Last week was Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. Rosh Hashana is considered a joyous holiday, filled with family, food and the promise of new beginnings.
This Friday is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year on the Jewish Calendar.
The 10 days between these holidays are known as Ten Days of Repentance. These 10 days are the time to ask our fellow man forgiveness for our sins from the previous year so that God may grant us long life and prosperity and all that other good stuff the following year. Yom Kippur is the day we ask God to grant us a good year and long life. At the end of the holiday, God seals the book. Your fate for the year is written, can’t be changed. No more begging or pleading or asking forgiveness. Case closed. God shuts the book, puts it up a shelf and goes on a beach vacation. It’s a lot of pressure figuring out everyone’s fate for the next 365 1/4 days within a 10 day time frame.
Of course, I’m being a bit glib about it, but that’s basically the gist of it.
This will be the fourth Yom Kippur since our twins died.
The last time I went to temple was Rosh Hashana, 2009. With my tremendous belly leading the way, I pushed our toddler in her stroller as I walked to synagogue. How clearly I remember my husband asking if I wanted him to push and I said no. I was actually feeling so much better that day than I’d felt for months. The pressure in my tummy had lessened and, as I was getting ready to enter my third trimester, was hopeful that I’d finally start feeling a bit more comfortable. Plus, I added, pushing the stroller helped me balance my weight. Yup. I was finally feeling good.
We got to temple and started seeing friends and acquaintances, many of whom didn’t know I was pregnant. “Identical Twin girls!” we told them excitedly.
I felt very blessed that day, happy and optimistic about the future.
The Monday after Rosh Hashana we went for our weekly ultrasound. It was the first ultrasound since they first discovered signs of TTTS that I was feeling confident and happy. I’d been feeling so much better, certainly the ultrasound was going to reveal that our fluid levels had balanced out and our girls were thriving.
But I was wrong. I was feeling “better” because Daisy’s heart had stopped beating.
The next day we lost Sunshine.
The two days after that were spent visiting the hospital so I could be dilated and prepped for Friday, the day we would ultimately say goodbye to our daughters, without ever even seeing their precious faces. (A decision I will regret until my dying day.)
Two days later was Yom Kippur. I didn’t participate. Instead I spent the day on the couch, watching a Law & Order SVU Marathon, eating Fruity Pebbles, drinking wine to stop the unbearable pain in my heart and popping Advil to stop the unbearable pain in my breasts as they filled with milk to feed two babies who weren’t there to be fed.
When I think about my loss, I think about September 25th as the day we said goodbye. Every year I watch the calendar with my eye on that english calendar date, and yet, every year I am surprised to find myself walking through the shadows of grief during these 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, regardless of the date on the english calendar.
For the last three years I have held a lot of resentment towards God for forcing my girls to die before I was even given the chance to pray for their lives on the holiest day of the year. I haven’t actually participated in either Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur since that year, sort of my FU to God, because I know he cares about those things and is losing a lot of sleep over it.
Sometime this past year someone told me that people who die during those ten days of repentance are considered especially holy and their souls are given a direct pass straight to heaven. Hearing that made me cry, as it continues to do even as I type this, because it’s something I long to believe, even as I struggle with my own belief system. When I think about that, it allows me to shift my perspective a bit and see how losing them at the time when we did made way for a new year that was filled with life. My youngest daughter, Liat, was conceived four months after our loss and was born shortly after Yom Kippur the following year.
Molly and Liat are getting bigger and started attending Jewish School this year. They’re learning about the Jewish Holidays and God and all that stuff. It’s going to force me to come to terms with a lot of things that I’ve happily avoided thinking about for the last 4 years.
What am I going to do this Yom Kippur? I don’t yet know. I guess I’ll play it by ear and base it, in part, on what my kids expect to see me do. Does that even make sense? I’m not sure.
But then, I’m not sure about a lot of things these days.
At the one year anniversary of their death, I made this memorial video to share Sunshine & Daisy’s “life.”
Thanks for watching it.