Why on Erev Rosh Hashanah was I all of a sudden thrust into a last minute frenzy? After all, usually these things are carefully planned weeks in advance as they take time to prepare and situate. Last year (5772) on the 27th of Tishrei last year, my son came into this world in a most tumultuous manner. Born with a prolapsed cord and an emergency c-section, he was deprived of oxygen (for how long we will never really know), had a very low heart beat, and had an Apgar score of 1. From the very beginning, he had several real challenges set out before him.
We were scared, worried, stressed, nervous, and full of a little bit of every emotion all rolled into one. What was going to happen? Would our son be okay? How long would he be in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)? When could we bring him home? When I met my son for the first time, he was surrounded by an array of machines that never seemed to rest from beeping, chiming, or flashing lights. I tried to remember which ones were for what, so that I didn't have to call the nurse or doctor over each time I heard a beep, worrying if everything was okay.
But this wasn't the way that it was supposed to be. This was supposed to be a joyous occasion filled with the planning of a bris (circumcision), contacting a caterer, and sending out emails with cute pictures to everyone that we knew.
Well, we did send out emails to everyone we knew but it was to mobilize prayers on our son's behalf to beseech Hashem to heal him and give him a complete recovery. For two weeks, our life was turned completely upside down. Bayla and I stayed at the home of good friends who were walking distance to the hospital, while Ettie was still admitted in the hospital by herself due to her complications, and Shmuel Abba was in a place that no baby should ever have to be. Thank G-d, two hours before Yom Kippur, our precious son was deemed healthy and given clearance to leave the hospital. And so Yom Kippur for us actually became more akin to Simchas Torah.
It was only after the ordeal ended could I begin to review everything that had happened. The magnitude of people that had said Tehillim (psalms) for Shmuel Abba. How many people had put on Tefillin, lit Shabbos candles, baked challah, included him in their personal prayers, had given him a refuah shelaima mishaberach by the Torah, and had cried to Hashem to heal him and make him whole; to heal us and make us whole. I realized that though Shmuel Abba had seemingly entered into his life in what seemed like an exile, at the same time he had managed to inspire and propel hundreds of people to do a mitzvah. In fact, in two short weeks he had been responsible for more people doing mitzvahs than many of us can accomplish in a life time. A most impressive and important feat.
Fast forward one year later; to the day. The 27th of Tishrei 5773. We wanted to do something extra special on this day to celebrate Shmuel Abba's first birthday, considering how much we appreciate the miracle that occurred. So there we were, Sunday morning, planning an extra special menu for a birthday dinner, when I felt as though my leg was a little heavy. I had broken a bone in my left foot (the fifth metatarsal) two weeks earlier, yet it wasn't a heavy feeling due to being in an air cast but a different kind of heavy. I rolled up my pant leg to find that my calf had swollen to about one and a half times its usual size. We were trying to decide whether it was a side effect of my wearing the air cast too tight or an issue of significance, when a close friend called to wish Shmuel Abba happy birthday. When Ettie relayed the dilemma to her, she told us that from what she understood it could be very serious. After speaking with a close friend who is a family doctor we were off the Emergency Room for a quick visit to assuage our fears and then hopefully be back home in no time to prepare for the birthday feast.
As I'm sure you are aware, "quick Emergency Room visit" is an oxymoron. Four hours, an x-ray, blood test, several different medications and a shot later, plus a requisition for an ultrasound the following day and we were on our way home. To make a long story short, it was discovered that I had some blot clots in my left leg and I have been put on a blood thinning treatment program through the Anti-Coagulation Management clinic for the next four to six months. This involves medication, daily blood tests at the clinic to monitor the effectiveness of the medication, and for the first two weeks an injection. In speaking with the clinic's head pharmacist and lead doctor, it seems that most likely the blood clots were actually already present before my fall. Although breaking my foot made matters worse, it was this incident that thankfully alerted me to the G-d forbid potentially life threatening situation.
So I started to think that the 27th of Tishrei was a bad day for us. A date where negative things seem to happen for our family. But my wife, being the positive person that she is, took a different approach. She said, "Look at our beautiful son, he is a true miracle and blessing. He inspired hundreds, if not thousands, made us further develop ourselves into stronger people, and is super sweet to boot. As for your leg, if you hadn't broken your foot, and if we hadn't realized that it was swollen, we may not have found the blood clots until G-d forbid a dangerous situation. We need to learn to choose life; to make our outlook one where we see the sun shining."
It makes me realize that life is all about perspective. It isn't about whether the cup is half empty or half full, but being joyous that we have a cup to begin with, and then taking the matter into our own hands and filling it.
As we enter into the new year, let's start a new leaf. Don't forget the past, but rather redefine it in the appropriate way. Choose to see G-d as He really is; not as we sometimes perceive Him to be. Decide to be happy not because something good has happened, but because you want good things to happen. Most of all, make this a year where every step of the way, you choose life!
Wishing you a shana tova umituka, a kesiva vchasima tova, and a chag sameach,