A Special Bat Mitzvah

On Saturday night we attended the bat mitzvah of our friend’s daughter. In several ways this Jewish right of passage into adulthood was like many others but then there were layers of subtext.

At a basic level, friends and family gathered at the synagogue to listen to the bat mitzvah girl lead the service, read from the bible and give a speech about her bible portion. After the service there was a party with drinks, hors d’oeurvres, dancing and dinner. Yet in significant ways this was different than many of the others I have experienced.

First, there was THE SMILE. Michelle beamed. Her smile was so wide, so bright, so full of life and joy and it came so naturally. It lit up the room. She radiated confidence and performed gracefully. There was the cantor with the operatic voice. The rabbi with the calming, steady tone. The voice that at the same time spoke with wisdom, truthfulness and a a dash of humor. His remarks about the service added knowledge and his remarks about the family added pathos.

The back story of this family is both tragic and uplifting. Michelle and her older brother lost their mother and my friend lost his wife and soul mate about three and a half years ago after a long illness. Jean was quite a character. She was fun, quite the drinker in her youth (they met at a bar), warm, engaging driven, devoted to her family and tough as nails. Two quick Jean stories. As I was one of the last of my friends to get married and start my own family, I would often show up at events with friends alone. Jean never failed to make me feel like a part of her family. Then there was the time we were playing miniature golf with the kids who could not have been more than 3 at the time. Someone was careless and hit a ball onto our putting green which rolled past her son. Instantly Jean charges off club in hand very loudly giving the errant couple a piece of her mind and ensuring the safety of her children on that course for generations to come.

Jean and my friend complemented each other like few couples you will ever meet. He is one of the nicest, sweetest, and friendliest people in the world. In our early adult years he would have story after story about the person he struck up a conversation with on the bus, street or bar. Organized…not so much. Jean filled in places for him and he for her.

Since the day she died, he has done everything, sacrificed everything for this children and done a phenomenal job. They are both good kids, bright with good friends and just generally doing very well.

Jean’s spirit was there Saturday night. She left a legacy. Two great young people. And oh that SMILE.

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