There are a few experiences in life – that you just get to have once. For better or for worse. They are the kinds of experiences that make you say, “Woah, is this happening to me?” The ones that can make you feel drunk on life. The major ones are “Lifecycle Events”. Births, Marriage, and Death.
For me, those times were the following – when my father died, when I got married, and the birth of my two children. Like I wrote earlier – for better or for worse. These aren’t always good experiences or “fun” times – but they are the times that have made me take a step back and appreciate life to it’s fullest.
I remember sitting in the car on the way home from my dad’s funeral, when I was 17 years old, and practically having an out of body experience. Maybe grief does that to a person? I remember almost looking down at myself, with my face pressed against the window and realizing, “I am on the way home from my father’s funeral. Life is going on around me, people are going to work and they have no idea. They have no clue. I am sitting in a car on the way back from watching my father be buried. This is happening to me.” It didn’t make any sense. Stuff like this happened to other people, in books, or on TV. Not to me. It wasn’t supposed to happen to me. But this is LIFE. For better or worse.
Let’s move on to happier times. Ahh….my wedding. I can see myself watching Shauli being danced toward me at the Bedekin. I can feel the love and happiness just filling me up. I can see us later, amidst the dancing, the people, the smiles. And I remember at the time, taking a step back and telling myself, “Natalie, don’t forget this. Take a snapshot in your mind and try to remember this feeling forever. This is happening to you.”
Feel it, remember it, embrace it. Live it.
After 36 hours of labor with Jonah, they finally wheeled me into the operating room and delivered him via c-section. That was another time where I felt I should pinch myself. Was this really happening to me? Did I just give birth to that gorgeous baby? Am I the one in horrific pain after major abdominal surgery? And now – a Mom? Me and Shu – parents?? Being wheeled out of the hospital, holding my 7lb 6oz newborn, I saw myself through other people’s eyes. The new mom……it was exciting. And scary. And awesome.
Sammy was an easier delivery –by far. Lack of labor does that. There I was, being rolled into surgery, cut open, “It’s a Boy!”, and back to recovery. This time I was able to hold my little baby in the recovery room. Mother of 2 boys. Even with the fog of pain meds, I never want to forget how I felt. That feeling – being alive. And loving it. Experiencing it. Appreciating it.
Those were my Lifecycle events. A death, marriage, 2 births. 4 major events. All different. All powerful.
I was privileged to add a Bonus Event to my Lifecycle this week, to my chain of events. I added Aliyah – I elevated my life, my family’s life, as we moved up to Israel.
I was not prepared for this experience. Even though I have been working for it and wanting it for 11 years. The week or so leading up to our departure, people kept asking, are you excited? Every other time I’ve gone to Israel, the adrenaline starts kicking up about that time. I get on the plane and my heart is pounding. This time, it wasn’t like that. I was just Ready. Emotionally. It was Time.
I expected the sad and tearful goodbyes. For the past 6 months or so, when I even thought of saying goodbye, I got choked up. I expected tears as we took off, but they didn’t come. I expected more tears as we landed – but there were just a few. Happy tears. Happy and thankful to be coming home for good.
And I was right, goodbyes were rough. And as we landed in Israel, I did get teary-eyed. I looked across the plane at My Shauli (we were each sitting with a kid at opposite window seats) and I longed to be able to hold his hand – as we landed in our new home. Our new country. And I fell in love all over again because he made this possible. He helped me realize my dream.
We landed, we clapped, we cheered. I cried – but just a little. We got off the plane and headed down the steps, waited for the bus and sped away to the terminal. As I looked out the window and saw the palm trees, I remembered my first view of the land. The palm trees, and the feeling of that blast of hot air. And my heart was overflowing. With love for Shu, Jonah, Sammy, and for coming home. FInally. My eyes started overflowing too at that point... The director of Nefesh B Nefesh, or the Rabbi who started it, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, was on our bus with us. And he saw me crying. He told me, "Don't do that, now you are going to get me started all over again!" It's cool that he still gets emotional with each new landing. I pulled myself together and we pulled up to the terminal. And no matter how many live or taped landings I had seen – no way was I prepared for what came next. For how I felt.
The shuttle doors opened and all of a sudden, there was Israeli music blasting. “Havaynu Shalom Aleichem, Havaynu Shalom Aleichem…..” Music blasting, people cheering, everyone waving and smiling. Cameras here, there, everywhere. Everyone welcoming us Home.
I gasped and the tears started flowing. There are no words that can begin to describe how I felt at that moment. No way to capture it. And I just stood there for a second, taking it all in. A random army lady saw me, she looked overjoyed to see me and told me, Welcome home. She gave me a little Israel flag and a hug, holding me tight. There were tons of cameras and video cameras in my face. Taking pictures of the boys in the stroller, Jonah almost asleep. :) We walked along, through the aisle created by the masses of people and all I could see were smiles and tears of joy. I’m the one who came home – yet I can see the excitement in their eyes! I stopped, I covered my eyes, I was sobbing. This is my dream come true. Better even because I’m here with my incredible husband and 2 (and a ½) amazing children. We are home.
Well, if I was that emotional seeing strangers, you can only imagine how I felt when I saw the Zacks crew there to greet us! I saw Nava first and I just started yelling and waving wildly, “It’s Nava, it’s Nava! Shu, do you see her?” Then I saw Naphtali, Daniel, Aviva, Shevy – and I couldn’t get there fast enough!! I couldn’t get past the crowd but I just wanted to get over to them – to hug them. To thank them for paving the way for us! As soon as I got there, I wanted to hug everyone, I held onto Aviva for dear life. The crowd controller was trying to move us along, telling us we were holding up the line. Then Shlomo appeared and I followed him to get inside. Our friend Inbar for Sheirut Leumi in Detroit is there and I hug her – the crying starts again.
At that point, I’m about to faint. It’s almost too much to handle. Physical and emotional overload. Someone hands me a bottle of much needed cold water. Of course, then I notice my head scarf is practically off- woops and so I slip on the handy Nefesh b’ Nefesh hat they gave out. Now I know what those are for. Golda and Sarra arrive and more hugs, I don’t want to let go. Then Arye is there and Simmy and we are surrounded.
Avi Z. and the Ariel gang is there to meet us and I’m so grateful. I can’t wait to move there! We picked a good spot. We take a huge group picture. Go Zacks!
And on that note, since it’s almost 2:30 am and I’m running out of scrap paper to write on, I’ll bid you adieu. Or Shalom. Lehitraot. And for those in America, come soon! There is always room. J