Today is Tisha b'Av, a day of mourning for the destruction of the holy Temples. We fast. We don't greet each other. We read about "sackcloth and mourning". We don't even wash our hands beyond the absolute minimum. The weather today is overcast and gray, which even for 6 a.m. is rare here in the summer.
Today is also the memorial service for my sister-in-law Deborah, who died only six months after being diagnosed with a rare type of cancer. How fitting to have nationwide mourning on a day that is so sad for us personally. I received an article by email, something about "How to be Sad on Tisha b'Av When Everything is Good" and I thought, "well, we won't need to worry this year about not shedding enough tears on Tisha b'Av....."
I learned a lot from Deborah, especially about parenting, since her "Joshie" (sorry, Josh) was born a few years before we became parents. Close enough that we saw it on the horizon, but far enough away that we were still totally clueless.
I was in college when Josh was a toddler. Once, when we were all staying over at Barbara and Irwin's, Josh was upset that he had only one bagel and wanted two. Deborah took the piece of bagel, sliced it horizontally and said, "there! Now you have two!". Placated child. Jean Piaget's Conservation of Matter in action. I was in awe.
After Irwin died, the kids, spouses and grandchildren piled into the house for the shiva week, which was the sweetest thing during a really rotten time. "The boys" were going to shul in the mornings to say kaddish (I went too) and Josh came with us one day. We told him we'd take him the next day, but shul started very early and he was sleeping peacefully, and, as a group, we decided the best thing was to let him sleep. I did mention we were clueless, didn't I? We returned home to a hysterical child. I have a crystal clear memory of Deborah holding him and looking up at us and in a totally fierce "Mama Bear" voice saying, "You NEVER lie to a child. NEVER".
Fast forward many years to the day of Deborah's very happy second marriage. I was so glad that we were there to celebrate together. Family ties meant a lot to Deborah. So much so that at Penina's bat mitzvah Deborah stood up and gave a beautiful speech about how the family is spread out and we may not see each other much, "but we all know that if we need anyone, all we have to do is call and each member of this family will be there".
I saw Deborah last summer in Los Angeles. She and Jeff (of course, the two of them) were planning a family reunion for summer 2019. It hasn't even been a year. I'm still wrapping my head around the fact that she is gone....
May the memory of Devorah Chana be a blessing for her husband, her children, her mother, her sister and all of us.