We spent last Rosh Hashana at the Cancer Treatment Center. It was actually a surprisingly nice Rosh Hashana, all things considered… Right before Mama Jude’s radiation treatment, we had an impromptu little Jewish new year’s party with the other Jewish patients, radiation technicians and nurses (as one simply must when one finds oneself surrounded by Jews on one of our biggest holidays). I brought us a lovely Rosh Hashana feast from the wonderful Gayle’s Bakery in Santa Cruz (where some friends of ours evacuated to during the tsunami warning… love it!).
This year, we are in Venice, Italy. If you’re reading my blog, you probably already know about this very special trip of ours. It has been some of the most amazing days of our lives. Don’t misunderstand… it’s not like we don’t fight just like every mother and daughter (particularly those living together – at any age!). But as I tell Mama Jude to abate her agony at my mostly stagnant life… this may have been a really difficult year and a half, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend this time with her, and to able to tell her how much she means to me and the lasting effects she’ll have on generations to come. How many other 30-year-old daughters get to share these experiences with their mothers? Mama stresses about being a burden on me, and I admit, being a caregiver for an ill parent is incredibly difficult work, but it feels necessary and right. The worst part, according to Mama, is that she likely won’t get to be there for me when I get married and have children. It’s not that she hasn’t lived a full and wonderful life; it’s that we never thought we wouldn’t get those special life events together. For now, we are savoring our special trip together and wishing it would never end.
We’ve been doing our Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement, 10 days later) services at home in our wonderful Venetian apartment. As modern women, we’re not super comfortable in the Orthodox services where we have to sit separately in a balcony and can’t necessarily hear or see well (plus Mama Jude had a not-so-great experience here previously) so we’re doing our own thing. When Mama Jude planned to move here, she planned to gather anyone interested together for a reform/reconstructionist minyan (a Jewish prayer group like she helped found in Santa Cruz many years ago). We found round challah (traditional delicious braided egg bread for the holiday) at Gam-Gam, a famous Kosher restaurant in Venice’s Jewish Ghetto. We listened to Kol Nidre (the start of Yom Kippur services) sung on YouTube online… Listening to this beautiful old man’s voice sing the Kol Nidre while looking out on the sun setting over the Gran Canal was a truly spiritual experience. We also enjoyed Rabbi Naomi Levy’s online services (for the second year in a row!), where she discusses Yom Kippur as the ultimate Jewish spiritual cleanse and talks about Chesed as personal compassion — balancing justice and compassion and being kind to oneself, loving oneself with all of one’s imperfections.
So, from my family to yours… Chag Sameach and may you be inscribed in the Book of Life. And if I have in any way offended, wronged or excluded you, please accept my sincerest apologies and know that I meant you no harm. Sending out love and light and good wishes to you all. Happy Jewish New Year from Venice!