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Between life and loss: being a mother with a child in each world

Somehow, parenting was clear to me from the moment my children were born, yet nothing readied me for losing Itay; I considered searching for him, knowing it's a path with no return; I have a daughter here and a son there, and the demons scream Sophie's Choice in my head

Liat Sade-Saadon|
I have never doubted my motherhood. From the moment Itay was born, I instinctively knew how to be his mother. When Mika arrived, I knew how to be her mother too.
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Somehow, parenting was clear to me from the very first moment. It's not that I didn't make mistakes; I certainly did, but most of the time, I knew, I felt, I had good intuitions on how to act even in unfamiliar situations.
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Liat Sade-Saadon with her daughter Mika and son Itay
Now, however, I am no longer sure. What does it mean to be the mother of a deceased child? What does it mean to continue being the mother of a living daughter?
Itay made me a mother. With motherhood came worry. Worrying he wouldn't stick his fingers into electrical sockets, that he wouldn't fall off his bike and get hurt, that he wouldn't be bullied at daycare, that his teachers would be kind to him, that he would be cautious, that nothing would happen to him in the army.
The night after we were informed of his death, he came to me with angel wings, placed a hand on my shoulder, caressed me as I used to caress him in his childhood before sleep, and whispered in his reassuring voice, "You don't need to worry anymore, Mom, the war is over for me. I'm in a good place now, you can go to sleep."
At first, I thought about going out to search for him. I was scared. I worried that finding him meant joining him there. Where nobody came back from. I have a daughter here and a son there, and the demons screamed Sophie's Choice in my head.
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Staff Sergeant Itay Saadon
Today, I understand that I don't have to choose. Both of them are here with me, one in flesh and the other in spirit. Now, it is he who nurtures me, he who guides my path and pushes me to live a good life and fulfill myself.
When he was in Gaza, I didn't know if he would return. Today, he comes every time I call for him. One just needs to agree to let go of the physical, of the body's presence, to accept the fact that I will never be able to hug him again. When you come to terms with this, a gate to a different kind of connection opens.
My relationship with Itay hasn't ended; it has just transformed. In a way, it's easier now to be Itay's mother. He doesn't kick, he isn't angry, he doesn't hurt and he doesn't need anything from me. He is complete and has eternal peace.
Being Mika's mother means continuing to worry. She's the only one left for me here, so I worry even more. Now, it's about fearing losing her too. It's about learning to let go and not to burden her with my fears, to allow her to grow and flourish as if Itay were still alive.
I don't want to place the entire burden on her shoulders; she shouldn't have to bear the role of the only daughter she was forced into.
Being Mika's mother means witnessing her broken and in pain, standing helplessly in front of her sorrow. It means rediscovering the path to her because everything has changed and nothing is as it was. It means hearing her say how much she misses him and how much she lacks him, knowing I can never bring him back to her as she knew him.
I try to teach her to communicate with him again. I tell her that he's here, just differently. Throughout their lives, I've taught them to be good siblings to each other and to look out for one another, always valuing the connection between them.
I hope it continues, that she agrees to open the door for him, to talk with him and to share with him what she's going through so she feels less alone. I constantly send him to watch over her.
I've always taught my children not to argue with reality. We have no control over reality, only over how we choose to deal with it. When the children tried to convince me to do a family skydive, I was terrified and said that with all due respect to family, I do not jump from planes.
Itay, who had a knack for proving me wrong in ways that left me without an argument, told me, "Mom, when you're offered an experience in life, say yes." I said yes and jumped.
Even now, I say yes to the cruel reality that has been forced upon us. Arguing with it would be a waste of time and energy. Instead, I strive to connect with the part of me that observes life with curiosity.
Itay fell in Gaza, a horrific and terrible reality, but I cannot change it. I can, however, choose how to live with it. I can look at all the gifts that Itay left behind, and that he continues to send. I wish I could make the connection between this world and the next; I ask Itay to help me break down the barrier.
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