by Fraida Blau

The sun smiled its rays one Friday afternoon, as everyone in Camp ______ of Connecticut was finishing their last minute Shabbos preparations. I waited anxiously for my turn to use the camp phone and wish my family a good Shabbos. I smiled excitedly as I dialed the familiar number and waited for someone to answer the ringing phone. Little did I know that my smile would vanish as quickly as it came. Just like the sun, as it disappeared behind a threatening cloud.

At last, the ringing stopped and the phone was answered by my older sister. I gave my sister a bracha in honor of my birthday which would be that Shabbos, and asked to speak to my mother. There was a moment’s hesitation and whispering voices in the background. Finally, my sister told me that my mother wasn’t home. When I asked why my mother wasn’t home on a Friday afternoon, three hours before Shabbos, she took a deep breath and told me three words. The three words that changed so much in my life. The three words that caused endless tears and pain. The three words that meant that my grandfather’s neshama had gone back to Hashem. Zeidy passed away.

Shabbos passed in a haze. The day that I would have been celebrating my thirteenth birthday, was instead spent wiping away tears and drinking away the pain. With a choked voice and a tear streaked face, I whispered the words of Tehillim in Zeidy’s memory. I didn’t tell anyone about my grandfather’s passing, and was forced to cope all alone, without any supporting figure to help me. At loss for what to do with a weeping camper, my counselors shrugged their shoulders. “She’ll get over it,” I overheard one counselor telling the other. But try as they might, they were unable to sooth my aching heart.

After Shabbos, my brother came all the way to Connecticut from New York to bring me home for the funeral. At this point I was in denial. I was sure that at any moment I would wake up from this terrible nightmare. Zeidy would laugh at me and tell me I had a wild imagination. But that didn’t happen. Instead, on Sunday we got into the car and drove to the funeral home. Seeing my mother’s and grandmother’s faces brought a fresh stream of tears. I thought it would never end, and truthfully, I didn’t think it should. “A person should never be forgotten,” I thought, and I was going to make sure that never happened.

The week of shiva passed uneventfully. I thought about my grandfather and all that I’d learned from him. I wondered what he was doing, up in heaven, and suddenly it dawned on me. Hashem decides what happens in our world, and that is beyond our control. How we react, however, is in our hands. I realized that my grandfather is in a better place now, but seeing his family broken is what’s stopping him from being happy. Through me being a happy person, and moving on with my life, my grandfather will truly rest in peace in the World of Truth.

The journey of life has many obstacles. Life throws us challenges all the time. When we focus on the bad and negative, we are letting ourselves drown in the raging sea of life. Instead, take advantage of it. Take something seemingly negative, and transform it into something good and meaningful. As the saying goes, “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade.”