It was in a word, phenomenal. There was barely a dry eye in the room when Sophie Rose finished her thank you speech Saturday night. She had touched people’s hearts in a way that will long be remembered. There were hearts overflowing with joy and love, as she put an exclamation point on one of the most special events of our lives, and certainly of hers.
Sophie nailed it, without really even trying, because she owned it. Our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah ceremony was just that, her Bat Mitzvah ceremony. After her Torah portion and an explanation of what it all meant, she shared feelings that lay deep in her heart, about those who helped her make it this far in her life. At the ripe old age of 13, my girl connected to this moment in time like I have seen few do. Granted, I am her father, but from the testimonials I have received all day from other people who were sitting in the same room as me, Sophie connected with them too. She was simply remarkable. I watched her conduct herself with poise, grace and then in an instant, tears of appreciation, gratitude and love for those closest to her and for those who had been so close, but are no longer in this world, living only in her memory and in her heart.
She broke down, but then recovered and broke through to every heart in that room. There’s no way I can transcribe all the powerful words she said in those minutes, they were so meaningful and mature for someone who on certain days, I still view as so young, or maybe it’s just in my mind’s eye, wishing she was.
She had words of gratitude for so many, her tutor, her aunts and uncle, our neighbors (our other family), her grandparents, cousins, myself, my wife Debbie and her sister, Emily. But maybe the most powerful words were the ones she wrote, but felt so strongly in the depths of her heart, she was unable to say out loud. Her tutor Lucia, stepped up and stood by her side to read what Sophie had written about her grandfather, her Poppy, who left us too soon, when Sophie was only nine years old:
“Poppy, here I am. It’s my big day. The night I wrote this, I came downstairs crying to my Mom about how I didn’t remember you enough. I remember you cooking us eggs, lox and onions in the morning. I remember the feeling of your prickly beard. I remember you sitting by the ocean while we collected seashells. But I think the only thing I need to remember is how much you loved us, and still do.”
From a young heart still stinging from the pain of loss for one she loved so much. Sophie recovered and was able to continue on to talk about her little sister:
“Emily, I think you are so beautiful and the most energetic person I’ve ever met and you’re always smiling. You inspire me to look on the bright side of even the worst situations. I love you”
To me: “Daddy, I think you are the most amazing man I have ever met, you’re so determined and hard-working and you are the person who taught me to never give up, which I think is the best thing a person could do. I love you.”
To my wife: “Mommy, I have no clue what I would do without you. You help me through every possible problem I could ever have. Even though you nose your way into every dramatic issue I have, you always help me out in the end. You are the strongest person I have ever met, knowing what you have been through. Thank you for working your butt off so I could have the best day of my life. I love you.”
“Last but not least I’d like to thank Adonai (G-d). I don’t know how it worked out, but you made me an amazing life. I am so blessed with all of these amazing people. Thank you for being the one thing that can never leave my heart. Amen.”
It was so powerful and heartfelt and I held back my emotions the whole time, for fear of Sophie Rose looking down at me in the front row and seeing tears streaming down my face, only making it tougher for her. As I write this, they are there now, hard to write and then read her words, without it happening. But there’s one thing I need to correct about what she said about my wife and I. There’s a line I ommited from her speech about us: “I think I have the best parents ever and I’d like to thank them for everything.”
The problem is my girl has got it all backward. It’s we, who are grateful to her, for becoming the person she is today. Just maybe we are doing something right along the way. These miracles don’t come with manuals, and it’s Sophie who has to take what she learns, and make it her own. From what I saw last night, she’s on her way.
I’ve been talking about it for months now. Gratitude, appreciation and love. It’s the hat trick and my beautiful daughter proved it, just ask anyone who was scrambling to find a kleenex as she spoke, or sniffling their way through much of her ceremony. When you speak from the heart, everyone who has one, is all in.
An apology up front. We’re not done, but I need you to be. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well there’s only one picture in this blog, but I’m about past that sacred number of words as I continue to hammer on these keys. So part II tomorrow… the party. No tears, I promise, simply celebration. It too, was one of a kind.
I will leave you with this. Driving home this afternoon after a trip to the mall, the title of a song popped up on the satellite screen. It was a good one, from a legend, Elton John. Before the lyrics began Debbie told Sophie to listen and to pay attention to the words and think about her ceremony.
The song? Can You Feel the Love Tonight.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.