I have been working in Jewish communal non-profits for many years now.  I like to say that I chose this field because I wanted to get sent to Israel for work every year and have all of the Jewish holidays off.  I like to say it because it is true.  Plus, I actually do feel passionately about the work that I do.  For the last seven years, I have been working for the Jewish National Fund in varying capacities.  I started as a Senior Campaign Executive, became a Regional Director and then just before Maxie was conceived, I was promoted to Zone Director.  It was an exciting time in my life - I got engaged, married, promoted twice, pregnant, and became a mom all in just over a years time. 

And then Maxie died.  And, I couldn't face the people I worked with.  And, I didn't have the capacity in my heart or my head to care about anything in the world around me.  I didn't know how I would take my next breath.  I figured that I would just get fired.  I was basically just waiting for the call.

And then, I told you what happened next.  The CEO of my organization met with me and told me to take my time.  "I want to walk beside you", he said.  I will never forget how it felt to have that weight lifted from my shoulders.  I will be forever grateful.  A few months later, he worked with me to reinvent my position with JNF - one where I could work from home and where I didn't have to interact too much with others.  My new position has been an absolute blessing, as has he.

In just a few weeks, I will be boarding a plane to Israel and will be traveling around the country with a group of my colleagues for a week. I honestly didn't think they'd ever send me again....and I was fine with that.  I mean, it made me a little sad, but I was mostly just grateful to have a job still.  Also, I had been sent in the past to oversee trips of donors and I am not working with donors anymore. I had pretty much kissed that part of my life goodbye - a very very very small sacrifice when compared with losing my child (everything is). When I got the email invitation to participate, I was completely surprised.  I thought it was a mistake in fact and wrote back, "Is this for me?".... but I knew right away that it was something that I wanted to do.....even though it makes me more than a little nervous.

Most obviously, I am nervous because I will be away from Mo for a whole week.  I know he will be fine - Ted's mom (Gigi) is coming to town for the week, my mom will be around, Mo's nanny will be here and of course, Ted will be here too.  Mo will be in good hands.  But, I will miss him....desperately.  It scares me how much I know I will miss him.

Less obviously, I am nervous about spending a week with new people.  There has been a lot of turnover in the two and a half years and I don't really know a lot of the new staff people.  They don't know who I am.  They don't know about Max.  I am nervous about sitting on the bus next to a new person and having them ask me how many children I have.  I am nervous about being in Maxie's Forest- a place that I'm sure will bring up so much emotion for me and not having anyone around me to lean on, who understands what it means for me to be there (although actually, My boss will be there - and he does understand).  It will be weird to visit without Ted and Mo.  I am nervous that I won't make friends or find a comfortable niche (something I never used to worry about).  I am thinking that the best way to approach it is to just look for the experience to move me on the inside and try to ignore whatever is happening on the outside until or unless I become more comfortable.

I am thrilled about going back, so honored that I was asked and feeling very grateful that they are going to organize a small dedication ceremony for me in Maxie's Forest.  I know that I will be missing Ted and Mo like crazy on that day and that my heart will be breaking (as it is every day) for my Max.  I look forward to putting a prayer for Maxie and Mo and our family in the Western Wall while I'm in Jerusalem.  I am really looking forward to seeing Israeli friends who I haven't seen in way too long.  Israel has always held a very special place in my heart.  It is a place where I feel closer to G-d, closer to my roots, closer to my own self.  It is a place that I am in love with and inspired by.  It is the place where I met Ted for the first time, where we got engaged, and where a beautiful forest has been planted in memory of my baby boy.  I know it will be meaningful - but I am feeling pretty nervous.

 Me, planting a tree in Israel on my last visit to Israel in 2010.


Anonymous said...

You are pretty lucky to have such a good boss. I couldn't go back to work after my daughter died. My company gave me some time to stay at home but they couldn't find a way to put me to work from home. I then found a job which could allow me to work from home. Then I quit my previous job ( I just simplify couldn't face my co-workers any more). I started the new work from home job, but it was a field I had no experience and no much knowledge of. I was soon laid off. God just thinks losing my daughter is not enough for me, he has to add unemployment and infertility. Never thought of my life can be this hard.

Abby Leviss said...

I am so sorry Anonymous. I know that I am very lucky and that most people have not had the experience that I had with regard to work. I don't think anyone on the outside of this kind of loss can understand how impossible going to work everyday after losing a child can feel. I think they think it is a "good distraction" - as if ANYTHING could distract us from our child dying. But, it is so unfair to be handed anything else on top of what you've already been handed. I feel very very lucky to still have my job and very very lucky that they are continuing to invest in me. Honestly - I tell my boss every time I talk to him that he saved my life in some ways and I mean it.

Susan said...

Awesome opportunity! Bring Mo and your nanny though... you can drop by to us for tea and scones:)

Leslie K. said...


First of all, I love the CEO of your organization. Second of all, wishing you a safe and deeply meaningful trip!

Taryn said...

What a lovely opportunity! Israel is such a deeply meaningful place, and clearly, for you, it is a part of your soul! I hope, while you are away from your two boys here, that your Max will be close to you. I can think of no better place for you to feel a close connection with him especially since you will be specially honoring him at his memorial forest during your visit. I wish you all the peace, love and comfort that heaven and earth can offer during this tender, special experience!