I've known the mother for years, ever since the Rosh HaShanah she joined my old synagogue, a lovely divorced woman with three sons that she got only on weekends. This was her choice - she felt her exhusband would be the better full time parent. Also, he could afford a housekeeper and she could not. She was slowly inching her way back to being religious after running away from it after her divorce, and she found the right synagogue for it. B'nai Jacob is the perfect place for such healing, as it is the perfect place for others to find their way for the first time. It's a synagogue full of inbetween types - religious gay men, divorced mothers, converts, those becoming religious, people just plain searching - all of these and more are welcomed. And if a congregant is happy where he or she is, that's also fine.
So, there she was. A single woman in a synagogue with few available single men, with a seven year old and two six year olds, one missing most of his right hand. Not that that slowed Sruly down. :) And we became friends, and we got to watch her boys grow, and they were and are wonderful boys. And she took her time and found her way back in her own terms.
When my father died, she was there for me. My father died on Simchat Torah night, and when the phone rang that night at around midnight, we knew what it was, because of the time and the fact that I don't make or take phone calls on yom tov. But we knew and we answered it and my father had finally gotten his way - he'd been getting lower and lower since his *successful* open heart surgery. He'd decided he was not going home, and stubborn man that he was, that's what happened. It was a relief - he was to have been sent to a nursing home with a feeding tube that Monday. Instead, he died Saturday night and was buried that Monday.
I spent that night in tears and indecision. It was a holiday, but maybe I should get a car service and go to New Jersey? It was a second day holiday, which means a lot more leniencies because it's only rabbinic, but I couldn't make myself violate it, and I felt horrible about that and, well. So, next morning, we got up early so we could catch our rabbi before synagogue. And I waited on the synagogue steps and Jonathan waited on the corner so he could get the rabbi early, but first the three boys came running up. They were ten and eleven at the time, old enough to be on their own.
And then Leah came running up to me and let me cry on her shoulders. And she held my hand when we spoke to our rabbi - I have a hard time talking to our old rabbi. He doesn't look at women. My husband thinks he may have Aspergers because doesn't look much at men. And we got his advice and because I insisted that Jonathan attend the services, Leah took me home, knowing her boys would be fine and that I shouldn't be alone. Simchat Torah morning services are a lot of fun, but she didn't think twice about it.
And she didn't raise an eyebrow when I had to answer the phone and confer about things with my family. And she sat in my disaster of a house and read psalms when I finally was able to go to sleep - and knowing she was there made it possible to do that. Later, Jonathan came home escorted by another friend - maybe Jonathan wasn't an official mourner, but it was still an act of kindness to make sure he was not alone, either and she left. I couldn't even offer her hospitality!
Later, when she needed someone to watch her sons for an hour or so in a dire emergency, she called on me, and I was glad to help.
And then, she was finally emotionally, spiritually and financially ready to leave the womb of B'nai Jacob, and moved to Midwood and got full custody of her sons and gave up television. And the next time I saw her, she was wearing a wig because a woman with sons should cover her hair. And the next time I saw her, she introduced me to a quiet and gentle man named Yeshaya. Shortly after her oldest son became bar mitzvah, and we made sure to stay in Midwood that Shabbat so we could be there, she married him. They timed it so they could go to Israel and the boys could go to camp.
When we found our new apartment, we also found out they lived just down the same block, and we had lunch in their sukkah after we moved, where I got to tease her she did things *backwards* - her husband found out only *after* they were married that she had curly hair. Normally, that comes *first*.
She worked close to the World Trade Center, and came to work late that morning because she was taking her sons to school.
And eleven days ago, she had another son. His bris was yesterday because he had jaundiced skin and a mohel will not do a bris unless the child is perfectly healthy, so they postponed it past the normal eight days. His name is Yissachar Shalom, and he's beautiful.
And we hope to be at his bar mitzvah. And at his brothers' weddings. And to celebrate the births of more siblings. God grant that this is so.