This bracelet is the first piece of Judaica I ever bought or owned. I bought it during my first trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. I made my first visit there as I was falling in love with Judaism. My mom and I went to visit my brother at his new home after him living there for at least ten months. I like wearing jewelry that reminds me how precious life is and the importance of living each day to the fullest.
I used to wear a Livestrong bracelet as the reminder. I started wearing it when one of my best friend's grandfathers died of cancer. He was only in his 60's. She actually had moved across the country less than two years before he died and only made a rare visit back home to us. She came home for his funeral, which happened to coincide with my high school's winter dance. We decided there would be no boys, no dates for this dance. It would be all girls and we would all wear a Livestrong bracelet in remembrance of her grandfather and as a reminder of the importance of living. I continued to wear the bracelet every day after the dance because I appreciated its call to action. The only time I took it off was to compete or perform for dance. Even then, I wore it in between numbers.
When my aunt was diagnosed with cancer my freshman year, the Livestrong bracelet's original meaning became profoundly real for me. My mom bought one to wear as well. I would play and fiddle with the bracelet and pray that she continue to live as she miraculously has her whole life. Then one winter day during my sophomore year the bracelet broke. It just snapped in half. I was upset about my naked wrist and planned to buy another, just as soon as I found the time to get to the mall. But a short while later I found out that my aunt had scheduled her reconnection surgery which meant the cancer was gone. Coming from a somewhat superstitious family, I took the broken bracelet as a sign and I could not buy another. Wearing the Livestrong bracelet would mean I needed to for my aunt's health.
So when I was in the Museum shop a month later and saw this bracelet I thought, "what a perfect replacement for the Livestrong bracelet on my left wrist." To Life: L'chaim. It's one of my favorite phrases in Judaism because it captures so much of Jewish thought in so few letters. This bracelet also carries with it the lessons of the Shoah. Each life is of infinite value and 6 million Jewish worlds and 5 million non-Jewish worlds were destroyed in six short years.
The importance of life and my family's health was tied into this bracelet immediately after I bought it. On the eight hour drive to Virginia, my mother had developed a blood clot. The clot broke loose as we walked around the city the day we were at the Museum. She started feeling pain in her lung that evening and it increased exponentially the following day. She wasn't sure what was wrong, because it felt like a cramp. I woke up early the last day of our trip to drive her home so she wouldn't be stuck in a DC hospital. Scared for my mother's life, I shaved nearly two hours off the trip. This might have saved her life. That night at our home town hospital she flatlined and spent a week in intensive care. That night was one of the single most scary nights of my life. But she lived. The doctors told us how to improve her health from then on our to prevent another blood clot from ever occurring.
I wear this bracelet not only as a reminder that this is my only life and I must take advantage of that, but as an expression of my Judaism. I have always worn it on shabbat, but I also have worn it at random times throughout the week when I felt comfortable expressing who I am deep in my soul. It's hard when the bracelet calls other people's attention and they wonder why I'm wearing it if I'm not Jewish. But now, I don't really care and most people who see it know my story. And by now, most new people don't question it because I seem Jewish. I know too much to be a gentile.
This bracelet will always be precious to me because it holds stories of my life, the history of the Jewish people, and expressions of the Jewish beliefs I connect to most.