At Passover Seders around the world, the question, "Why is this night different from all other nights?" is asked. The answer frames the Seder service by providing the meaning of the holiday. This year, however, the Seder night was different because my father is no longer here.
It has been six months since my father died. Working in a field that deals with grief and loss, I am no stranger to the stages of grief. I understand the importance of allowing oneself time to heal.
Since this is my first experience with the loss of a parent -- one that provided only three months from devastating diagnosis to a funeral -- there was little time to contemplate how to say goodbye. Instead I found myself wrapped in lightning-speed trips to and from my parents' home in Florida, to and from doctor appointments, to and from Internet sites about pancreatic cancer.
None of us would have ever guessed he would leave us so quickly. Those unfair life expectancy timelines gave us glimpses of hope for another six to 12 months. Perhaps another Passover Seder?
Despite the rapidness of the disease's progression, those three months provided quality moments. One of my final memories was on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, where my parents would have otherwise been in synagogue, the three of us sat in their living room on the large comfortable sofa and read. Once in awhile we broke the silence and spoke about the books we were reading and even had a conversation about being angry at cancer. It was a calm day. It was a promising day.
My father taught me the importance of family and shared his passion for writing.
My father wrote often. I remember as a child how he would write a few lines every evening in small, bound diaries. He wrote in Hebrew, his first language, so to me these became sacred books. He spontaneously typed poems on the now obsolete typewriter. In his retirement he wrote several books, one describing his teenage years living in the Middle East and participating in the establishment of the State of Israel.
My father loved whatever I wrote. More importantly, he read everything I wrote. Even as an adult, if I wrote an article or story that appeared in a newsletter generated by my workplace, for example, he would read it and it would go like this: He would tell me he read it. He would tell me he picked up on the message I was trying to get across. He would point out the parts he thought were particularly striking. He would compliment the piece. He would quietly read it again. Then he would file it someplace to be kept forever after. I will miss this more than anyone can know.
So, I write this in tribute of my father, Rabbi Joseph A. Poisson, and thank him for all he gave to me, to our family and to the countless students he touched along the way.
For 45 Passover Seders, I heard my father's voice. He was the leader, the storyteller reading and chanting the Hebrew words, translating the story to his ever-growing Seder table guests.
"Why is this night different from all other nights?" Because this night we honored my father by continuing in the tradition he passed down to us. We read the Hebrew words and translated them to our children.
Michele Fried, the proud daughter of Joseph Poisson, is the founder and CEO of Adoption STAR.