> Family > Heart of Matter

Letting Go of My Boys

September 4, 2019 | by Risa Rotman

Two different boys, two different journeys.

During the summer vacation I came face to face to the mortality of my motherhood, as I have known it to be over the past 30 years. My ‘baby’ is growing up.

I had it all mapped out. All my older kids would be away for a few nights with their camps and I'd be alone with my youngest, an 8-year-old son. He'd be at camp till 2:30 and then we could go on a jaunt just by ourselves and spend some special time together. The aquarium was his choice destination.

In the end, my son had water time but it didn't include fish and it didn't include me. It turned out that his camp was having a special outing to a water park that day and he would be arriving home at 9 pm. Little boy was geared up for his outing with no thoughts of leaving his Mommy all alone for the day. I helped him pack up, making sure he had ample food, snacks, drink and swim gear.

I wondered how I would like to spend an entire day without any kids in my circumference. And I wondered about my future. Was my mothering career of 30 years winding down? Would I no longer be needed as the main care provider after all these years? Did my littlest child really have to grow up and assert his independence? Of course he did. I just wasn’t sure if I was ready even though he was.

These meanderings in my mind led me to another precious little boy in my life, who has gone on his everlasting journey. In his case, he wasn’t such a little boy but it is a far longer journey. Fourteen years ago, my oldest son, almost 18 years old, was learning in a yeshiva not far from our home. The blazing summer studies were coming to its final days of in the yeshiva. A fire had broken out in the nearby forest and my son uncharacteristically decided to ride his bike over to see where the smoke was coming from.

A search party was sent out and within a few short hours his body was found in the dark of night on the terraced forest floor.

I was completely unaware of his exploration and went about my day like any other Wednesday. At 5:30 pm a man called to inform me that he had found a bike in the forest with our phone number on it. It was not an uncommon occurrence for bikes to be stolen and then ditched in the forest. I thought it was no more than a big nuisance. I had to check which bike was missing; with a gaggle of boys, we were the owners of a small collection of bikes.

My son

I called to tell my husband that we would have a headache retrieving the bike. My husband tried calling the yeshiva to inform our son that his bike was stolen. Within the next hour or so, we learned that he had left yeshiva on his bike, and when he hadn’t returned, the boys thought he had ridden home. A search party was sent out and within a few short hours his body was found in the dark of night on the terraced forest floor. Forensic evidence found that he had fallen from one of the cliffs of the mountainous Jerusalem forest.

This little boy also went on a journey. His soul came down and joined us for a mere 17 years and 9 months. He was kind and loving, shy and smart, curious and deep. He remains in my heart for always, but just as I can’t control my youngest son from journeying from babyhood to boyhood and beyond, I couldn’t have stopped my oldest son from moving on with his own journey. Now his journey would take him to the place the soul flourishes without the impediment of a body.

I know it is considered acceptable and even fitting in a time of bereavement to feel anger, but I never did. I was certainly sad. I cried every day for the entire year after his passing. Till today, the thought flitters through my mind what kind of an adult he could have grown to be. But anger, in all these 14 years, I have never felt. I would rather think of the gift of having my son in my life for those 17 years than focusing on his loss.

As my littlest boy grows and gains his independence, I hope and pray that I will witness his progression to teenager, adult, fatherhood and beyond. I am sure there will be bumps along the way and my involvement (read interference) will not always be wanted. It's a lesson of letting go. I learned this lesson over a decade ago when I realized that I was given the Celestial message that I would need to relinquish control while cherishing the memories of my oldest son.

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