I am writing this on the plane back from a three day trip to the Holy Land. I would normally not feel like a post like one should be published for a homeschool blog, however, I think it is just as relevant as a homeschool post as it is a therapeutic one. I am hoping that by posting this, there will be those who read this and get some relief that even when life dishes out challenges, that those are just part of living and it is okay when your homeschooling world does not seem to be happening very well, or even at all.
Two months ago we started our journey across the continent to a new place and a new home. Spending the first 4 weeks in a hotel was definitely a challenge, not only for homeschooling, but in general. Baruch Hashem we found an apartment and that really did help. It really means something to be living in your own place and to arrive in our new city Erev Sukkos, the holiday where we come out of our comfortable homes and spend it outside in temporary dwellings, really did mean something this year. Since our belongings are still in storage, in a different state (and not the one where we came from even!) we had to purchase many new things – most of which we already have but have no access to at the moment. To me, that was the hardest part. However, we managed and made it all work. There are bedrooms with beds for everyone, a nice kitchen, our school work, a second vehicle that we are now needing and even a few extras (just a few, not many!) It took about 2 weeks in the apartment to start to feel like things were settling down. I was getting overwhelmed with all the extra things that needed to be done because of the move and not being able to get into a schedule with our learning. Things were looking up and I had big plans.
Hashem has His plans as well, and no matter how it looks, if we look really hard we see that everything is for the good. The day before we were to go to family for Thanksgiving, something which we try to do every year, my sister sent me a text saying that Saba (grandfather) passed away.
It was not a surprise, he had been sick for a while, and 5 weeks before when my father went to visit him, he decided that he was going to stay down there until the end. There had been a few close calls over the last few weeks and so it had been more of playing the waiting game. My father had talked to me before a few times to try to get me to come to the levaya (funeral), whenever that would happen, but I kept telling him that unfortunately I don’t think I would be able to come. We are in a new place, it has been just a few weeks, and we do not really know anyone yet, and I cannot leave my boys by themselves. Their father now works an hour from home and cannot just take time off for he has not been able to work long enough to do it. My father kept insisting though, and even though I wanted to say yes, I could not see myself doing it. The big stumbling block was that my grandfather wanted to be buried next to my grandmother in Israel – hard to take an afternoon flight one day and come back the next afternoon (which was something we could have finagled).
But, as I said, if we look hard, Hashem’s plans are always good. Just after his 94th birthday, Hashem could not wait for him any longer and took him back. I remember talking to him for his 90th birthday. He never dreamed he would live until 90. It was almost unheard of in his time.
There were so many good things about his last 5 weeks. My father was able to go visit him. Saba was still living at home, though he did have care by this time. My father was able to be with him the remainder of his life so he was not alone. There was no family close by. And, almost as important was the fact that they were able to control the pain so he was comfortable. We could not have asked for anything more.
As soon as I got the message from my sister, I sent a message to my husband. When he got back to his desk he asked if I wanted to go (to the levaya). It took me a few seconds for of course I wanted to go, but we begrudgingly agreed before that unfortunately it was not going to be possible. As I sat there I realized that he was asking a very serious question – of all the days that could be chosen, to leave the day before Thanksgiving was one of the only days that I would be able to go (the week at the end of December would be the other time.) He was planning on taking Wednesday off anyways (he actually worked enough to have one day off,) and his boss let him take Monday and make up the hours. I felt guilty about wanting to go and leaving the rest of the family “fend for themselves” and almost declined the offer since the news had not really set in with me yet, but we know that to do a mitzvah for someone who has passed away is one of the greatest mitzvahs there is for not only is this the last mitzvah you can do for the deceased, you are doing it for the mitzvah and not to get anything in return. You can’t. A deceased person cannot repay you back in any way. “Yes.”
After much quick thinking, phone calls and texts between my sister and father, we finally got it all figured out. My father had a feeling a few days before and had mother and one brother already on a plane in hopes of still being able to get there in time. Unfortunately they were a few hours too late. We found tickets for all of us to meet in Dallas and fly to Israel. The flight was fairly uneventful, faily, not totally, but it all worked out in the end, and at the anticipated time, we landed in Tel Aviv and were greeted by my aunt, uncle and cousin. We arrived on Thursday evening and the levaya was on Sunday morning. In Judaism, usually the person is buried within 24 hours, and inside Israel, by sunset on the same day. However, the Los Angeles chevra kadisha had an unfortunate incident one time and now has a policy of only sending bodies on direct flights to Israel. The next direct flight from Los Angeles arrived in Tel Aviv 2 hours before Shabbos – not enough time for a Friday levaya.
We packed as much as we could in the three days (one being Shabbos) that I had in the Holy Land. We spent time with all the cousins, visited Tel Aviv and of course Jerusalem and the Kotel. Last time I was there was 18 years ago, and for my parents, even longer – almost thirty years ago for my grandmother’s levaya. It was a trip mixed with joy and happiness and some sadness. We countered the later with the thought that Saba waited almost thirty years to see his dearly missed wife again and he was now going to fulfill that wish.
It was a mixed emotion trip for all. We all shared stories and realized that none of us really knew Saba. Yes, he talked, we all knew about some of
his life as a child, his life in the Russian army during WWII, and that he was able to speak 7 different languages. But there was much that we did not know. Over the last few years some of us were able to learn a little bit more about this amazing person and there is so much we will never know. Being with family and being able to share our various stories was so good, and so was having alone time.
As much as I know that Hashem’s plans are always good, I just hope that now that His plans are to let me get back to our learning for a bit before dishing out some more excitement. After all, the boys (and I) do need to learn something this year! This is life, and it is something that I want my boys to understand as well. Things do not always go as planned, and sometimes often times do not go as planned, but we have to be able to adjust ourselves and know that when things go upside down, Hashem has already given us the tools to be able to get through it.
It was strange coming by myself, without any children nor my husband, even though I was with lots of family the entire time. I took the opportunity to soak as much up of the Holy Land as I could (thanks to the jet lag that did not let me sleep and made me exhausted by the time I had to take the trip home!) Even though I really enjoyed being there, and was so thankful to have the opportunity to do something I did not think I would be able to do, I miss my family and hopefully it won’t take me 18 years to go back, and we can all go, but for a happier occasion. My computer clock says it is 6:22 pm back home. I am hoping that means that we already flew 9 hours
from London and I have only 2 hours to go. It’s been a long flight, I had to check in my carry on that had my books for it was too heavy and it’s been a challenge to keep myself busy for the last 9 hours.
I am going to finish my supper and then I think I will try to go to sleep for the last little bit. This was not goodbye Saba, we will see each other again. Until then, keep Savta company for us.