A Young Life Passes, and a Ritual of Birth Begins
By MARK S. LITWIN, M.D.
Published: January 24, 2011
“My hands trembled as I grasped the tiny sleeve of skin with my forceps and separated it from his pale, still penis. He lay weirdly motionless on a utility table, which I had draped with a slate-blue operating-room towel.
A few feet away, his young parents sat quietly wrapped in each other’s arms. Several family members and friends stood silently around the periphery of the small hospital room, whose gray-green walls enveloped us dispassionately.”
I attended many ritual circumcisions as a maternal-child nurse in the early 70’s. Those were the days when women stayed in the hospital for a week after having a C-section. On the day that their son was to go home the circumcision was performed by a mohel in a small room of the newborn nursery where friends and family members gathered for the occasion.
Afterwards there was a small catered luncheon in the waiting area. It was an occasion to celebrate.
I am not Jewish but I was always impressed by this ritual and the importance of it in Jewish tradition. .
I came across the above story and was struck by the sadness of what should have been a celebration of the beginning of a Jewish life. My thoughts went to the family and the hospital staff who were with this little boy as his life ebbed away.
How a happy occasion became a sad ritual performed after this little one’s death.
To me there is nothing sadder than for a parent to lose a child…
I was once told by the mother of a 14 yr. old teenager who died of undifferentiated lymphoma…”nothing you can say can justify the death of my daughter”. These words have remained with me for over 30 years.
Sometimes we have to learn to say nothing and just be present at the most difficult of times.