Punching Bag

Maybe I'm an easy target. I'm certainly imperfect and flawed - perhaps more than I've ever been. I don't always say the right things- I've got a bad combination of grief brain, mommy brain, and pregnancy brain. I'm emotional - still very much climbing my way out of the deepest, darkest hole you can imagine. I know you find my emotions and grief frustrating. I am learning not to come to you when I'm feeling anxious, sad, or bereft. I am doing my best to put on my cool, calm and collected face for you - even though I'm none of those things. And still, somehow, I continue to feel like your punching bag. I am asking you to stop - and consider that I might be more sensitive than most - and, embarrassingly, more defensive than most as well. Try to muster up your most empathetic self - please - I'm fragile - and if you love me, you'll treat me kindly, you'll give me a pass, you'll let me make mistakes while I navigate this new life I have. Stop treating me like your punching bag. Please. One more punch might break me.

Maxie's Fourth Birthday Benefit

I don't yet have the photos back from Maxie's Birthday Benefit on Sunday...so you'll just have to trust me when I say that it was packed and everyone seemed to be having a great time.  We had about 200 people - SO many friends, friends kids, family, and many unfamiliar faces as well.  We raised a lot of money for First Candle - over $31,000.  Everything went mostly pretty smoothly.  All in all - a great success and something that we feel really good about.

I got an email from a friend asking me if I was satisfied with how the event turned out.  The truth is that it isn't a really "satisfying" venture.  In many ways, it feels very very empty for me - and I can only speak for myself.  It is one of the things I do to try and work through this gigantic loss.  I do it because I'm scared that to do nothing might feel even worse.  But, there is something super icky feeling about asking people to support you.  It can feel selfish and desperate. 

On the other hand, it is amazing when people actually do answer the call and step forward to lend their support.  Some of the people who lent a hand aren't even people I've personally reached out to or people I know very well - like so many of our sponsors.  What gigantic hearts they have to support us without even really knowing us - just knowing the very basics of our story.  There are also a handful of individuals every year who help me take ownership of the event and really work with me from start to finish to make sure every detail is covered.  I wouldn't be able to pull off this event without them.  They go above and beyond and I am grateful to them.

I came home on Sunday night feeling incredibly sad.  I should have felt ecstatic: the event was over, I'd seen so many wonderful friends, everyone had a ball, we had been so supported throughout, we'd raised a ton of money.... but I just felt sad.  There is something so incongruous about drinking beer and eating delicious food, and face painting and arts and crafts and big smiles and warm "hellos" and bidding wars over gift certificates - and how I really feel about the birthday party of my boy who I love more than life itself who isn't here to celebrate.  Behind my smile, you may not see how empty my world often is without him. I keep saying it, but I know there is no way for you to know.

I am so grateful that when I build it - you all come.  I know that kids missed naps, that dads (and moms) missed Sunday football (hopefully you DVR'd?), that perhaps you were nervous about seeing me and not knowing what to say, or that you only knew me and I was too busy putting out fires to spend time with you.  I am grateful that despite those challenges - you came, you bought into our vision, your kids had fun, you guzzled some cold ones, you bid on some auction items you probably didn't need (but are so happy to have won), and you helped to celebrate the life of our special little boy.  He wasn't here long but his impact is still felt.  Thank you for that......

We make boys

I guess it's true - Ted and I make boys. So, don't be too surprised when I tell you that we've got another one coming.

Baby Boy "M. Leviss #3" due to arrive on or around March 1, 2015. We are very, very excited!

Isn't he cute?

Maxie's Fourth Birthday

I cannot stop crying.  I literally CANNOT stop crying.  The waves of grief hit me every single day - but today, they are pummeling me, pounding me, breaking me.  "I don't know how I am still doing this", is what I keep thinking, realizing that I have to do this forever.  Life is unfair and it can be terribly hard.  We all lose people we love throughout our time on this planet and its awful and painful and heartbreaking.....but NOBODY should ever have to lose a child.  NOBODY.  There is just nothing that I would have imagined happening in this life of mine that could have come close to this pain.  Nothing.

Today, he would have been 4.  We would have woken him up singing.  We'd be excitedly talking about his upcoming party this weekend. We'd be planning a special day, with all of his most favorite food (which likely wouldn't be greek yogurt and bananas anymore), and so many of his favorite people.  Or, at least, I think that is what we'd be doing.  I'll never ever know....because we never even got to celebrate one birthday with him.

I am angry and so so sad.  And when I read over what I've written it's all just words and there is no way to just SHOW you my heart and how BROKEN it is and how NOTHING fills the void.  He deserved more than this.  We all did.


Mo and I went to Temple on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year). I dropped Mo off at the kids service/childcare and I sat with friends. I wouldn't say my whole heart was really in it (not sure that it ever really is) but I felt like I wanted to go for whatever reason. [Frankly, one of the main reasons was so that I could drop Mo in the childcare - he isn't starting pre-school until January and he is getting ansy and wants to be around other kids. I knew this would be a fun day for him.] 

I sat in the sanctuary, watching the people come and go, whispering back and forth with my friend Limor, getting scolded by the old man sitting behind us ("Ladies, there is a service going on" - HA! Some things never change). I didn't spend time reflecting on the year and all that it has brought - perhaps because it has been such an overwhelming and complex year - with so much joy, sorrow, pain, delight, renewal. It's almost too much to think about. I just sat there singing along absent-mindedly - disconnected - unattached - disinterested in the spiritual aspect of the day. That's how religious services go for me. In a strange way, it is a meditative time. I may not be thinking about the prayers themselves, but I do sort of disconnect from regular life.  I don't think about the nonsense that occupies my brain 90% of the time - work, finances, scheduling, whatever. I do just flip through pages - figure out where we are, how much left we have to go, why the cantor isn't singing the tune that I know.

I wasn't thinking about much, that is, until we got to the Amidah - a pivotal prayer said in all religious Jewish services - one that I've read the Hebrew and English version of at least 100,000 times over the course of my lifetime. 

"Praised be the Lord our G-d, who grants eternal life to the deceased". 

My eyes are filling with tears just writing this now. ETERNAL LIFE. A Jewish concept? I've asked every Jew I know - rabbis, orthodox, chabad, and kabbalistic friends - "Does Judaism support a concept of life after death?" In the wake of my child's death, I have not been able to come up with a more relevant or important question for plugging forward with my own life. It's basically all I ever think about - night and day. I've asked so many observant Jews this question, I am surprised they don't go running when they see me approaching. The answer I usually get is "I think so" or "Judaism focuses on the life we live now. We do good because it is the right way to live, not because of the reward we may receive in the afterlife". But, I am not worried about the reward - I don't care about Heaven or Hell or Satan or Angels or harps or cupids or anything. I care about Max. I care that he isn't just buried on the side of a hill near my house - his brief life having only experienced baths and tickles and kisses and naps. I care that I will be with him again - which is my version of Heaven (and so maybe I do care about the reward and punishment thing).

The idea that Judaism supports this concept felt so profound to me in that moment that I actually had to hold back my tears in the service. I think going from whispered giggling gossip to bursting out into tears seemingly out of nowhere might have been a little much for my seating companions - not that my quickly changing emotional range is anything new.  Somehow, I did manage to hold it together.

Earlier this week, a girlfriend of mine wished me "G'mar Chatima Tova" (Basically - "May you be inscribed in the Book of Life this year").  I read through more of the English translation on Rosh Hashana and found the familiar words reminding me that G-d is going to take the next 10 days (which are up tomorrow) to decide who lives and who dies, who suffers and who prospers, who will have abundance and who will find poverty.  "It doesn't add up", I told her.  "Why would G-d NOT have inscribed Max into the Book of Life? He was just a baby.  He didn't deserve to die."  Is it possible that he was being punished for some baby sized sin?  (NO, by the way, IMPOSSIBLE).  Was his life taken because G-d decided during those 10 days in 2010 that Ted and I would be written onto to list of people who would suffer?  And, if so, (and I am not going to argue with G-d that somehow I didn't deserve this punishment - because I can be arrogant, and egomaniacal, and superficial, and prone to holding grudges - maybe I DID deserve the ultimate form of punishment...but then) why did Max end up the one whose life was taken?  Why not me then? WHY?  Why? Why? Why?  

I can't wrap my brain around any of it. And, I refuse to accept it all as is. There has to be more to the story.  THERE HAS TO BE. Ted reminds me often that this line of thinking that I am stuck in constantly is an exercise in futility. I will never know....and of course, he is right.

Tomorrow - we will be in Synagogue again - for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) - the day that the Book is sealed for the year.  I wonder what we can expect in this next year.  Have Ted and I paid enough?  Will we be rewarded for having endured the suffering?  Will the mistakes we made cause the life of some innocent to be destroyed?  Have we spent enough time apologizing to everyone we may have hurt over the last year (I can only speak for myself - NOPE)? Will we find the strength to keep rebuilding our lives (because there are many ways that it feels like we've had to start from scratch since losing Max)?  I don't know.  What I will focus on tomorrow is this: "Praised be the Lord our G-d, who grants eternal life to the deceased". It is really the only thing that matters to me right now. What's done is done - I only have the future to look forward to now.

Myla Five Months

Our little girl is five months old today!  She is a sweet and easy baby.  She is chubby, chubby, chubby and super happy.  She loves getting kisses and hugs and being held.  She also loves getting attention from her big brother, which happens sporadically but also intensely.  We love her more each day!

For some reason, I have trouble catching her smiles in photos but she actually smiles a lot.....and, boy, is it cute!