Life is a measure of ups and downs. We all experience them. Yesterday, I literally went up, on a plane, for the first time in 13 months. I was out of practice. In a little more than a year I had forgotten all of my packing strategies and hacks, my toiletry bag was woefully understocked, and I felt like a stranger at the airport. The airport was quiet and empty. This trip was planned the day I was fully vaccinated, another day of joy. I tried not to let the still of the airport bring me down. There were no lines. No hectic airport frenzy. People were respectful and patient.
The reason for my travels is a short trip to Florida to visit my parents, whom I have not seen since February of 2020, other than via Zoom. In particular, today is my dad’s 90th birthday and I arrived last night to surprise him. Don’t worry, he is healthy and I knew at his ripe age he could still handle a surprise. I knew if I told him I was coming, he would have said, “Oh, Meredith, don’t do that. Stay home. It’s not necessary. Stay home!” How could I miss my dad’s milestone birthday?
The enormous joy I feel in celebrating with him is tempered by all of the things that we have all missed in the last 14 months and the tremendous loss we have felt in the wake of the pandemic. Sometimes, it is too easy to be lost in the grief and sadness and we forget to see the joy and celebrate it.
In the past several weeks we have experienced ups and downs in other ways. Our community held a beautiful Yom HaShoah commemoration to remember the incomprehensible loss and the reverberations we feel today from of the Holocaust. We honored those we lost, we supported our survivors and we mourned our survivors who passed away this year. The wounds are still open and our grief remains raw.
This was followed by Israel’s memorial day, Yom HaZikaron, when we remember Israel’s fallen soldiers. More mourning and grief. Our spirits were then raised by being able to celebrate Israel’s 73 birthday, on Yom Ha’atzmaut. We were so fortunate to have a variety of ways to celebrate Israel during this time, in person and virtually. It never ceases to amaze me to witness the numbers of people who participate in our “yom” commemorations and celebrations. These days and holidays are a microcosm of joy and sadness that we have experienced in life and particularly through the pandemic.
As I woke up grateful and elated to celebrate my dad’s 90th birthday, I quickly learned of the catastrophic events in Israel, last night, at the Lag B’Omer celebrations, on Mount Meron. Our Jewish world is so small and we acutely feel the tragedy and grief deep in our hearts. We mourn for those families who lost their loved ones and we pray for the full and speedy recovery of those who were injured in this horrible disaster. May God console us among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem (Ha’makom yenahem etkhem betokh she’ar avelei Tziyonvi’Yerushalayim).
We will continue to have distinct ups and downs. There will be moments when we celebrate with joy and grieve in pain. Steadfast through it all will be our people and community who will be there together in good times and in bad, for each other.
For this Shabbat, I will hug my parents and extended family close, and feel thankful for vaccines, and good health. I wish you a Shabbat Shalom of peace and good health, too.