June 19 18

There are many reasons why I quit my job about a month ago and perhaps when I’m finished officially — a week from Friday — I will talk about the hows and whys but right now the reason I bring it up is that while I have definitely been poking around a little bit to try to figure out what my next career step is {Are you hiring? Hire me!} and I have been thinking about freelance and the dream of full-time photography and new directions and new habits and new ways to fill my days, the only new habit I’ve actually picked up is prayer. (“And don’t forget panic attacks!” says, AnxietAli)

There was an early morning in Nashville, in the early days right after India died, when everything seemed to be a complete blur of loving people and casseroles and kindness and tears and very tight hugs, when there was an unexpected split-second, crystal-clear moment. I was sitting with my sister-in-law Rachel, quiet, as mornings often were which seemed to be both hard and less hard at the same time. I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, my husband wearing his tallis and tefillin, davening with tears streaming down his face. I knew he did this every day, but this was the first time I ever noticed it. And it stuck with me. That first thing in the morning, my husband got up, and had a conversation with God.

I know that waking up each morning is hard. Each morning I wake up, hold my heart, and think of the Boyes. Rachel. Jon. Lauren. Evie. Audrey. Emma Grace. And how nearly impossible waking up must be for them, having to remind themselves each morning that yes, this is real, and India is not here and the world feels every kind of wrong. Each morning I wake up and I want to give them all of the love and strength and hugs that I have in me to give. I want to take their pain away, even if it’s just a tiny drop. I want to do anything and everything I can. So I’ve been talking to God too.

I don’t know. In this new world where I feel like I don’t know what to do, doing something, anything feels better than not.

I’m also trying to pick up my camera more. My gut keeps whispering nope, but my heart keeps reminding me that there’s still beauty to be captured, there are memories being created.

And I’m trying to write.


Last week in the middle of a text message about something completely not on the topic of strength or friends, I wrote: I think …. I might be the strong friend. 

My friend responded, understandably confused: WHAT?!

Me: You know that internet meme that’s going around right now reminding you to check on your strong friend? It’s such a good reminder. I don’t do this enough. I ask people how they are…but I don’t REALLY ask them how they are. And truthfully, you just don’t know what’s going on with people, especially the people who look pretty put together. Well, I think I might be the strong friend.


On Saturday, we were invited to good friends for lunch. I was so thankful for the invitation. But I knew that it meant synagogue (= crowd) and then lunch (= less of crowd). Admittedly, crowds have been a bit of an issue for me lately. I am AnxietAli, watch me squirm. 

I get it. No one knows what to say, what to do. I can’t even tell you how many times a friend has been grieving and I just didn’t know what to say, so, in typical AnxietAli fashion, I either said something bumbling and stupid or I said nothing, hiding behind my awkwardness. Actually I can tell you how many times — it’s every time. But I know now. Unfortunately, I know now. I don’t want to be a member of the club that knows. But I do.

But still, crowds are hard.

Everybody I know is well-meaning. Everybody. {Sidebar: Whenever I talk about Orthodox Judaism and community, THIS is 100% what is what it’s about. This right here —->.} The people who made us desserts or soup or meals or brought flowers when we returned from Nashville. Some of them never even met India, some of them don’t even know my brother or sister-in-law, or they met them only briefly at one of our bar or bat mitzvahs. But they wanted to do something, anything. They were so beyond well-meaning. The friend who dropped off Aroma coffee for me because she knows I love an Ice Aroma Light. She is so well-meaning. The friend who took me out for a birthday lunch, because she knew that my 40th came and went without much acknowledgement. The friend who took me out for coffee. The people who invited us for meals. The people who had my children for meals while I was away. The people who called me, even if I didn’t answer. The people who texted. Who emailed. Who What’sApped me. Who liked a photo of India. Who donated to the GoFundMe page that was set up for my brother’s family. YES, even the people who reached out to my husband to ask how I was doing instead of asking me. So well-meaning.

When I am alone — usually in the shower or in the wee hours of night when most of my household is asleep — I think about how lucky we are that there are so many people who love us and so many people who are thinking of me, my family, but most importantly, the people who need it most — my brother Jon and my sister-in-law Rachel and their amazing little ladies — these incredible people who I love so very much who are hurting so very much, the people who have redefined strength and grace.

But still, crowds. But, I got up, and put makeup on for the first time in days, and showed up. (Points for that, right?)

And things were okay. I was okay. I was enjoying spending time with my friends — talking about kitchens and summer plans and puppies and babka and high school teachers.

And then the subject of my recent trip to Portugal came up. And I already knew this was going to be a tough one. Because Portugal was a tough one. My in-laws planned a trip for my husband and his three sisters and their spouses. Ten people, eight days in Portugal. To celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. 50 years is such a beautiful thing, isn’t it? 50 years! And my husband and his sisters and all of us in-law relatives are so rarely in one place at one time, since we live all over the planet. In fact, I actually cannot remember the last time were were all together. But here was our chance — to spend eight days celebrating this occasion. But here’s the rub — this celebration on one side of my family was planned many, many moons before the other side of my family’s life changed forever and are hurting so, so much.

(“Oh Ali, your trip looked wonderful! It looked like you had the most amazing time!”)

(“It was really meaningful for my in-laws that we were there. And Portugal is gorgeous.“) ( <—- Actual response I gave.)

(“It was lovely. And in another time, in another world, it would have been wonderful and amazing. Beyond, actually. But our hearts are in Nashville. Our hearts are with Jon and Rachel. Our hearts are with their girls. Our hearts are with my parents. Our hearts just want to hug and love and try to take away some of their terrible pain. I feel selfish saying that it was hard, or even feeling it — I was gifted a beautiful trip to Portugal. And we really did try to appreciate the wonder around us and find the levity.”)(<——  Response I would have liked to have given.)

And…..because, like many writers, I often wear my heart on my sleeve and because, like many writers,  I’m an oversharer — maybe to a fault — I ended up admitting how hard it was.

And then my husband said something.

And then I said something.

And then my husband said something.

And then I said something.

And then the tears came. Fast and furious. And there I was, crying in (albeit less of crowd) public. I got up, and went outside, hoping the waterworks would stop and I could compose myself enough to come back inside and finish our lunch, and get to taste the homemade babka I’d been waiting to try.

But they didn’t stop.

And so I went home.

AnxietAli is not doing so great.

But I’ll remember to ask people how they are doing, even the ones who are smiling — to REALLY ask.

And I’ll continue to write, even if it feels strange.

And I’ll continue to talk to God, even if it’s mostly just to ask questions.

And I’ll continue to take pictures, to find the light where I can.


And I’ll go back to Nashville in a few weeks, to deliver some much-needed hugs to people who need them way more than I do. 

  1. Big hugs to you and your family. I’ve been thinking about all of you, even though I only know you through your blog.

    Be kind to yourself.

    Comment by Alison on June 19, 2018
  2. You are not alone. Sending you all my love.

    Comment by Jenny, bloggess on June 19, 2018
  3. So much love to you and yours, Ali. Love you.

    Comment by Angella Dykstra on June 19, 2018
  4. Love you! xoxoxo

    Comment by Kristabella on June 19, 2018
  5. Oh friend, I’m so sorry. Be gentle with yourself and know that I’m here for you.

    Comment by Jen on June 19, 2018
  6. Aw honey.
    I have been the mother who has lost a child. I only wish I had had a sister who cares as much as you do. What a comfort you must be. It is OK to not be ok. Grief takes time. So much time. It took me over 20 years to come to terms with the loss of my youngest son. So much time. I will never be the woman I was before his death. And that’s ok too. I was changed by my Brennan’ s life and I was changed by his death. He is forever a part of me. India will forever be a part of you. As well as her parents and siblings. It will eventually get better. Different,with a hole but better. Hugs.

    Comment by JaniceNW on June 19, 2018
  7. I love you. I wish I could take even a tiny smiggen of your pain and grieve, of your family’s, even for a moment.

    Comment by sam on June 20, 2018
  8. Ali – your family has been in my thoughts and prayers often over these past weeks.

    Let me take you out for lunch as a belated 40th when I’m in Toronto next

    Sending lots of hugs to all

    Comment by Heidi on June 20, 2018
  9. Ali, I know we don’t know each other that well, just through our time together at YMC, but I wanted to say that I am always here if you need to talk about hard things. I am a really good listener and I am only a phone call or message away. I cannot imagine the pain your family is going through, and although you are a strong woman, that pain wears a person down.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve always loved your photos, and thought that you are a remarkable photographer. If you did pursue the freelance thing, I think it would be great.

    Comment by Nicole MacPherson on June 20, 2018
  10. So brave and sad and…yet another story of yours that I can connect to and cry while reading. I wish you ease. I also know that my social anxiety ( and it is true and strong) if formally disguised by my camera in front of my face. Use that super power for good!

    Comment by Beth on June 20, 2018

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