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"God Decides"

After Ronen died in 2019 and the pandemic shut everything down in early 2020, I started planting. I planted cucumbers, pumpkins, carrots, tomatoes, and we even had a "volunteer" butternut squash plant that thrived out of an old compost pile.


Every seed that grew into a plant felt like a miracle. Every flower that blossomed, every fruit that swelled, every thing that made it to our table was its own miracle. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught from the Midrash that every blade of grass has an angel encouraging it to grow. Every time one of my plants reached a new stage of development, I felt that it alone was supported by some being.


I started a tray of 18 cucumber seedlings during Pesach (Passover), just last week. Of the 18 seed pods I planted, each with two cucumber seeds, some produced twins; some produced singles, and one never bloomed at all.

Based on my planting "experiment," I'd conclude that there's a 5% chance a seed won't germinate.


The chance of a child having a congenital diaphragmatic hernia is 1 in 2500 or so, .04%. And still, despite it being more common than the well-known condition called cystic fibrosis (.03%), so little is known about why it happens, who it happens to, and how to fix it. At the level of severity of Ronen's catastrophic diaphragmatic hernia, he really never had more than a 10% chance of survival. (I understand that now from my own research, but I wish the doctors has told us that when he was alive.)


As I opened my impromptu egg-carton greenhouse this morning, my eye was drawn to this empty peat pod. I stared at it for several minutes wondering why it didn't sprout, where all of the plants around it seemed to be thriving.


When I was pregnant with Ronen, our twins started asking whether it would be a boy or a girl. We didn't know, and didn't ask, though I suspected it would be a boy. "We can't tell you, D & J. We don't know." And we'd ask them, rehearsed regularly, "Who decides that?" and they'd respond, "God decides."


The guilt of a bereaved mother who loses a child in infancy is so great.

"Did I bring this on my child?"

"Was it something I ate/did/said/didn't do in pregnancy?"

"What if I had asked different questions?"

"What if I had made another choice with his care?"

... The list is endless.


And yet, of 18 seed pairs planted in peat pods, all given the same amount of sunlight, the same environment, the same regular watering and nutrients, 17 grow, and one does not.


"Who decides?"

"God decides."

"What if...?"

"No, even so. God decides."


Ronen would have been three-and-a-half by now. I still think of him every day. I wonder who he would have been to his baby sister and as a little brother to his twin siblings. I wonder who he would have been to Bob and to me. I watch the children who would have been his classmates, and feel astounded by how much they've grown.


I remind myself over and over again.


Even with every choice you made, even with everything you did, you did everything you could. God decides. God gives and God takes away; blessed be the Name of the Holy One.


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