I remember my first Passover. I was 18 and pretending that I’d been raised Jewish. It was my freshman year in college when I was invited to my classmate's home for dinner with her family. My friend and I got drunk on Manischewitz wine and I acted like I knew what was going on, even though I was totally confused.
“I thought we were having dinner, but now we’re reading this book? Ok, I’ll pretend I knew that was the plan all along.”
For the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to join my friend Lisa and her family for Passover in West Bloomfield. When I met Lisa and explained that, while I hadn’t been raised Jewish, I loved celebrating all the holidays, she insisted I join her family celebration for the first night — and make it an annual tradition.
In 2019, I remember sitting at the table after dinner talking with Lisa’s mom Sandy about how my work as a yoga teacher might be able to help her battle the side effects she was dealing with as a result of her cancer treatment. Within a month of that meal, Sandy and I were doing weekly yoga sessions. It was a highlight in my teaching schedule — to show up and do some basic body movement with her.
Beyond the yoga basics, I just loved being around Sandy. She was warm and kind, but also had no problem questioning something that didn’t make sense or calling out behavior she saw as wrong. She talked to me about my Jewish journey and answered my questions about what it meant to be a Jewish mother — a dream that I’ve long held in my heart. Her kids were grown, but that didn’t stop her from doting on them, on her grandchildren or on Brooklyn, her darling dog. I especially loved the mornings when I’d arrive in time to see her and her husband Jeff before he left for work. After 40+ years together, they were clearly the love of each other’s life.
When Covid came to Michigan, we tried to continue our weekly sessions via Zoom. But between technical difficulties and Sandy’s continued cancer fight, Sandy and I only managed a handful of virtual sessions before she passed in January 2021. I was able to sit shiva with her family (remotely) and Lisa was with me when I made my Beit Din last summer.
Last week was my first Passover with Sandy’s family since they — we — lost her.
I don’t know if it was planned this way, but I ended up sitting next to Jeff, who is doing an amazing job pressing on without his partner. When we got to the Dayenu portion of the reading, I felt like I was hearing it for the first time. I leaned over to Jeff and asked what that word meant. “Enough,” he explained.
As the call and response continued around me, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I recognized in that moment, in spite of all the loss, the incredible abundance and good fortune God has blessed me, blessed all of us, with.
If He had rescued me from an abusive childhood, that would have been enough.
If He had supported me while I chased my dreams in Chicago, that would have been enough.
If He had brought me home to Michigan, surrounded by loving friends and chosen family, that would have been enough.
If He had shown me that I could connect to my spirituality through Judaism, that would have been enough.
If He had surrounded me with a wonderful Jewish community that supports and loves me, that would have been enough.