The Cycle of Life Keeps Spinning: My Niece’s Bat Mitzvah

I didn’t tear up this much when I was younger.

As my niece ascended the bimah last night for her bat mitzvah, the tears threatened to come. When she spoke about my sister’s triumphant fight against cancer six years ago, the tears welled up. When my father said the motzi over the challah like his father/my grandfather did 30 years ago this year at my bat mitzvah, the tears threatened again.

At one point, I had to leave the incredibly gorgeous party that my sister worked so hard to create to gather myself and let the tears spill a little, as I thought about how dear everyone in my family is to me, and how time flies way too quickly. People age. Some are gone. And the clock just keeps spinning on.

This weekend was my niece’s beautiful coming-of-age ceremony in the Jewish tradition, a bat mitzvah. She read from the Torah, the book of our faith, in flawless Hebrew chanting, and stood with poise behind the lectern. She spoke with confidence as she gave her speech, tying together the timeless chapter of Bereishit, the beginning of the entire Judeo-Christian tradition, with her life today, and what it means to become an adult in the Jewish world.

That’s a pretty mature thing to do, find meaning in ancient text that applies to today.

And then we partied. We danced and sang and laughed and loved. We ate and talked and hugged and carried tired children to our cars in the black night and fell into our beds, not yet ready to sleep.

It’s a funny thing, the moments we choose to make a big deal out of and celebrate. It’s important that we don’t forget what the meaning is behind the madness, but really I’m not sure it needs to be front and center, as long as we focus on being with the people we so rarely get to see and spend time with, and remember why we love each other.

Family is a mixed bag of course. We don’t get to choose the people we are related to, but we are brought together cosmically and genetically, I believe, for a reason. We are mirrors for each other, and gifts.

My cousins especially have been by my side through so many life stages. They live their lives in different cities and with different priorities, but at the end of the day, I know I could turn to them, and they know I would do anything in return.

Love is a deep well not often understood entirely but waded into without a thought. This weekend has been a headlong truck race of intensity, and at the end of it all, I agreed to gather one more time for dinner, just to be together.

For better and for worse, we build a variety of communities in this life. Our conversations steer us toward futures we could not have anticipated.

I think of life as a quilt of relationships – some for a quick immersion, some lifelong, some just in passing that you almost miss them entirely.

The family ones, we share connections and blood, beloved long-gone relatives whose stories live in us, memories and meanderings.

I was so proud seeing my niece up there in synagogue, reciting as we all recited, celebrating as we did so many years ago. Thirty years between mine, the first of my generation of cousins, and Hannah’s, the first of this new generation, our children, our future. The meaning is even deeper than any of us realize.

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