We did it!

30 08 2015

IMG_2886Cyril turned to me a few days ago and he said to me, “We DID IT!”

What did we do exactly?

Well, the main thing we did was to give our two girls, Courtney and Tayla, aged almost 12, and almost 13, their Batmitzvah. Or plural, Bnot Mitzvah.

But what we really did was a little more than that. As I sit here, today, at the end of August, writing Thank you notes to the people who came and gave and loved us, I feel so much more. There is so much to feel. You see, our ceremony was not traditional, nor was it particularly religious. Our ceremony to mark the girls’ coming of age in the Jewish way, was more about the triumphs than the doctrines, more about the vulnerability than the victory, and more about the service to our community than about the girls’ achievements or status.

Our family came from everywhere. South Africa, Israel, California and Denver. Our house was lit up by love, and I mean that literally. There was this overwhelming sense that despite enormous obstacles we had come together. We all carried our stories of the past few years with us, but we carried those stories bravely. We had fought in wars, and we had been in other kinds of personal wars, but we were all together. WE WERE HERE. TOGETHER. I loved that!

There were Angels in that room as the girls read from the Torah, and I will never forget how Cyril’s late dad, Les, made his presence known. It was awe-inspiring…But that is a story for a different day.

I loved how Courtney spoke about protecting and caring for the orphan, widow and stranger and how she referenced our family’s love for Seattle’s homeless, and how Tayla spoke of caring for animals and taking care of all vulnerable creatures. And then, the family (each one of those called friend/grandparent/aunt/uncle/parent) gave their life wisdom over to the girls.

This was mine:

Good morning family and friends.

Courtney: I’ll never forget the day we heard that we were pregnant with you. After many years of hoping and praying for you, the “day” finally came when daddy and I heard ‘those’ words. You’re going to have a baby. Congratulations!

And from that moment on, the day we held you in our arms: Our tiny 5 pound beauty, YOU were our godgiven gift of everything that is precious and sacred and beautiful in this world.

Tayla: A year and 17 days later, the 2nd light of our lives came along. This baby we called our Zen Baby. She was, as Cyril’s late dad called her, our Smiler… Happy, Calm and Always looking for adventure.

The English names you were given, Courtney and Tayla, seemed to come together, as if you were two halves of a perfect whole. Sometimes I wondered if you were destined to be twins, but instead, you gave us the year in between to prepare us for the Force and Power to be reckoned with that is You Two!!!

Courtney; even though you were a tiny baby, you were talking and walking (actually running) before we knew it. You were always on the go-and boy, did you go!!! Active, strong-willed, determined-A true leader in the making.

And, as you grew, daddy and I noticed something else. You were truly KIND. I have so many stories of your kindness… it would take me hours, so I wont let myself be indulged- Other than to say, YOU CARE DEEPLY about everyone who crosses your path. You always watch out for others, sometimes before yourself, and in so doing, my Baby, I have watched you become someone people love to be around. You have the Social Justice gene, that’s for sure.

I could talk about your accomplishments (many), or how you persevere at your Love Sport, soccer, or how you are the strongest person in life… But this is my Wisdom to you… Here today…

DO NOT FEAR. BE YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT!!!

Yes, you’ll get hurt sometimes, but that’s ok. As long as you are being your real and authentic self, its worth it… because The Only Person Who You Need To Be True To Is Yourself.

Have Integrity. Be Brave. Be Kind. That’s it!

Your Hebrew name Shifrah Emunah, means Beautiful Faith, And That’s one other thing: Without Faith We Are Nothing. Faith is that thing that says God has this! God has you and loves you, so if you believe in anything, my angel, Believe in Faith and Love.

Tayla: The Zen baby grew up… but she is still the young lady we go to for a gentle , Mom, dad, It will all be ok. She’s still smiling. In fact, there are so many times she makes us all laugh till our stomachs ache… She’s THAT funny.

Her Hebrew name, Nasiya Gabriella, translated in to English, means, Miracle Angel from God. As appropriate today as it was 12 years ago.

Tayla just radiates Joy. She is the natural athlete, the natural leader, the natural friend, THE NATURAL EVERYTHING!!!

Everything Tayla does feels inherently calm and confident and good. Tay, I believe God gave you the gift of Serenity, and my wish and wisdom for you is to remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson,

“ What lies behind us, and what lies before us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

I don’t need to tell YOU to be yourself (Awesome!!!) –You got that one down already… Or, Not to fear, You got that too-

BUT I will tell you from my life to…

Keep Shining That Light!

Be the Lighthouse in the darkness. Your ships will always come home!!!

To end this, This Marianne Williamson quote for both my girls, made famous by my personal hero, Nelson Mandela, in his Inaugural Speech:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Shabbat Shalom. I love you all!

And so, it went, and everyone in that tiny ‘Shul’ was crying! But, it was BEAUTIFUL, because it was REAL and authentic. And, I felt as if my heart had been cracked wide open and I’d given my girls the gift of honesty and integrity to be as open-hearted as you can be in this world. That was the only message I wanted to leave with my children, and everyone on that day, August 8th, 2015! I hope, I pray, I believe, WE DID IT!!

A few days after the party, I was walking on the beach and I found this shell… It perfectly mirrored a shell I had picked up almost 14 years ago on the beach in South Africa, when we were praying for a baby. It symbolizes Connection, Openness, and Miracles, and to me, yes, it looks like Angel Wings, because, well, because…

There Are Always Angels!