Almost twenty five years ago, I had a conversation with my younger sister I will never forget. I was twenty one, living on my own in a basement apartment.
My little sister Chaya* called me to ask permission to get engaged.
"I don't think you are really in a place to date now anyway," she said, "but I am asking you permission out of respect because you're older than me."
Her question was painful. I had dreams of getting married and having a family of my own, but Chaya was right. I was in no position to be dating. I could barely get out of bed in the morning. My world was in shambles.
A couple of years earlier I had disclosed memories of my father and grandfather sexually abusing me. In my naivety, I expected help and support, but my family and community, including my families rabbi, denied my memories, saying they were untrue and impossible. I was labeled crazy, unstable, an attention seeker, by my family, and even my therapist at the time, ...who happened to be a close friend of my father.
I was indeed crazy. Crazy with grief, loneliness, pain, rage and confusion.
I could not imagine what God wanted from me. I wanted to die if only to find out the truth.
I told Chaya I wanted to die and I was thinking of taking my life.
Her response was,
"Why don't you stop talking about it and just do it already."
It was a cruel thing to say, and I personally can not imagine ever saying such a thing to anyone, but today I harbor no anger or resentment toward Chaya. I understand where she was coming from. She was young, she was in pain as well, perhaps having been a victim herself, and I was a major threat to her world. She was simply voicing the unspoken wish of many in my family that I and my terrible memories disappear.
A few years later I was officially cut off from my family because I did not agree to keep my memories a secret. It was as if I had died. I have not seen or spoken to my siblings, including Chaya in many, many years. I heard that she had many, children...numbering in the teens.
I had been praying for years for contact with someone, anyone, in my family. I had healed tremendously from the trauma of abuse, but the secondary trauma of ongoing rejection and blame was still overwhelming. Feelings of loneliness, of longing for connection with my family were often intense.
A couple of years ago I received a friend request on Facebook from a young man who I didn't recognize. I ignored the request assuming it was a mistake. A few months later, in a friendly mood, I accepted his request along with a couple of other requests from people I didn't know.
I was shocked and thrilled to discover that the young man friending me on Facebook was non other than my sister Chaya's son, Uriel!*
I had met Uriel a couple of times as an infant before I was officially cut off, and had fallen in love with him. Now he was all grown up and reaching out to me! It felt surreal.
Uriel and I began to message, and soon talked on the phone. Uriel, like me, was not in contact with his family. -He has his own story, which is only his to tell-.
A few months later I met my amazing nephew in person. I loved him immediately. Uriel spent time with us, and we slowly got to know each other. We connect deeply, on a soul level.
Uriel is a diamond.
Having him in my life is a miracle.
This past Purim, at the same age of my unforgettable conversation with his mother, at the age of 21 Uriel moved into my house.
A sense of truth and justice, in connecting with, of all people in my family, Chaya's son, filled me with nothing but pure joy. God wants me alive and well to support and love the child of the sibling who thought me better off dead. It reminds me that God is in charge and not my family, and that is cause for celebration.
I don't know how long Uriel will want to stay, and how long I will be zoche to love and nurture him, but I cherish every minute of our time together.
* Not their real names.