“It’s your miracle child!” I hadn’t heard anyone refer to our youngest son that way for a decade or more. But several people did so this past Shabbat, as this youngest son of ours “leined” and shared a Dvar Torah, in celebration of his Bar Mitzvah. Until these friends invoked the “miracle child” phrase, I honestly hadn’t thought about it at all. But quickly, it all came cascading back.
Twenty years ago, about a year after giving birth to our second child, my wife developed breast cancer. Many months of radiation and chemo followed. And then a little bit of anxious quiet. And then cancer again, and surgery and chemo again, a mere 3 years later.
As could be expected, her life, and our life, her plans, and our plans, were deeply affected. The only really important plans now were the plans to get cured, and to not allow fear to overshadow and paralyze our lives and family. Not easy things.
And then, a couple of years later, the “miracle child” came. We named him Yakir Simcha – precious joy – both because this name alluded to a verse from the soon-to-be-read Megillat Esther, and because, well, under the circumstance, this is what he was. In public we didn’t focus at all on Yakir’s place in our story of illness and recovery, and I don’t think that he is himself even conscious of it. But the quiet impact of his birth upon his parents was, as could be expected, quite profound.
And yet, I think it was only this past Shabbat that I realized just how profound. Specifically, at the moment when others lovingly invoked the “miracle child” memory, and it struck me that I had not thought about this at all. I had not thought of it because his birth had transformed us – in one incredibly important way – from being a “cancer family” to being a more regular family – a family that in time stops thinking about the fact that it has a “miracle child”. Yakir had, completely unwittingly of course, erased one of our deep scars, and this ultimately, was the true nature of the miracle.
As I write these words, I am thankful to God all over again, for the healing that He bestowed upon us. And I am also recognizing and reflecting upon the fact that there are many people who have scars that are never erased. That many people suffer traumas from which there is no real recovery. The normalcy they eventually achieve is forever a compromised normalcy, impacted permanently by their illness or loss or misfortune. And it’s often hard for even their close friends to remember, and to realize.
I know I need to work harder on this. I hope I now can.