•  Chapter One: The Cave

•  Chapter Two: The Vessel

•  Chapter Sixteen: Koby's Birthday -- Becoming Holy Beggars


Chapter one: The Cave

The cave is in the canyon a half a mile from my home in Tekoa. Thousands of years of rainwater have carved this opening in the limestone. Facing the Dead Sea with its back to Jerusalem, twelve miles away, the cave can only be reached by a steep climb down craggy paths that shepherds wander, weeds and wild flowers choking the landscape. It is easy to stumble on the sharp stones that jut from the ground. Two thousand years ago, those fleeing for their lives hid here; later, in the fifth century, others chose to live in the wadi for the solitude. Monks hollowed some of these caves and studied and prayed here. But most of the caves are inhabitable. There is one cave that I am most afraid of – the cave where my son spent his last hours.        

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Chapter two: The Vessel

Koby was my first child, the child who taught me to be a mother. I had three kids in three years, one four years later, and Koby often helped me keep my sense of humor when taking care of children became difficult. Once, when Koby was four, I served soup, and Koby spilled the soup all over the table and floor; then just as I cleaned all that up, Daniel spilled the soup, and when I cleaned that up, Eliana's soup spilled. I started screaming in frustration and was about to totally lose it, when Koby said to me: "Don't worry Mom, it's only chicken soup." He was right. He calmed me down by saying that. He had a way of putting things in perspective.

I could have stayed in bed the rest of my life mourning him. I could have remained broken, resenting my life, my lot. But there is something in me that refuses to be broken, no matter how intense the pain, something that moves toward the light.

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Chapter 16: Koby's Birthday — Becoming Holy Beggars

June 14th should have been Koby's fourteenth birthday. Instead, he's been dead for five weeks. It feels more like he's been dead for five hours. The pain is so raw. But it is his birthday, and Shira, my friend and guide in grieving, has told me I must do something to mark Koby's birthday.

We go into Jerusalem because we need to renew our passports. Seeing Koby's passport as I rifle through our official documents makes me want to grab his passport and renew it. Instead it is as if he will be erased. I cry in the passport office.

The kids and I decide to go to Burger King to honor Koby's birthday because one thing Koby loved about Israel was being able to eat kosher hamburgers. Koby loved to eat – but particularly hamburgers. Even on the screensaver on our computer, he wrote: "I'm hungry, give me something to eat now!!!" His hunger was a force to be reckoned with, a being in itself.

We have to walk about five blocks to get to Burger King. We're hungry and tired and cranky so when we pass a vegetarian restaurant – we decide to stop there to eat. I think we are all relieved not to have to feel the sadness of eating hamburgers without Koby.

My kids go to pick up the drinks at the counter of the restaurant, and I close my eyes and hold a napkin against my eyes as I cry and I wonder: how am I going to go on? How am I going to stand up? How am I going to get the strength to leave this restaurant and take my children home on the bus?

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