“You have so much nachas ahead,” the rabbi said to me when I went to see him after Eric died. I was reading a lot by then, and death was my constant topic, whether what actually happens when we die (How We Die by Sherwin Nuland) or trying to cope with grief (A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis), which I was learning felt like an unremittingly slow slog through the bottom of the sadness bucket which was turning out to be a really, really big bucket. The rabbi, I assumed, would have an answer to my question of what Jewish writing would be most helpful, or most instructive anyway.
At the time I could hardly understand what the rabbi meant, because looking at the future was too painful, but he was right. (He refered me to the Memorial Service in the siddur for the Days of Awe, which I didn’t find that useful at the time but which I continue to read on Yom Kippur every year). The rabbi was trying to give me a glimpse of all the happy occasions to come in my life, because he knew my children and believed there would be many and there have been — weddings, graduations, jobs, family vacations, the simple pleasure of all being together on the porch on a summer evening telling stories and laughing. Eric not being here to experience all these moments is such a given at this point it’s become a much smaller wave in my mood.
Last Friday night was a nachas moment — Ava being named in the Reform Temple of Forest Hills, where Matt’s parents Carrie and Tim are members. Aharonah Tziporah. Aharonah for Matt’s grandfather, Aaron, Tziporah, which means little bird, because Ava was chirping as she was born and kept up a constant stream of chatter for over an hour as if commenting on all the newness — What? What just happened? What is all this light? And the smells? Noise! And wait! Breath in my lungs?
Ava is still a chatterbox, chirping and cooing and even starting to laugh. Like her big brother Emilio, she’s a joy magnet. Almost nine years ago now my rabbi could look at the blessings in my life and see there were many more to come. Given the perspective of grief, I couldn’t see it, but I hung on to that hope and it helped.
(So what is nachas? Yiddish for joy and pride, especially from children and grandchildren.)