I’m still dancing from last night.
But last night at Rivka’s bat mitzvah, well, that was a different story.
Two days after Stella’s diagnosis last June, Josh and I went to a beautiful bat mitzvah. We were shell shocked, and unable to concentrate on virtually anything beyond the Frankls’ news. So, too, were all of our friends. It was the first time that we were seeing most of our friends since her diagnosis, and we all felt a terrible pull that night.
We wanted to enjoy the simcha that we were attending; we wanted to be there for our friends and their lovely daughter. But we couldn’t stay away from the elephant in the room. And as the person with the most information, I was bombarded with questions and surrounded by those who wanted to know more.
Finally, after the cocktails, everyone settled down at their tables and we enjoyed ourselves.
Until the dancing began.
And as I watched mother and daughter dancing together in joy and celebration, I broke down. I cried burning, angry tears for Rivka, for Stella, for Yarden, for the other children and for myself.
I cried tears for the unknown, for the injustice of it all, and for the year ahead.
Would Rivka get to dance with her own mother at her bat mitzvah in a year?
I was mortified to be making a scene, and to be sending a clear message to those at the bat mitzvah about Stella’s status, but I was unable to stop the flow of tears and the outpouring of grief.
And that image has stuck in my mind as we’ve gotten closer and closer to Rivka’s celebration and to the incredible knowledge that Rivka would most certainly have her mother at her side for her simcha.
Last night, while listening to Yarden’s speech and then while dancing with Stella and Rivka, I was overcome again. But this time, I was overcome with gratitude, with an unbelievable and humbling sense of bewilderment that we had arrived at this point. Whatever is ahead will be ahead. But for last night, Stella danced at her daugther’s bat mitzvah in health and strength.
In particular, I saw Yarden, Josh, Ruth and I sitting in a booth at Café Hillel next to Sharei Tzedek Hospital on January 1. Stella was in surgery, and there were many hurdles to surpass along the way. At each stage of the surgery, they had to check on various things, and the surgery could only proceed if those items were clean and acceptable. Should, at any point, things not have passed the test, they would have had to close Stella back up. And then, well, we didn’t want to be there.
As we sat in the restaurant, and then a few other times during the day, Yarden’s phone rang. It was the operating nurse calling. As Stella reached each stage, they called Yarden to tell him whether or not it was a go.
I don’t believe I’ve ever prayed harder than I prayed in those minutes, as time stopped and we stared up at Yarden and tried to read his expression. Would the surgery continue? Or would we arrive at the unthinkable. Ruth and I would grasp hands and pray until Yarden got off the phone each time with the news that it was a go.
And here we were, five and a half short months later, sitting in another venue, watching Yarden.
But this time, it was a venue of celebration, of hope, of absolute elation.
Thank you Hashem for allowing us to reach this point. For giving Rivka a bat mitzvah filled with love, with joy and with her mother.
As the night ended, Stella and I embraced. And I whispered in her ear, “Let’s do this again at Yedidya’s…….wedding.”