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Wedding of Jason and Bonnie Drew May 28 2005

Dear Jason,

Today would be our ten year wedding anniversary. You didn’t see this part, but right before the ceremony, I locked my wedding gown in the dressing room by mistake. I refuse to believe that it was a bad sign.

One or two of your family members were trying to convince you not to get married, but that’s okay because my parents were telling me the same thing. Marriage being a lifelong commitment, you have to be sure.

I had no doubt that I loved you since the moment I met you.

 

Today was Caleb’s last day of third grade, and I went to the awards ceremony. In the past, I’ve suffered pangs of loneliness at events like this.

Caleb should have both parents cheering him on to fourth grade. Both parents in his end-of-the-year photo. Both parents telling him that we are so proud of his hard work and excellent grades.

Today, we should be packing for a week long, 10 year wedding anniversary getaway to…I don’t know…California wine country? I like to imagine that we became super-successful in our business/career ventures.

Instead, I became independent—against my will. I make all the decisions for myself and for Caleb.

When I became a widow, I only saw loneliness in my future, but now I feel security. Because I know I can handle everything myself.

 

Today, I sat on the school bleachers with our nephew, and we laughed about how he could hack into the school WiFi.

I was delighted by a student who read his poem, all the while making hand motions and speaking with the confidence of a CEO. I smiled to myself as I imagined the bright futures in store for the children at this special event.

I didn’t feel loss or sadness, not for a second.

Calebs Last Day of Third Grade 2015

After you died, it seemed like everywhere I turned, I was confronted with the phrase:

Live, Laugh, Love.

It was displayed on Myspace, on my friend’s living room wall, on photo frames…It annoyed the hell out of me!

Those words were such a cliche, such a mockery of my life without you.

Today, I felt the purest form of healing after loss. I watched an entire ceremony without cringing in pain, without worrying constantly that Caleb is missing someone who he needs.

Today, I realized that my emotions have been released from the darkness of grief. Now, I think of you with peace: I remember the life, the laughter, the love.

Holocaust Museum Widows Pilgrimage to the Holy Land (Part 2)

June 19, 2008: “The situation here is not easy. There is problems, always problems,” said our taxi driver.

He was talking about the Israeli/Arab relations. It’s very expensive to live in Israel, so he works fourteen hours per day to provide for his family. He has four kids, the youngest a two-year-old boy.

I said, “You already had three girls, and you were trying for a boy?”

He laughed and said, “It’s important to have a son.” A friend told him to have one more son so the first boy would have a brother, but the driver said four kids is enough!

We laughed, tipped him well, and made our way into the Holocaust Museum.

Facing the Holocaust

I was warned that it’s almost impossible to see all of the exhibits in one day. It’s not the size of the building that is daunting however.

Entering is to face the raw history of genocide. Here, looking back at you, are images of tortured people, bone-thin with sunken eyes. They were victims of a monster and his followers.

You desperately wish to help people that are long gone, and the only thing you can do is remember them. You fear for humanity—how did it ever get this far? You feel powerless, and you hope that leaders of the future won’t let it happen again.

A Voice From the Past

I walked into a room that was set up like the home of a Jewish family. I can’t remember the details, just a blur of surroundings: a painting, a rug, furniture.

I pushed a button on the wall, and a scratchy recording began to play. An old man was relaying his experience from the Holocaust, the story of his childhood.

His parents were about to be arrested, so they firmly commanded their children to hide in the house. There was no promise that they would come back, because they knew they could not come back.

As you know from history, if the children were discovered, they would be forcibly removed from their parents in the concentration camps. It was better to leave small children at home, literally fending for themselves. The longer they stayed on the outside of the camps, the better their chance for survival.

Imagining my family in this situation was gut-wrenching, and the suffering of these people was more than I could comprehend. Of course I’ve felt intense sadness with every book and every article I’ve read about the Holocaust—suicide marches, gas chambers, starvation, mass graves, but reading never struck me as hard as hearing this man’s voice.

The emotion was overwhelming, and the idea of hiding my son and leaving him alone made me feel sick.

Parents do what is best for their children. Those parents were making the best decision possible in the circumstances. It was heartbreaking, but it was the only hope they had left.

I was riveted by that voice. That child, that man was a survivor.

Halfway through the museum, we were exhausted with crying. The experience took a toll on my everyday perception of life. My mind was full of images of death and inhumane torture.

Thankful for “Normalness”

In contrast, I grew up in an environment of security. My parents loved us and cared for all of our needs, and there was never any fear or danger. There were no angry people pounding on our door at night when we were in our pajamas. There was no craziness, no threats. Life was normal.

A friend in high school kidded me once that I was boring. When I got offended, she was amused and rephrased her statement to say that I was predictable, and best of all, my life was drama-free.

Everything changed on March 20, 2006, when I lost my husband to suicide. Someone on scene said, “I can’t believe how you must feel, a new mother with a tiny baby.” My best friend said without thinking: “I never expected something like this to happen to you.” My life was suddenly not normal, and I wished I could go back to “boring.”

My experience at Yad Vashem was the first time in two years that I was consciously grateful for the present “normalness” of my life. No matter how much we had been through, it was not the Holocaust.

My son was at home in America, being watched by my mom and dad. I decided not to bring him with me on my trip because it might be dangerous. I breathed thankfully, knowing I would never be in a position of having to abandon him for his own safety.

I silently promised never to forget a single face, a single image out of respect for the suffering of the families that were torn apart.

Only a monster would tear a child from the parents who love them.

Widow’s Pilgrimage to the Holy Land (Part 1)