Excerpts from Chana’s First book
In high school creative writing class, the teacher assigned us the writing of a short story.
I couldn’t think of what to write.
So I wrote things that were happening in my own life.
I named the main character Vera (after my best friend, Veeta).
The day after I handed it in, the teacher called me to her desk.
She asked me to read my story to the class.
There, I stood in front of the room, raw, before all of them.
I was sure they would know that the story was really my story, the story of what was happening in my life.
The students listened attentively.
Once I finished, the teacher asked for the student’s comments:
That’s a good story!
They all nodded.
Then one said after the other:
“But it could never happen.”
It’s not realistic.”
All of the students agreed that it is a good story; but it could never happen.
My peers did not want to see that one of their classmates had such a life.
So they said to each other, and to themselves, that it could never happen.
“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.”
— Mark Twain
I am not yet two years old. Zaydie (Grandpa in Yiddish) loves me. He plays with me.
Even though he scares me with his play, like when he dresses as a ghost, he is the attention that I get.
Then, no more Zaydie . . . No one ever explains where he is. Not a word is said.
I find out, when I’m an adult, that Mommy and Daddy moved out of the apartment while Zaydie was praying in the synagogue on Shabbos (the Sabbath) morning.
He returned to the apartment expecting Shabbos lunch.
The apartment was locked and the furniture moved out.
No one mentioned his name to me ever again.
No one explained to me that I will never again see my Zaydie.
But I always remember him.
Years later, when I am 48 years old, my brother, Michael, passes to the next world.
At the gravesite, I see Zaydie’s grave, near Michael’s.
The stone reads: “Aron Gordon – Died October 19, 1955 – Age 82 Years – Avinu HaYikar (our beloved father).”
That was Zaydie.
Apparently, he lived until I was ten years old.
I realize that Zaydie had been alive all that time!!!
I throw myself on the ground near the grave and cry bitter tears.
I cry because he had been there and I did not know.
Oh, how I missed out.
Oh, how we both lost out.
That I could have had one person tell me what to do, and tell me what a Torah is, and all about God.
Oh, that I could have had my Zaydie!
Oh, the loss we both had.
But in the 1980’s, when I took on the commandment of not driving on Shabbos, I walked five miles to shul (synagogue) each Shabbos.
I felt Zaydie with me, the whole 2½ hour walk, watching from his resting place.
I felt his smile and satisfaction at my Shabbos observance.
For one whole year, it never rained or snowed on my walk.
The Physical Therapist teaches me to use crutches.
It’s very difficult for me.
After not using my legs for so long, they lack muscles.
I have to bear all of my weight on my right leg.
I work hard learning to use crutches.
I master walking in the hospital hallways.
One morning, the PT takes me down the hospital hallway to a heavy grey door.
She opens it.
I see a cold, grey, heavy looking stairway in front of me.
The PT demonstrates holding both crutches on her right side, one vertically and the other horizontally, as she holds the banister with her left hand.
She shows me how she lifts herself up a step in that stance.
My turn . . .
My leg buckles.
My butt lands on the step. I sit there.
“I can’t!” I tell her.
She sits down on the step next to me.
She lifts my face level with hers and looks at me, eye to eye.
“There’s no such thing as can’t!” she tells me.
“There’s no such thing as can’t!” he repeats.
I listen. I hear her.
Her words resonate with my soul.
I never forget.
I repeat her words to myself over and over, then, and throughout my life . . .
“There’s no such thing as can’t.”
This PT changed my life.
She changed the shape of my fate.
And I don’t even remember her name.
May her soul be uplifted for the hope and the possibilities which she opened me up to throughout my life.
I know I’m not the only one. I know that there are so many of us who
didn’t have a mother or who didn’t have a father and those who didn’t feel like they had any parent even if it looked to others like they did.
But I believe that we were born to the parents we were supposed to be born to. We were born to those people in order that we follow our soul’s path, in order that we learn the Life-Lessons we were put into this world to learn.
We were given to these parents in order that we have the opportunity to build the strengths of who we inherently are and to guide us to be who we can be.
Had I had a loving mother, and maybe even a loving father, I would not have had the opportunities to overcome and build myself, the opportunities to create myself into who I am today.
The pain with which I struggled forced me to search and to find answers that ended up building my character .
In addition, had I not been in such darkness, I would never have known what to say to a child who has belt buckle scar marks all over her back and legs from the parent who repeatedly beat her, or to the teen who complains his mother hates him, or to the adult who cries that there is no one to reach out to.
Had I not experienced the darkness that I did, how could I know what to do with my darkness and that of others?
Each of our horrors is a disguise for an opportunity, an opportunity
to rise above and be who we are capable of growing into.
That is the Light From the Darkness; that each terrible happening
is a doorway into more insight, more understanding and into the opportunity to make the choice to achieve greatness.
We can’t hide from darkness.
We can’t disregard it.
Darkness gets darker when we try to resist it.
The dark times present us with a choice. We may choose to rise above it or we may choose to drown in that darkness.
Each of us chooses how we want to view our individual darkness.
The darkness can be the source of our greatest Light once we face it head on.
The Light From the Darkness is the opportunity for each one of us to shine.
That is the Light FROM the Darkness.