Seated at the majestic Seder table surrounded by my children and grandchildren, my heart was full. All of the guests were gathered around the royal tish, harmoniously chanting the Haggadah with a heavenly purpose. Progressing into the depths of the narrative, we were about to say the three sacred words without which our observance would be incomplete, when my husband paused to make sure that all of the kids, regardless of age, repeated them after him. My daughter was chasing her little brother down the hall, and I could hear them rehearsing loudly: “Pesach, matzah, maror.” At that moment my mind embarked on a trip down memory lane and got trapped in the foggy recollections of yesteryear.
That year, the Seder nacht fell out just a week after we celebrated our only son’s bar mitzvah. It was a splendid yet very emotional affair due to the debilitated condition of my daughter, who was critically ill. Baruch Hashem, she was able to join in the festivities and looked very beautiful, but she was seated throughout the night due to the paralysis of her entire right side. We strove to keep it a real simchah and our focus was solely on making the bar mitzvah boy thrilled upon reaching this milestone. Nice try. But we also faced the tremendous challenge of making our daughter happy in her very sorry state. We invited her special friends to be part of our simchah to light up her night as well as to attend to her needs.
At one point, while trying to seat some guests, I noticed that my grandmother, the matriarch of the family, was asking where my daughter was and why she hadn’t welcomed her and wished her mazel tov. I immediately became extremely tense. My elderly grandmother, a survivor of the Holocaust, was deliberately being spared the horror of her great-grandchild’s situation. Those who were aware of the gravity of her condition tried to dissuade her from trying to find her, but she was adamant. She’d always gotten her way and wasn’t about to stop now. She managed to locate my daughter, and I watched from afar as she slowly inched closer. Would she realize that there was something badly amiss? With her keen eyes, it was almost impossible for her not to pick up on it. With a sense of dread I waited to see what would happen. But with her usual smile Bubby only extended her hand to wish her mazel tov. My daughter, wishing to reciprocate, ever so slowly picked up her left hand, but her great-grandmother corrected her in all innocence and said, “Di rechte hant.”