A sliver of the invitation.
It's strange to be approaching a lifecycle event with my parents gone. They would have been so excited about my son becoming bar mitzvah. I still sometimes have the urge to call to tell them what we're planning -- and then I remember. I speak to them when my house is empty, but it's not the same.
It's strange to be approaching a lifecycle event that isn't death-related. The most recent times I've gathered with my extended family have been Dad's funeral (in early March of 2022), the unveiling of Mom's headstone (February 2020, just before Covid began), Mom's funeral (11 months prior.)
I was so shell-shocked at the funerals. We all were. They were sorrowful occasions in which we found occasional sweetness. This time it's the other way around. A sweet reason to gather, tempered by the sadness of the fact that the patriarch and matriarch are gone. They would have loved this so much.
It's strange to be approaching a lifecycle event that's been so long in the planning. When my son was six, he went with me to Rhode Island so I could preside over the bat mitzvah of the daughter of a dear rabbi friend (so he could simply be Abba / Dad that day, instead of also being The Rabbi.)
I explained this to my six year old. Without missing a beat, he asked, "so when I have a bar mitzvah, will you have another person be the rabbi so you can be mom?" I told him that yes, that was my plan, and asked if he had any suggestions. "Obviously," he said, all but rolling his eyes. "Uncle David!"
I remember texting David in that moment to tell him that my son wished to engage him for a bar mitzvah some seven years hence, and laughing. (After all, my son was only six. Another seven years was more than his whole lifetime over again.) And now here we are. It's three weeks away.
I'm excited and sad and scattered. There are so many details and logistics, hotel reservations, caterers, the whole megillah. And my parents aren't here, and I'm not sure that will ever stop aching. And yet my son and Judaism are two of my greatest joys, and I can't wait to celebrate them together.
I've been working on what I want to say to him when we offer parental blessings toward the end of Shabbat morning services. There's so much I wish I could convey -- about our traditions, about who he's becoming, about my dreams for what his life might be. I'll only manage to say a little of it. That's ok.
It's strange to be approaching a lifecycle event that's a milestone in his life, not mine. It feels huge for me because I care so much about this and about him, but this is his journey of making Judaism his own. My job is to rejoice, and to bear witness, and to breathe deeply and do a little more letting-go.