Yesterday, we gathered at the cemetery, as we’ve now done for three years, to remember Chanan Sivan (Chanan Yitzchak Chaim ben Pinchas and Tzipporah). Chanan was Yehuda’s first friend in Israel, and he died at the age of four, three years ago. It has been amazing to watch this family rise from such an incredible tragedy and continue with their lives. Since his death, they’ve celebrated a bar and bat mitzvah, and welcomed a new daughter, Halleli Shir, into their lives.
As we stood at the cemetery yesterday, around Chanan’s beautifully designed grave, Halleli Shir (who is now about one and a half) was dancing around the grave. She kept saying, “Ma Ze?” which means “What’s This?” and pointing to the grave. What a strange thing it will be for her to grow up visiting this site that holds so much tragedy for her family – and that means nothing to her individually.
Pinny, Chanan’s father, spoke beautifully, as always, as he tried to explain the weird juxtoposition of feeling like Chanan has been gone forever – and for only a day. He remarked about all of the wonderful things that his family has celebrated – and that they’ve done so without their son at their side. While Pinny spoke, Halleli was singing and moving about, and someone tried to pick her up so that she wouldn’t disturb her father’s speech. “No,” Tzippy, Chanan’s mom, said. “Please don’t move her.” I was feeling the same way, and knew that Tzippy would have this reaction. It was such a beautiful thing, really, to hear the laughter of a young child at the gravesite. Here was Chanan’s sister, breathing new life into the family and filling the home with such happiness in the face of such grief.
Pinny mentioned that he often thinks about where Chanan would be now, what grade he would be entering, etc. I, too, often think about Chanan in this way, particularly as I watch Yehuda catch a ball, enter another grade, complete a task, or win a belt in karate. If only…if only…if only. And, of course, I felt guilt, mixed with gratitude, when I returned from the grave to kiss my little boy – the one that I’m lucky enough to still have here, at my side.
As Pinny said – you absolutely and completely never know what life is going to bring. All that we can do is try to live each moment as well as possible. May Chanan’s family continue to gain strength from his beautiful memory and to carry on in their lives as an amazing example to the rest of us of faith, compassion, trust and belief.
And may we only be together in the future for smachot (celebrations).