by Gail Kazin

gailkazin1With the big 6-0 looming in the wings I had considered how I might celebrate this meaningful birthday.  Since neither of my parents had lived to be sixty, I looked forward to the day with tremendous gratitude and some trepidation.

At some point I decided that immersion at Mayyim Hayyim was perhaps the most meaningful thing I could do to honor this day.

Would I go with others or by myself?  Bring my husband?  Tell anyone?

The first time I immersed, ten years earlier, was after completion of breast cancer treatment. I had come with a group of women who had supported me during those long months.  It was a special experience with songs, blessings and many tears, smiles and hugs. I recall thinking it was not so much the immersion but the sisterhood that encircled me in the atrium.  I was in a white robe beaming as my friends shared their words of love and I recognized just how much their presence had nurtured me during the months of medical care.

And now I was eleven years post diagnosis and sixty!

I booked the appointment on a day that two important women were able to join me. I did not have a plan of how this particular immersion should go.  It would just be. I was emotional when I thought about it in advance.  Surely I would cry, I assumed.

The day started like every Friday with morning yoga, then I went home, to have lunch and to get ready. I thought, “I need to bring something with me to the mikveh.” I searched for my mom’s Star of David and my grandmother’s gold earrings but could not quickly locate either of them. Plus, I realized those things would need to be removed to immerse.  But suddenly an idea popped into my head: photographs.  I would bring family photos with me.  I would have my family “with me.”

I grabbed a few framed photos that adorn our home.

One was of my maternal grandmother, Sarah, as a bride, she who was the epitome of strong, funny and courageous during her life.  She too had breast cancer.  Lived a decently long life into her seventies. I adored grandma Sarah. She made me happy, and despite her hard life was frequently laughing.

A photo of my parents, Bea and Sid.  In the photo, they are healthy and radiant, I suspect in their forties, living their lives, working, raising children, bringing joy to everyone who knew them. Life was good then, but did they know it?

One photo was of me with my two sisters, smiling, dressed in florals, at an easier time in life.

A photo of my mom with my eldest child when he was two. A favorite photo.  I didn’t know it would be one of few with his grandparents alive. A smiling bubbie, a happy grandson.

One photo is at our middle son’s Bar Mitzvah in 2001.  Our growing family joyously draped with our tallitot, prayer shawl.

And lastly our family of five on vacation post-breast cancer treatment, me with chic short hair, celebrating life, having fun, and feeling joy. gails photo

Upon arrival at Mayyim Hayyim, I placed the photos on the wooden container inside the mikveh by the pool.  I would have my family watching me as I descended the seven steps, turned the bor cap, (the handle that connects the rainwater to the immersion pool), and said the blessings.  They would witness my immersion.

It created a holy moment that was unplanned and magical.

As I read from the mikveh ceremonies about joyous occasions and gratitude, I really felt that turning sixty was just that; joyous and full of oh-so-much gratitude.

In the atrium, my friends greeted me with hugs. They shared song and poetry with me, and my mikveh experience was perfection!

Gail enjoys being with positive people, listening to music and being in nature. She works as a nurse practitioner in Primary Care, has a great husband, and three lovely sons who live too far away. She can be found in yoga class several days a week and thanks her many friends near and far who have made her birthday month incredibly special. She is embracing winter and living for today.