The Huffington Post had an article this week about a family who lost their baby, a little boy, and for years after, struggled with the Passover seder and it's attention on the plague of the firstborn son.
At our seder this year, we introduced a new family tradition: an empty place setting in honor of Harper. This was helped by the addition of a beautiful plate made by Lou's family, reading "Harper: Forever in our hearts, forever at our table."
Like Elijah's cup and all the symbols of the seder plate, it is a way of remembering, of connection, of never forgetting the pain of the past while celebrating the joys of the present and future.
I had a lot of trouble keeping it together as we described it to our guests during the service.
Inevitably, Passover will always occur near this emotionally laden calendar period encapsulating Harper's birth and death. Even in the absence of this new tradition, I'm not sure I'll ever not be thinking about her at this time of year.
Harper's Hebrew name was Kinnor Miriam. "Kinnor" is the closest Hebrew translation to Harper. We chose Miriam because it has a dual meaning of "wished-for child" and "Sea of Sorrows" - a dual meaning that summed up nicely our feelings about Harper. Miriam is, of course, a major part of the Passover story, and very much a presence at our holiday table.
For all those years of hosting seder, it never occurred to me to wonder what Miriam's name meant. I've thought about it often the past few nights.
We rush through our seder. It's a natural consequence of having a small, impatient child and not being terribly religious people. There's not a lot of time for contemplation and debate.
But this year, I was caught be a line in one of the readings, about Miriam, in fact. "Ana El-na refa-na la" is the transliteration, and it means "God, please, heal her, please!" It was a plea by Moses to heal his sister, Miriam, of leprosy.
There is something in the desperation of that prayer that resonates with me. It was the sort of miracle you can't help but hope for when your baby has no hope to live. Its echoes remain in the constant hope that everything will be OK with spawn, that nothing will go wrong.
Desperate hope. There's something tremendously sad about that phrase.
This week we will remember. Not only because of our new seder tradition, but also because this is the week Harper would have turned one.
A week of crying at the drop of a hat. Because that's just the way it goes. Putting the salt water on the seder table to shame.
L'shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalayim.