| LifeTakes |

The Sweetest Pain

For all my logical assurances that this pain has no place in my life, the ache persists


I want to say it doesn’t hurt.

That I’m bigger than that. I feel like a spoiled little girl crying for more ice cream while she’s still holding the melting drippy point of her cone.

I watch young mothers with flowing maternity tops walking down the street pushing double strollers, and a voice deep inside me cries out, “I want that, too!” only to be followed moments later with the admonition, “You had your turn. What right do you have to complain?”

But it doesn’t help.

I pass baby stores and my eyes are drawn to all the carriages and tiny outfits in the window display, and I drool like a beggar in front of a bakery.

I’ve yet to break my decades-long habit of perusing the ad circulars for diaper or baby clothing sales. I feel a rush of excitement when I see one, followed by a stab of disappointment as I realize I no longer need any of that.

I have no right to hurt like this, I tell myself, no right at all! Hashem has blessed me — again and again and again. Katanti mikol hachassadim. I’ve been blessed more than many, many people have been blessed. And He continues to shower me with His blessings. I have everything I need and a good deal of what I want. How dare I feel this twisting, gripping pain inside when my life is full to bursting with His benevolence!

But for all my self-remonstrance, for all my logical assurances that this pain has no place in my life, the ache persists.

Unbidden, a memory flits into my mind; me sobbing on my bed after high-school graduation. I was flipping through my yearbook. Fat tears rolled down my cheeks, and I carefully made sure they didn’t land on the book and mar all those shiny pages. Was high-school really over? Were all those years and memories really behind me? I would keep in touch with some friends, lose touch with others, but it would never be the same.

I had so much to look forward to. My whole life ahead of me. I was so happy, but I was also so sad. I wasn’t crying because I felt like I’d been shortchanged in any way. I was crying because it had been so good.

Four years of fun and friendships, in the cocoon of safety that high-school provides before entering the big wide world, were now behind me. I had a right to feel the sadness, I realize now. It was a sweet sadness. You can only cry that something’s over if it was worth having to begin with.

My stroller collects dust on the porch, servicing an occasional grocery order. Most of my other baby paraphernalia has been passed on to those who can make use of it. Little hands grow bigger, baruch Hashem, and the only babies in my house reside in photo albums. My children get older, and I lick the nachas off my fingers, even when they aren’t doing exactly what I’d love.

I’m not whitewashing the memories. I still have young children. I still get woken for fevers and nightmares. My little ones know how to fight with as much fervor as their older siblings once did. And bedtime is still the mountain I have to scale at the end of the day. The ice cream cone isn’t finished yet, but I know I’m left holding just the pointy tip.

Life is full of ice cream. It’s the sweetness that leaves us wanting more when it’s finished, and I’m reminded of the corny expression we scribbled in each other’s yearbooks: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

I’m going to do both. I’m going to smile, savoring the sweet (and bittersweet) memories melting on my tongue.

And I’m going to feel the pain; the very real ache that starts in my heart and spreads out to all my limbs — because it’s the sweetest pain.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 749)

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