For the last three years, we have come to Florida for Succoth. I enjoy my alone time on the beach just thinking. In New York, my life is so crazy and I feel as though I have monkey chatter running through my head at all times. Of course, there’s nothing like a three-day yom tov when you are NOT entertaining to think and reflect.
In 2008, my walks on the beach helped me get perspective. Caily was born in February and while we were not sad, we were certainly overwhelmed by the enormity of her situation and the logistics, doctor’s appointments, getting the “all clear” on so many big medical issues and just the planning and coordinating her early intervention. Not to mention managing our families who were devastated. We were the strong ones and they were in emotional turmoil.
My 2009 reflections included great gratitude for how well she was doing. I also knew that then we were in the easy stage, with all her services provided for by the New York State early intervention system, and I knew the big challenges like getting her into school were coming.
The last year was certainly busy fighting at the Jewish Day School that denied Caily an interview, realizing that I need to advocate for my child and educate a community. So we started www.facebook.com/cailysworld, and we ran a community forum and attracted great media attention. Most importantly, I can see the gains Caily has made. All moms love their children fiercely and moms of special needs kids refocus their world and love their kids with intensity. My darling Caily pulls at my heart strings –yes, she is incredibly cute and social but I also appreciate the things that she has brought to my life that I may have walked past or taken for granted or simply never expected.
These are the things that you have brought to my world:
• We live in such a polarized high socio-economic world and we have very little opportunity to show true compassion. Yes, our wealthy community is known for the big checks it writes but that’s different from opening your home or opening your heart. Caily, you have made me sensitive to what compassion means. This gives our lives a richness. In the same way that darkness lets you appreciate light, feeling real compassion allows us to appreciate our world more intensely.
• When I was younger I wanted success, I wanted to be very rich and very successful and I was hoping to be on the front page of Business Week or Fortune. Caily, watching you struggle to achieve each milestone has made me see success with different eyes. It’s your smile and good nature, regardless of the challenges you encounter.
• Caily, you have taught me why it states in the Torah that G-d created “Ha Adam” (“the man”). It does not say man but “the man” so we can learn that each of us is here for a reason. When we battled the school, I spoke with so many leaders and rabbis who all said terrible, terrible, bad, sad. But no-one was going to really do anything and stand up for the injustice. I looked in your eyes and I realized that if I want to change the world I would have to lead that change. You have inspired me to see a big vision and you give me the strength and courage to take a stand and fight for change.
• There were things that would stress me, get my blood boiling. Now very little raises my pulse and you have shown me what is really important.
• We have also learned who really counts in our lives. After you were born, we received so many gifts. Many expensive gifts were dropped off at the doorman. Gavin and I called them guilt offerings as our friends came to visit and looked us in the eye. There were people who scattered when they saw us at a bar-mitzvah or people who squirmed in our presence. We identified our friends by those who were beside us, sharing in our joys and struggles. You helped me gain an insight into our families, too. They were in pain when they heard the news but they have grown to love, accept and adore you. You have helped a whole extended family grow and be a better family.
• Caily, we live in the world of designer perfect. Kids are teased for wearing the wrong sneakers or a T-shirt without a brand name. Pity the kid that is not smart or those that are fat or ugly. You were born and I could only think of the challenges for you in this world. I was also concerned that Meron and Temira would find it hard to have a sister less than designer perfect. Yet when I stare at you and see your cute toes, or I tickle you and you giggle or when you share one of your wet kisses, I know that you are designer perfect. Designed just perfectly for the Samuels family!
Metroimmas, tell us how you realized what’s important in your life. Did it take a life-changing moment or a dramatic event for you to recognize the value of life or the true meaning of success? Share your experiences here so others can benefit.
Originally published: September 28, 2010