While some knew him as Jonah and others as Mac, we all loved and respected him. And we miss him dearly.

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The Place In Between

This entry is not a Jonah-story. It’s from words I wrote for our January 2010 temple newsletter, reflecting on ten months of life-lived-in-ultimate-reorientation since Jonah’s death. With the concert in his memory soon approaching, I’ve been thinking about what it means to remember my kid rather than grow with him.

Billy

 

Jonah Maccabee Dreskin 1990-2009

Jonah Maccabee Dreskin
1990-2009

I’m in it now. A place between the horror of loss, and coming to terms with the never-to-ever-change reality that my son is gone. The hour-to-hour numbness which, as in any state of shock, signals the refusal of the body to accept what’s happening to it and so it shuts down some of its systems, that phase of my grief seems mostly to be gone. There are recurrences, to be sure, but for the most part, the disbelief is over. Ten months later, I have very sadly accepted that Jonah won’t ever be coming back.

Jewish tradition speaks of our moving towards peace, and that while we may not traverse the entire distance, we nevertheless strive to keep moving. I am not at peace. I don’t know if I ever will be. But I am less in turmoil than I’ve been, and I do feel like I’m moving forward, stumbling often but moving nonetheless.

This calming is not necessarily a good feeling. As time increases the distance between me and my son, I fear I’ve begun to forget the sound of Jonah’s voice, of his laughter, the feeling of his hand in mine, of his great big bear-hugs squeezing the breath from my body. He slips further and further away from me and, try as I might, with photographs and videos and the like, I cannot slow his retreat, a new phase in my grief that brings its own kind of pain. So when there is a momentary wave of Jonah’s powerful presence, the nearly inevitable tears are welcomed because they signal his restored closeness to me. That, I believe, is the place in between. I am in it now.

What then does it mean to be establishing a Jonah Maccabee Memorial Concert, the first of which will take place on January 23? My family is so pleased to have a vehicle by which we can sustain Jonah’s memory and do some good in his name (some good, by the way, that we think he would have been very pleased to endorse). Jonah loved music and Jonah loved camp. To bring his two Jewish musical heroes, Dan Nichols and Josh Nelson, to his community as his gift, and to help other kids in his synagogue find the dollars that will clear the way for them to experience the kind of summers that Jonah loved so much, this warms our hearts and softens the edges around the hole that now resides there.

All the same, instead of a concert I wish this month of January would find Jonah and me speaking about his summer plans, about where on campus he’d be living next year, and about what he wants for his 20th birthday present.

Instead, many of you will be joining me and my family at the Jonah Maccabee Concert. Together, we will remember his sweet, beautiful, funny, loving life. We’ll celebrate the music he so enjoyed (he would have had a blast at it). And we’ll make sure that every temple kid who wants to go to a URJ summer camp gets to do so.

Nineteen years is far too short a time for anyone’s life. But it turns out it was plenty of time for Jonah Maccabee Dreskin to have made an important difference – a difference he will continue to make through this concert, through the scholarships it will create, and through the sweet, beautiful, funny, loving memories he leaves to us all.

See you there.

Billy

P.S. We hope you will help us build The Jonah Maccabee Foundation into a self-sustaining project that will keep Jonah Mac’s memory alive for generations to come. Your donation of whatever size you can afford is so appreciated. You may do so online at https://www.jonahmac.org. You can visit us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JonahMaccabeeFoundation. Thank you.

5 Responses to “The Place In Between”

  • Anonymous:

    At times such as this, we can become focused deeply inward, not a bad thing when searching for one's core values, but isolating. I feel great compassion in your tribulations and want to offer the following quotation-
    Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source.
    The author was Leo Tolstoy who later in life became a respected Christian anarchist. It's an interesting, outward looking perspective.
    Hope it helps, Roger Wetherbee

  • Thanks so much, Roger. It's a powerful thought and one that very much speaks to me.

    It's not unlike Rabbi Rami Shapiro's description of life that I used in my entry, “The View from the Valley” (Sep 20, 2009): “You and I are real,worthwhile, and unique. What we are not is eternal, separate, and independent. The relationship between us and that which is responsible for our being here is like that between an ocean and its waves. Each wave is unique and distinct, but no wave is separate from the ocean; without the ocean there would be no wave. You and I, and the myriad details of Creation, are manifestations of the one God; we emerge from the infinite source of everything. But we are not eternal! We are momentary, transient, and relative.”

    Billy

  • Anonymous:

    Amen. Thanks. Roger

  • Josh:

    Hey Bill
    We walk with you, hand in hand, down the road in-between.
    Josh Perlstein

  • Billy,
    While you feel that Jonah is slipping away from you, that is not true. You may not be able to recall the sound of his voice exactly, or the way that his bear hugs feel, but you know that he gave those hugs. You know the feeling of them somewhere, and somewhere you know the sound of his voice. All you need is a little nudge on occasion and you'll remember them. We're all going down this path to peace with you, and hope that one day we'll all be somewhere near peace. Maybe we won't get there, but maybe it will come to us. Wishing you the best.
    Brad

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