The very fact so many of you care to pay attention is humbling beyond words. Since I began what will end up here as a trilogy of blogs about our daughter Sophie and her very special Bat Mitzvah weekend, the visitors and the number of views have been off the charts. You have literally made my heart sing.
I had to return to the place where we had the party Saturday night to pick up two stools we left behind. More about their significance in a moment. When I arrived I was told that what I had come to retrieve was still in the ballroom. When I walked in the room was pretty dark, so I clicked on the flashlight app on my iPhone and started to scan the room….
The moment Sophie Rose finished her ceremony, I knew a change had happened. I watched this kid who we constantly have to remind to turn off lights, make her bed, turn off her flattening iron, do her homework, answer her phone, return a text and more… transform herself into a mature young woman. Her heartfelt speech had touched a chord. Grown men were crying, and telling me how beautiful her words were and how beautiful she is. With all this in mind, there was only one thing left to do… party.
Sophie did the heavy lifting, so the rest was easy. What had just happened over the course of an amazing hour, was not just a reason to party, but a cause for a celebration of life and love. And it was. As one friend text me the next day, anyone can throw a party, the real raw emotion Sophie shared set our special day apart.
Talk about a tough act to follow. After we were all introduced and did some dancing, it was time for the welcome speech. There was little I could say that could truly capture in words what Sophie had accomplished. So I told her how proud my wife Debbie and I were of her and how this was just the beginning, she is barely scratching the surface of her potential. (If she’s only scratching, I can only imagine what one level up will look like.) I gave our friends and family three instructions, to eat, drink and dance their asses off. That they did. I also wanted to thank my wife, who after nearly a year of battling and defeating breast cancer, was standing there healthy and more beautiful than ever. She planned every moment of that night, despite recovery after recovery, from three separate surgeries. Sophie was the reason we were there, but that night would never have happened if not for Debbie. We all have our strengths, Deb’s is surviving and thriving and doing it all while making you smile.
Everything about Saturday night was spectacular from the food, drinks and service which Robert Lazarus and his staff at Martin’s Westminster provided, to the music, dancing and entertainment from Evan Dahne and his crew from Washington Talent. I’m not mentioning them for commercial reasons, it’s my way of thanking them individually for their contributions to the success of that evening. Evan has known Sophie since she was a toddler, and Emily since she was a baby. I had hoped the night would be meaningful for him as well. I believe he felt it too.
Evan and I worked tirelessly on Sophie’s montage, which is now one of the staples at these parties. It’s heartwarming (heart wrenching) and fun to take a look back at your child’s life and I think we got it right. I have been told the montage was one of a kind, and I am providing a link to that video for anyone who wants to see it at the end of this blog. The picture at the beginning of this blog, was the signature picture of the night. Her eyes, her smile, and those dimples, at the very core of her being.
It seemed everyone followed orders and there was plenty of eating, drinking and dancing. The hora went well, nobody fell and I got the chance to have my daddy/daughter dance with Sophie, My Little Girl, by Tim McGraw. I kept my eye on her all night too, to make sure she was enjoying every moment. She was. She deserved to live every moment in full, she worked hard to get here. And speaking of working hard, there was one more person who deserved special attention.
Since Debbie had been diagnosed with breast cancer, then had a double mastectomy to rid her of the beast, I had wanted to find a way to pay tribute to her courage. I realized Sophie’s Bat Mitzvah would be that chance… I would sing a song to her on that night. I asked a friend, Joel Alperstein, who I knew had played guitar for years, if he would help me out. He was happy to do so and so the night before Thanksgiving, four months before the big event, we met to rehearse. It turns out I made Joel learn three different songs, finally settling on I Won’t Give Up, by Jason Mraz. I thought that one the most fitting for the moment and just as importantly, I could carry that tune. 🙂 I can’t thank Joel enough for his patience and terrific attitude. There is no way I could have done it without him.
We kept it a secret. The only people who knew were Joel, his wife Jill, and Evan, who helped me put together pictures and some special slides of meaningful words, to be shown on the big screens as we performed live at the Bat Mitzvah. I made sure Evan brought those two stools I went back to retrieve today, so Joel and I could sit down and perform.
Debbie had no idea, until the pink ribbons appeared on the two big screens, and then Joel and I did our thing. It seemed to go well. Deb deserved a moment like that. I said to the crowd, if the five hours of that night’s celebration were devoted to Sophie, I didn’t think she would mind sharing three minutes of it with her courageous Mom. Sophie was all in.
Her night wasn’t over yet, but we were headed into the final hour of music and dancing. Everyone was having a blast. The final song of the night was one that has had enjoyed such a rebirth these past few years, Don’t Stop Believin’, by Journey. The adults know it well and all the kids know it by now, it gets played at tons of parties. And tonight was no different, except it was different, because this time it was my daughter. It will forever be different because it was my daughter.
As I danced around, I found Deb and we danced, found Emily and we danced, then I found Sophie. I couldn’t dance with Sophie, because she was dancing on a chair, with her friends and family below looking up at her, singing at the top of their lungs, clapping their hands and punching their fists into the air. Even now I can barely hang on as I continue to write this and think back to that moment:
Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to that feelin’
I’m trying, and I know I won’t ever let go, because it was magic. Sophie was loving every minute of it and living every minute of it like it would never end. Up there, dancing on that chair she had come full circle that night, from tears of sadness for those who couldn’t be here, tears of gratitude for those who helped get her here, to tears of joy and the biggest smile you ever saw, for a night she will never forget. My heart grew a mile wide in that moment. Sometimes it’s hard to believe my heart can hold any more, yet for my girls, all of them, it somehow finds a way. That night, in every moment, Sophie filled its very center.
…. as I held up the flashlight and the light traveled around that dark, abandoned ballroom, I saw tables pushed to the back, chairs stacked high on top of one another, party favors and other items scattered on the floor. I saw the two stools which Joel and I used to perform to Debbie, the ones I had come back to retrieve. And then I saw the chair. It was in the same spot as when we left Saturday night. That was the chair Sophie was dancing on, I know it. Everything else had been moved back and stacked up, but her chair had remained. I don’t know why and I don’t care, it was there. That last place I watched my beautiful daughter dance to a song that brought focus to the music of her life, her life up to this point. There’s much more life to come, there will be more reasons to dance because of who she is and who she is becoming.
My advice to you my love… don’t stop believing. I know I never will. I love you Sophie Rose.
With all my heart, Daddy.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Your link to the montage if you so choose: http://player.vimeo.com/video/62284989