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It’s December 30, 2011, as I sit in a hotel in Westwood, before Sam, Olya and I drive over to the site of my uncle’s 80th birthday party, on this, his actual birthday. I am missing my second Shabbat since coming to North Tahoe Hebrew Congregation, and this one was planned, long before we moved to Tahoe. I am so happy to be with my aunt and uncle to mark such a wonderful milestone. He is a wonderful man, the best uncle, and we are blessed that he is in our lives.
In three days, I will observe the 30th yahrzeit of my mother’s death, January 2. Because of its proximity to the holidays, for many years, I had trouble really celebrating, as the awareness of her yahrzeit slowly crept into my consciousness. My mother was a wonderful woman, a good mother, and I was blessed that she was in my life for my first 26 years. Her death was an enormous blow.
The holidays are often fraught with this dichotomy: the joy of family and the pain of loss or isolation. This afternoon, my family saw The Descendants (a movie I recommend), which begins with a voice-over putting to rest the idea that just because one lives in Hawaii (or Lake Tahoe, I imagine), life is not a continual vacation, and that living in paradise is not – well, paradise. You could say this about the holidays as well.
Suicide rates are high at the holidays, people use emergency rooms more often for mental health issues, and some people do not experience holiday cheer at all. To be reminded of what we don’t have, to notice the people not around the table this year, or the relationships that are damaged, or the loved ones who were too sick to travel, the breaks in communication, the loneliness: those are sides of the holidays that we often don’t speak about it.
And yet they are very real.
When I mentioned this at some occasion (I can be a real bummer this time of year, I confess), I was reminded that our lives are what we make of them: we have the opportunity to be in community, we have the chance to surround ourselves with people we know, like, maybe even love, and respect. Yes, that is so true. But for some of us, we can’t. We need that invitation, we need someone to reach out to us, to see our vulnerability, our aloneness, our sorrow, and stretch out their hand.
If you know of anyone like that, I hope you will do two things: be the one who reaches out, and, if you are a member of NTHC, let me know.
May 2012 be a year in which each of us is surrounded by friends, family, loved ones, as much as we want. May it be a year when we celebrate successes, and have people to comfort and encourage us in our losses. May it be a year when there is enough for everyone, and we each do our part to make that happen. And may it be a year of joy, and laughter, and music and singing, and dancing.