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Nighttime with Zaidy

Nighttime with Zaidy

Sleep provides no respite from the past.


Dear Zaidy,

I loved you so much. I want you to know I knew your pain. I clearly remember our trip to Miami together. I was eight years old. It was one of the most traumatizing events of my young life. You and Bubby lived so far but we visited as often as possible. You were my role model, my tall, strong and handsome Zaidy who was always buying me hot chocolate and making me giggle.

We went to Miami in December. The first day we went to the beach and had such a good time. Later, we settled into our adjoining hotel rooms. We said goodnight and I recall you methodically closing every closet and drawer. My bed was a few feet away from yours since we kept the doors open, and of course I felt so safe and secure.

I remember waking up slowly in a daze. I heard terrible screams and couldn't understand where they were coming from. My sister looked to me for guidance; she too was frightened and confused. I walked into your room and you were thrashing around and shouting for dear life. You were screaming "Mama" over and over again and saying names I had never heard of. I was too young to give thought as to why you had no parents, no siblings and not a single living relative, but the names you said that night were theirs.

We held each other tight and watched as our beacon of strength was shattered.

Only later did I learn that you had no Mama; she was ripped away from you when you were all of 16. I learnt that you watched your father and younger brother walk into a gas chamber; they emerged as ashes a half hour later. I learnt that your sister died a day before liberation and you told Mommy she was the most beautiful girl. I learnt that you closed the closets methodically because you were so afraid.

After decades of marriage Bubby was so used to this that she slept right through it. We didn't. We held each other tight and watched as our beacon of strength was shattered. Our idea of security gone forever. My first glimpse into the persecution of the nation in which I was the next link in the chain. Your screams finally subsided and we stayed awake until the hot Florida sun rose.

We never said a word; what would we say to you anyway? You never knew I knew your pain.

Years passed.

I was heartbroken when you returned your shattered soul to God. I vowed to find out more about where you came from and what happened to you. I went to Poland but the more I learnt, the less I wanted to know. I couldn't handle thinking of all the family you lost and all they suffered. I couldn't bear the thought of my Zaidy's pain.

More years passed.

My firstborn Moshe is named after you. I want him to continue your namesake, to grow into the warm, caring and loving person you were. He is young now but we already see his special qualities. He brings us so much joy and gives me special comfort.

Sometimes he, too, has nightmares and screams for his Mama. And just like that night, I wake up in a daze. I'm tired from the baby and running after a toddler all day. But I am not frightened or confused. The screams from this Moshe are almost a pleasure. He is a little boy in a clean, warm bed with a full stomach and parents who love him. He can freely be a proud, observant Jew.

Like me, he is part of the continuation. He represents you, the survivor who rebuilt. He symbolizes not only what we lost, but what we still have.

And unlike you, when he calls for his Mama, I am right there.

December 2, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Raizy Herskovitz, December 31, 2006 2:18 AM

Last week my brother named his first son. His name is Simcha Yeshaya. The name is beautiful, but there is something very special about this name.
More than sixty years ago, Simcha Yeshaya's grandfather, was in Auschwitz, wondering if he would survive one more day. One can be sure he was not envisioning children or grandchildren. His daily survival in hell was questionable.
His own parents had been gased to death the day they arrived. His sister was taken away never to be seen or heard from again. His only brother for whom Simcha Yeshaya is named, survived a year in the camps, only to be beaten to death l0 days before liberation.
Shayi (as I will call him, as this is how my father always referred to his brother) complete's a family that was in danger of being wiped out by Hitler (Yemach Shimo).
My father is the only one to have survived this hell. My brother is named for his father. I am named for his mother. Almost two years ago, my little niece was named for his sister and now, Shayi is named for his brother. It took more then 60 years, but there is now a name for every innocent person who died from the immediate family.
Both my niece and nephew have been given the names of these two tzaddikim who died sanctifying H-shem's name. As is the custom an additional name was added to each.
My aunt's name was Mirel. Brocha (blessing was added) My uncle's name was Yeshaya. Simcha (happiness) was added to his name. It is not unusual to add a name to that of one who died young or had a life that was filled with tzar (pain)
It is the custom to name children after those who are no longer alive. Usually, however, there are memories and stories of those who have passed away. Most of us never knew our grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family. They are names of those who gave up their lives for H-shem. They were murdered for no reason other than the plan of a madman to do away with an entire race. We lost the gift of love from all those who died. We lost sitting on their laps and listening to bedtime stories. We lost the funny anecdotes they would have told us about our parents. We lost the chance to meet the people who gave our parents (and therefore us) life. We lost six million innocent mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.
The children and grandchildren being born to the survivors are symbols of hope. Every name given is more than just a name. It is the remembering of those we lost and the hope for the future.
May Simcha Yeshaya, Bracha Mirel and all the beautiful children named for those who perished be blessed to live long lives, filled with simcha, mazel, hatzlocha and brocha. May they grow up to be Talmidei Chachamim and Nishei Chayil and be sources of nachas to those who died and those who live.
May they be the living proof that Hitler and those like him will BH never succeed.

(8) Sally, December 16, 2006 10:49 PM

very touching story

Chanie, even though you only used a few short paragraphs,you spoke volumes. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story.

(7) ralph, December 8, 2006 12:11 PM

May G-d bless you & you'r family!

Thank you for shareing that story,it touched me dearly.

(6) Inna, December 6, 2006 9:21 AM

Chanie, Thank you for this beautiful story. It is not only moving but in only a few short paragraphs your story transmits the reason why we need to continue to remember and convey our past to our children, so that they know how blessed they are in their lives today.

(5) Anonymous, December 4, 2006 9:20 PM


Dear Chanie,
Thank you for sharing your story with us. My father, he should be well, will be 86 this week, and he still has nightmares too. It is a tremendous responsibility to carry on in the name of those who were lost to us , but it is a wonderful one, boistered by the love and examples of those who survived and were able to carry on and create the next generations. May we all be blessed with strength and devotion, and by their love for us.

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