crazy over my kids :-P. And I'm not just saying that because I'm their mommy. Ke"h they are delicious and have a special chein.)
But...as much as I wonder and as much as I think about it, it was not meant to be. Shalom's place is in gan eden, close to Hashem, close to the other boys who were niftar at a young age. And they are lucky. They fulfilled their tafkid in the time they had in this world. The rest of us are left here to grope in the dark, to try to make sense of the senseless...and ultimately hold on to that belief that every single thing Hashem puts us through has a purpose and is for our benefit. We may not see it now, but we need to work on instilling that belief deep into our consciousness.
And one day, we will actually be able to see it, to understand it. It wont just be belief. We will have clarity. We will recognize that every event in our lives was carefully planned by our Creator and it was all for our good.
May that day come so very soon! And until then, may we be able to work on our emunah, internalizing our belief that every single thing we go through has a purpose. Every single thing Hashem puts us through is for our ultimate benefit.
Let us continue to do good and spread goodness wherever we go. My brother cannot do that anymore. Yet, by sharing this with others who can be inspired, his neshama will continue to rise higher in gan eden.
May this be a zechus for Shalom ben Chaim Nosson whose 11th yartzheit was yesterday.