May 30, 2024
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May 30, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

This Chanukah feels unusually heavy for me. This time last year was filled with the usual life stress of kids, marriage, work, and juggling it all … the usual juggle. Last year at this time, if I ever found myself in a pinch and needed a last-minute favor of practically any kind, my dad was literally a phone call away. My always “backup plan.” My almost-always available “phone-a-friend.” My unrecognized, most dependable person for what felt like only the past few years. However, when I truly think back, which can be hard when deep in the years of child-rearing, my dad has been my most dependable person for the last three decades. I just wasn’t able to see it until now.

The way he chauffeured me back and forth to friends’ houses in Westchester so I wouldn’t feel like I was a “long-distance” classmate living all the way in Connecticut. The way he came to as many of my basketball and softball games as was logistically possible when he worked what seemed to be more than full time as a mechanical engineer. He even made it to some softball practices if I recall correctly, although Coach Seth can attest to that, or if it’s my imagination. Either way, it goes to show that my mind and heart felt his presence so much when he was there, that it made up for the times he wasn’t, tenfold. I knew then, and still know to this day, that if it were up to him, he wouldn’t have missed even one game if he didn’t have to.

The fact that he knew the words to numerous Backstreet Boys songs shows me how loved I was, because not only did he let me control what music we listened to in the car, he also embraced it. He didn’t even get upset or too annoyed when I’d sing at the top of my lungs … unlike some other passengers.

The acceptance and willingness he showed when I began wanting to get to shul on time on Shabbos morning, differing from our years-long tradition of having a nice breakfast of challah and cream cheese, maybe some Froot Loops, and a once-over of the comics and sports game roundups. He allowed me to wake him earlier than he was used to, on one of the only mornings he didn’t have to rush out to work, so we could walk together and be present in shul together. He would sometimes be asked to lead Shacharit since his new punctual arrival time allowed for it, and he proudly accepted the honor. I can still hear him singing “Shochen ad marom vikadosh Shemo…”

Pesach Seders will never be the same. From our “Yoch-lu-hu!,” “ha-ha-ha” and “ho-ho-ho” cowboy hats and more. Somehow I managed to get my dad to laugh each time during the last few songs of “Li-lah” and “Pesach” at the end of the first and second nights, respectively. I had expected that over the years, my kibbitzing would lose its fervor; however, my dad seemed to laugh harder each year as I repeatedly shouted out “Lilah” and “Pesach” solely to frazzle him. He always managed to get through it even through his laughter, while making me feel like the comedian of the century. The same routine would occur with “ki leolam chasdo,” found earlier in the Seder. Looking forward to Seders without him seems out of reach, but knowing we are carrying on his customs and traditions makes it bearable.

How could I not have recognized the depth of his love for me then? Maybe because I took it for granted as a kid, as many people do until it’s gone. It is still a shock to my system to walk into Young Israel on a Shabbos morning, and not see my dad there. When I was there most recently, I had to hold myself back from saying to my kids, “Did you go and say ‘Good Shabbos’ to Grandpa?” A building that used to feel like a piece of home whenever I would enter now feels like a wake-up call in which my heart is being squeezed. I don’t know when or if that feeling will ever change.

This time last year, we had a Thanksgiving meal with our parents; we lit Chanukah candles, ate latkes, and played dreidel—like any usual year. We had no idea it would be our last time doing that with Grandpa. If we had known, I’m honestly not sure we would have done anything differently; it would have just felt different on the inside. This Chanukah is the first Chanukah without Grandpa. This January when my daughter, Ariella, God willing, turns 9, it will be her first birthday without Grandpa celebrating with us. It was at her birthday dinner last year that Grandpa mentioned he wasn’t feeling well. The knee-jerk reaction was to hand him an at-home COVID test. Exactly one week later, we brought my dad to the hospital for what we never would have thought would be the beginning of the end of his life.

This Chanukah and my daughter’s birthday soon after are the last of the “First (insert any holiday/special occasion here) without Grandpa.” It’s another difficult chapter to close, but all these special memories and positive thoughts and experiences have given me the strength and support to get me through each day and what will continue to be with me henceforth. Although my halachic mourning period is coming to an end, my personal mourning does not end here. Helen Keller once said, “What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us.”

The first yahrzeit for Bennet Kfare, Ben-Tzion Yisrael ben Yehuda Leib a”h, is on 17 Shevat, 5783, Tuesday evening February 7th through Wednesday, February 8, 2023.

Important Note: The woman behind the “most dependable person” must be recognized. My mom, Sherry Kfare, aka: Savta Sherry, has been and always is there for all four of us and our families. She is the rock behind my dad having given him the ability to provide me with all the above experiences. Dan, Kimmie, Zach, and I are forever grateful to you Mom, and we love you very much. We are here for you as you have been for us the last 36+ years. It must be mentioned that our parents would be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this year on December 19th.


Jessica Kfare Niedober lives in Stamford with her husband, Eliaz, and her four children.

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