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To Our Missing Piece on his Second (Hebrew) Birthday

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

Yesterday our 5-year-old twins put up glow-in-the-dark stars in their room, and Bob encouraged them to make "constellations." My ever-sensitive girl put up a constellation she called "Our Family" -

D points proudly to the constellation she's designed. "Look, Ima!" she exclaims, addressing me with the Hebrew word for "mommy." "Two big stars for you and Abba [daddy], two medium stars for me and J [twins], and two tiny stars for our two babies, Ronen and N!"

Today, the 20th of Av, would have been Ronen's second Hebrew birthday. Our newest infant is 21 days old today.

More than a few times over the past three weeks, well-intentioned people have asked us, "Are you adjusting OK to being a family of five?" and I always pause. In the hospital, while awaiting the arrival of our newest, the most common small-talk question is, "How many children do you have at home?" ... and who could have known that that question, repeated over and over while sitting in labor & delivery would contribute to a cycle of retraumatization that surrounded this new infant's arrival? (We are blessed that she is--thank God--healthy, calm, and medically boring.)

It is true that I look around my home and find that there are five of us moving around in it. That day-to-day, there are three children in my care, whom I need to (with my spouse) feed, clothe, bathe. It is also true that I have given birth to four children. While the third is just a shadow I see flitting around in the corners, a resemblance I recognize in our fourth child's sweet face, a spirit playing among the children I know would have been his classmates, he certainly takes up the mental space of a full child, more some days, less others.

On what would have been his second Hebrew birthday, and as I remember vividly where I was as the sun began to set, close to his 8:07 PM arrival at this time two years ago, I hope Ronen knows that he is still part of our family. I hope he knows that even when I think of him silently his twin older siblings are the strongest defenders of his memory. I don't know what the twins will ultimately remember about this child who died when they were three, or what his younger sibling will know about her absent big brother, but Ronen is still very much a part of our family. And now we have a constellation to prove it.

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