Posts Tagged ‘miracle’

Aryeh and his friend Isaiah on Aryeh’s Birthday

Today is a miraculous day!  Amazing in every way!  Today my son Aryeh turned 18 years old; today he is healthy and thriving.

I love that Judaism gives us ways to consciously mark each moment in time; today is a Shehecheyanu moment.  Marking this moment gives me such joy! (Note: Every birthday is a shehecheyanu moment.)  What a gift to know that Aryeh is celebrating being alive for 18 years.

Health is a gift that has never been taken for granted.

In the beginning, Aryeh’s life began with 3,000 platelets at birth; he was the first child to ever survive the specifics of his birth condition.  For his first days, we referred to him as Bruiser because he was a tough baby who weighed 10 lbs and was nearly 22 inches long; he also had bruises throughout his little body including his precious brain.  Most of us are born with approximately 150,000 to 250,000 platelets; he barely had enough to keep him alive.  Once it looked like Aryeh would live, he became known as Champ; my boy was a fighter.  We believed he might actually stay alive, but we weren’t certain that our dream would be so.

At approximately 9 weeks old, Champ was a thriving baby who was very much alive and definitely thriving; only after his bris, ritual circumcision, did we use the name we had chosen for him just before his birth.  Champ became known as Aryeh.  Saying his name on the first days following his bris brought tears to my eyes.  We had always planned on calling him Aryeh, translated as lion, but we didn’t know that his name would be perfect for him.  Aryeh is strong and able to take care of himself as he faces life; his name really does honor his spirit.

At almost 14 years old, Aryeh’s life took another dramatic turn.  We found a arachnoid cyst on his brain.  It took us many neurosurgeons and neurologists, two brain surgeries, and nearly three years of recovery time to bring him to health.  I am honestly not sure how he survived, but HE DID!!!!

Our lion is beautiful, vibrant, and actively engaged in life.  I think it might take him a couple of years to become grounded in health, but today he really is so much healthier than he was.  This spring, Aryeh graduated high school and began actively figuring out his next years.  I love his spirit and I love his drive.

I am the luckiest imma, mother. in the world.  I have two beautiful children that are both thriving.  Today I celebrate that although health was not a given in Aryeh’s life; he has always lived to the best of his ability and we are celebrating eighteen years together.

Never take life or health for granted; treasure what you have and celebrate it, even when times are tough.  At this moment, I am feeling such gratitude to the universe; I have my baby boy (he will always be my baby) alive and well on his birthday.

Today is a Shehecheyanu moment. Aryeh’s birthday is a time to be grateful and to say 

Blessed be the Living Spirit of the Universe that we survive, that we are alive, and have arrived at this very moment

~Shehecheyanu interpretation by Rabbi David J. Cooper

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Aryeh’s graduation rocked my world and brought joy to my soul.  Not only did my son graduate high school this weekend, but he is also a thriving human being in every way.  There are very few things in life that are a given; no one knows what tomorrow will bring. The good news for Aryeh is that while his life has had many periods of drama and health challenges, he has always found the endurance to forge forward and persevere in every way.

For seven years, my son went to a democratic school called Fairhaven School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.  The school nourished his spirit and made him hungry to live actively in the world around him.  The entire school environment empowered Aryeh and his fellow students to thrive as individuals.  There are quite literally no words that can accurately describe the gratitude I feel for the Fairhaven community and the remarkable staff that has touched Aryeh’s life through the years.

Miracles happen at every turn; hopefully we are blessed to see the miracles even as we deal with the trials and tribulations of life.

Aryeh’s existence was filled with emotional drama from the beginning; our son’s survival was not a given.  He was born with 12,000 platelets per microliter of blood, but the number quickly dropped to 3,000 platelets per microliter of blood.  If my memory is correct, most of us are born with 150,000 -250,000 platelets per microliter of blood at birth.  With a low platelet count, he also suffered from severe bruising throughout his body including his brain. The monitors that covered his body only marked the tedious passing of time; they would have never saved him.

Doctors studied Aryeh for well over a year before they discovered that no other child had ever survived the specifics of his birth condition.  And not only did Aryeh survive, but, he thrived in every way!!!  This has been a reoccurring theme of his from the very beginning.

For many years, Aryeh life appeared to move in a healthy, normal trajectory. And then as a young child, something occurred in Aryeh’s development and he failed to thrive as educators, neurologists, etc. thought he should.  A leading neuropsychologist told us that Aryeh was wired differently and we should never expect him to thrive as a self-sufficient adult.  Well without going into too many details, I am so happy to know that the doctor was WRONG!!!!! Everything he told about our son’s development was WRONG.  (For more info, read part 1 of this blog http://wp.me/pthnB-5v)

Raising Aryeh was not always easy, but once we got through a few really challenging years, life worked well.  Since Aryeh could articulate his thoughts easily, as a family we were always able to get through the hard stuff.  BTW, the neuropsychologist also told us that Aryeh wouldn’t be able to communicate as others.  The good news is the doc was WRONG!!!  Michael and I always believed in Aryeh and his ability to thrive.  As parents, we didn’t know what it would look like, but our job was to keep on moving forward!!! So we did!!!

Aryeh was delayed in some ways, while he soared in others!! I loved watching his mind work and his world reach new heights until hell struck again.  At 13 years old, in March 2006, our world spiraled out of control.  Aryeh’s world was engulfed in pain, he couldn’t function, sometimes he couldn’t walk, he had trouble physically (mechanically) getting dressed, and his entire body was absorbed with pain.  Over the next 5 months, we consulted with many doctors, each telling us to do something different.  In order for Aryeh to survive, brain surgery was a given, but we had so many opinions to navigate.  Meanwhile, we weren’t sure that Aryeh would survive this challenge, a 6.5 cm cyst in his brain.

The next three years were filled with darkness and fear at every turn.  Aryeh was suffering every step of the way.  Two brain surgeries and multiple complications brought him little reprieve from pain.  At 15 years old, we found a doctor that brought life back into our son’s world.  We finally found a doctor who knew what Aryeh needed and gave it to him.  The results took six months to start working, but at least we had glimmers of light during this part of his journey.

The time-line during the three years of Aryeh’s illness is a blur; I guess timing doesn’t matter so much.  We were filled with so many gifts through this journey.  We had amazing friends, Fairhaven School Community, and Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation.  We were surrounded by love, but we were still very much alone.  Unfortunately that is the reality of serious illness or at least it was for us.  The good news is that we made it through the rain, the horrible torrential rain that lasted for so many years.  Today we can easily celebrate life, all of our lives.

Aryeh’s life is a gift in every way!!! I can’t believe how lucky we are to have Aryeh in our lives and how he helps many who know them become more thoughtful individuals.  Whether he is keeping the news in the forefront of our minds or perhaps the individual rights of modern day slaves, Aryeh cares about the world around him.  In school, Aryeh became an extraordinary member of the community.  As tribal death clerk, he cared for the dead animals that were found on campus; and as the Assembly president, he showed his love for the entire school community.

Aryeh was an eloquent speaker during his graduation!  He was thoughtful and prepared with each and every word he spoke.  He prepared his speeches, crafting each and every word. (I wish his neuropsychologist could have seen him.)  When he spoke about his friend Isaiah, every person in the room saw Isaiah’s beauty!  When he acknowledged others for helping him move on his journey, it was easy to feel the gratitude through Aryeh’s eyes.  One of the most touching moments happened when Aryeh thanked his little brother Dovi for putting up with him during the years of illness, many had to wipe their eyes when he ended his remarks with “I love you Dovi”.

For each of us learning takes a different shape.  I am not sure where Aryeh’s journey will take him, but I am so profoundly grateful and happy to admire my ‘little’ boy as I do.  He is amazing as a person who never forgets that he is part of a larger world!!!  May Aryeh be blessed with time to make the world better because of all that he has done, continues to do, and will do in the future.

Aryeh has taught through example that though we don’t always have a choice on what life brings us, we always have a choice of how we travel on that path.

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I love Hanukah!!! There are so many sacred moments and joyful observances that add to making this holiday distinctive.   The symbolism inspires me to look not only at the history of the holiday, but also to look at the modern lessons that evolve from the Hanukah history and observances.  Light illuminating from the chanukiah fills my home with light and my soul with warmth, but that is only the beginning.  And the most precious part of Hanukah is family time!

There are many emergent values that evolve from the story, the different practices, and the interpretations of Hanukah.  Over the past weeks, I have found myself gravitating to reading articles, blogs, and lesson plans about modern interpretations and practices of this unique holiday.

While parts of the Hanukah story, as we have learned since our childhood, are questionable, the lessons can still guide us to living a fuller personal life as well as a more Jewishly connected life.  Many diverse values are found in Hanukah experience that can guide us towards a more conscious life.

Below are just some of the values or ideas that have helped guide me personally and in many cases my family towards a meaningful connection with not only Hanukah, but also life in general.

1.      Recognizing Miracles

  • Hanukah Teaching:  The Maccabee family was able to lead the Jews against the powerful Syrian-Greek army and ultimately win their religious freedom.  While the story is not as simple as portrayed in our children’s books and there wasn’t necessarily a vat of oil that was supposed to last only a day which lasted 8 days, there are still values in the story.
  • Chava’s take – Miracles exist at every turn, it is beneficial to find a positive way to move through the world.  When challenges happen, it is my job to find the miracles of each moment.

2.     Religious freedom/freedom from oppression

  • Hanukah Teaching:  Always complicated, but the overall story allows us to remember that due to the strength of the Macabbees against the Syrian-Greek army, the Jews were able to gain both religious freedom and freedom from oppression.
  • Chava’s take:  The gift of having the Maccabees stand up for our religious freedom, we now have the ability to make a commitment to religious observance.  I can create a Jewish practice that works for me!

3.     Tikun Olam

  • Hanukah Teaching: The Maccabees did an amazing job by making the world a better place for the Jews to live; they helped make it possible for the Jews to live in a way that allowed them to thrive.
  • Chava’s take:  Making the world a better place takes work.  The Maccabees opened a door by working towards what they believed; this ultimately created the safe space for us to do more of what we believed in.  Each step that others take towards making the world a better place helps us to know that each of us can make a difference if we dare to try.

4.     Civil disobedience

Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance.

  • Hanukah Teaching:  Simply put, the Maccabee family and their followers refused to listen to the Syrian-Greeks.  Hannah allowed her sons to be killed as opposed to doing the abhorrent practice that Syrian-Greeks demanded of her.
  • Chava’s take:  Civil disobedience is painfully challenging.  People make choices that could ultimately lead to their death or to significant loss before improvement will happen.   Those that engage in civil disobedience don’t know for certain whether their efforts will make a difference in the long run.  Yet those same individuals pursue their dreams in order to create a healthier world in most cases. Having the courage to move towards creating a better place to live is the gift you give yourself and/or future generations.

5.     Conscious living – Simplicity

  • Hanukah Teaching:  Taking time to stop, light the Hanukah candles, watch them until they burn out.
  • Chava’s take:  This time of the year warms my heart in every way!!!!  Our family makes every effort to be together as a family.  We cook together; we laugh together; we enjoy each other.  It is awesome!  I love the sweet simple contentment that fills our home this time of year.  Hanukah always reinforces our connection to be together because we know we will be enjoying games, stories, and watching the candles burn in the chanukiah. (NOTE: At this point, I want to note that many years ago the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life was the single most significant resource for guiding me towards ways to create a simpler Hanukah.  They seemed to remove what I utilized to help maneuver my family in a more conscious way, but their website has thoughtful options for how to be more conscious.  http://www.coejl.org/~coejlor/Hanukkah/everyone/index.php)

6.     Darkness turns to light

  • Hanukah teaching:  In the Northern Hemisphere, Hanukah comes at the darkest time of the year when the nights are long and the days are short.  Even with that reality, we fill our nights with the light of candles in the Chanukiah
  • Chava’s take:  When life throws me punches, I can choose to lie down and lick my wounds or look for a way to make my situation better.  I find myself always looking for ways “to plant seeds of joy and light” (Rabbi Shefa Gold) wherever I can.  Thriving in the darkness isn’t possible unless you do work to move through it by creating new possibilities within your challenges.  Symbolically, Hanukah reminds us of hope even in the darkest times.

7.     Am Yisrael Chai: The Nation of Israel  and/or the Jewish People Live:

o   Hanukah Teaching:  Jewish Pride continues to flow due to the actions of the Maccabees and their followers.

o   Chava’s take:  I am often touched by what Jews choose to do as a people.  In recent times, I found myself thrilled when J-Street was created.  This allowed me a voice within the established Jewish community.  Only when we, as a people, listen to each other and share with one another will we be able to continue to have hope for Am Yisrael Chai.

Living life with godliness in our hearts allows us to always bring our best foot forward.  Whether or not you believe in the God who performed miracles for the Hanukah story or for our present times, you can still choose to live as someone filled with God-like attributes.

Living life actively allows us to be conscious people.  And the Hanukah story really does allow us a platform for looking at the past in order to create a better present and future.

May you and your families be blessed with the miracle of seeing the light!

Happy Hanukah,


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