For the many of us who are contending with loss,  the “season to be jolly” feels more like an  obstacle course. This year December is beginning with Chanukah, the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights. The first Chanukah after my husband died I wanted to erase all of December from the calendar.
“I’m going to ignore Chanukah,” I told my bereavement counselor.
“How are you going to ignore your feelings?” he asked.
He was good at questions, the answers were up to me to find. I share with you the memorable night that helped me to survive.

It was just nine months after my husband died. In the past Chanukah had been a joyous family time, lighting the candles, opening gifts. This year the children weren’t even coming, perhaps it was too much for them, too. I couldn’t cope with the thought of lighting the candles alone..

Then I had a surprising phone call, from the social worker at the Catholic hospice where Mel had died. A place where I would have been uncomfortable among all the nuns, if my mind hadn’t been solely on the man I loved and was losing.
The nun was calling to invite me to a memorial service for everyone who had died that year. “It would be too hard for me to attend a service for my husband,” I told her.
“It’s for you, too,” she said. ”His pain is over, but yours is continuing.”
It was so rare for anyone to understand that I agreed to come. I told her I’d like to donate some items that might be helpful to other patients. Could they use three Marilyn Monroe movies my daughter had taped for her father?
“Our patients would love them,” she said.
So I went – but at the sight of that too familiar gray stone building I wanted to turn the other way, run back home. Home? That was where  he wasn’t.
I walked into a large room, carrying a shopping bag loaded with books and tapes.
“Are you the Marilyn Monroe lady?” a nun asked me.”God bless!’

It was a small gathering .I figured the majority of people couldn’t face coming. Men and women of various ages, even some children. I smiled at a little girl who looked four years old. She looked back at me somberly, the expression om her face too old for so young a child.
I stood there wondering how soon I could leave.
Then the service began with a prayer of Saint Francis’.
“Grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console…”
(A good philosophy for dealing with one’s children!)

Then the Sister leading the service asked us to look at the cover of the program we’d been handed.
“I drew the picture,” she said, ”and tried to make it fit what each of you must be feeling.”
The childish drawing showed both a Christmas tree and a Chanukah menorah – but only half of each.
“Half,” she said,” because of what’s missing for you.”
There was pale yellow crayon around each of the lights. “That’s from the glow that comes from remembering,” she said.

Then- in this Catholic hospital – a young man with a guitar began singing a Chanukah song! It was written by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. Trying to follow the printed words we’d been given I found myself singing with him:
“Light one candle for the strength that we need, to never become our own foe…”
I heard the grieving people around me joining in. “What is the memory that’s valued so highly,” we all sang together, “we keep it alive in that flame?”

A few nights later I lit the first Chanukah candle.

[Excerpted from Widow’s Walk]

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play– both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.


I’ve never been to Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh has come to me now. Haunting me – eleven people. I could have been one of them, for I attend a synagogue. True, it’s in a different city, but one day it may be the next scene of a massacre. For the past few years, every time I’ve walked through my synagogue doors I’ve thought I might not come out alive. Melodramatic? Unrealistic? Not for an America where mass murders have become routine.

I knew almost nothing about Pittsburgh before this. Now I know there’s a synagogue ironically named Tree of Life in a peaceful neighborhood called Squirrel Hill.  A rare neighborhood where it doesn’t matter if you’re “different” (read Jewish , Muslim, gay, et al).}

What do we tell our children about the atrocity in the Tree of Life Synagogue that fateful day? Saturday – the Jewish Sabbath. The children ask, why did someone kill like that and where did he get all those guns? No problem, we can tell them, because this is a land where it’s as easy to buy a gun as it is to purchase a new pair of sneakers. Shooting is the sport of the day. It doesn’t matter what age the targets are – from five –year- olds in a schoolroom in Connecticut to a devout 97-year-old great-grandmother who still went to Tree of Life every week to pray.

How do we tell our children? We don’t have to say much, because they already know. Hatred has a megaphone these days, and the children have grown up hearing hate shouted on TV by politicians who are supposed to protect us. Our children see other children – the terrified ones torn from their parents and locked up without them. They saw photos of a traumatized two-year-old questioned by a judge in an American courtroom in a language she doesn’t even understand.

I don’t understand this language either. I speak English, know a little Spanish and am familiar with sign language – but none of it enables me to answer the virulent language of hate.

Our children ask, Who are these “others” we are told to hate? Are they us? The Jewish children are frightened when they hear “Kill them!” So is the next door teen who’s come out as gay. So are immigrant men and women who came to America seeking safe haven for their families.

There is no safe place – not in Pittsburgh, not in the Charleston church where six people were coldly shot by a man they had invited to join their prayers, not in Las Vegas where vacationers were the targets of an invisible stranger in a hotel window far above them, not in the Pulse club in Tallahassee where young people who happened to be gay or trans were joying an evening with friends, not in…. Fill in the dots and leave room for the next times (s). For in 2017 these bloody events totaled 346, and in this year there’s been almost one mass shooting a day.

As parents,we try to protect our children. Don’t run into the street. Be home before dark, Careful on that skateboard. We also need to protect them – not from “invaders” – but from the more dangerous violence within our own land.

Wringing our hands isn’t enough. We each have the responsibility to do something. As writers we have the ability to voice our concerns and inspire action through books, articles, songs, poems, any form that reaches others.

As Edmund Burke famously said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” We can tell our children that, too.

WEBSITE: www.annehosansky.com
BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through iUniverse.com; Turning Toward Tomorrow –Xlibris.com; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play- both available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.