Rebecca Luberoff

Bear Hug

He was sitting in the cozy living room the last time I saw him, his brown eyes sparkling like they always did when he smiled.  His collection of Native American Kachina dolls seemed to watch me reprovingly, for at ten years old, I could not stop staring at his leg—or lack of it—clad in an altered pair of purple sweatpants, barely reaching the edge of the seat of his black wheelchair.

The glow from the eight candles sitting in the menorah seemed to grow as I, his youngest grandchild, took the seat beside him and grasped his large, calloused hand on this last night of Chanukah.  He was weaker now that the cancer had taken his leg, but his hand still held the same comforting strength.

I hugged him before we left, tenderly at first, and then fiercely, like what Dad always calls a bear hug.  I almost didn’t let go before leaving with my twin sister Naomi and Mom to fly back to Massachusetts while Dad stayed with Grandma and Grandpa, just in case.

One year, 5 months later

“We now remember Benjamin Luberoff,” the rabbi stated, “grandfather to Rebecca and Naomi, who we celebrate today as B’not Mitzvah.  Please rise as we say the Kaddish.”  I stood on the bimah next to Naomi, reaching for her hand.  I was caught by surprise when the familiar clenching in my stomach, first caused by pre-bat mitzvah nervousness, took over me, this time accompanied by the urge to cry.

I will not cry.  I will not cry.  I will not cry,” I silently instructed myself.  Even so, my voice broke as we chanted the Mourner’s Kaddish.

As the final “Amen” resounded throughout the small synagogue, something inside of me rose, and I stopped crying, just like that.  The emotion was unlike any other, almost as if an outside force controlled it.

The walls surrounding me seemed to grow taller, lifting the ceiling with them.  They changed from purple to white; the lights grew dimmer; and an assortment of Kachina dolls replaced the colorful arrangement of flowers.  I was back in his living room, and in that moment of realization, I had the sensation of Grandpa holding me tightly.  For the first time since his death, I was finally content.



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