It was exactly this time 8 years ago. We had just finished celebrating Rosh Hashanah and my 11-year-old son came out for his 3rd day of 6th grade and his legs were shaking uncontrollably. He could hardly walk. It surfaced out of nowhere and was so exaggerated that I said to him “Come on buddy, if you don’t want to go to school today you don’t have to do that”. Transitioning to middle school had plenty of anxiety associated with it for him. He looked at me with a helpless look on his face and said “I can’t stop my legs from shaking, really!”
What happened over the next two days was inexplicable. The shaking moved up and overtook his body. During the next weeks and months he became OCD, stuttered, developed ticks, suffered non-epileptic seizures and narcolepsy. He was unrecognizable and only spent two full days in school that year. Many doctor visits ensued producing theories on what exactly was happening, but no real, clear answers.
I remember lying in bed with him one night, incredibly sad, saying to him again and again “You gotta come back” not knowing if the old Mason could hear me. And then I looked to the ceiling and spoke with G-d. “Please help me get my son back. I'll take even 75%. I needed him back. You have help”. I had always believed in G-d and found myself believing more than ever!
The Holiness. G-d. This experience and the relationship with G-d helped me to form my definition of holiness. The belief that you can rely and lean on a higher power to help you navigate challenging moments not having to go it alone. G-d surrounded our family with incredible support and people along the way - family, friends and strangers. Ultimately I believe I came out the other side stronger, a better dad and husband, more understanding, more open, with the willingness to except help from others. It served as a lens to help me see the goodness, compassion and empathy in others.
Mason is now fully recovered and enjoying his first year at Bard College. It turns out he was suffering from PANDAS - Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Strep which we think developed from an unchecked bout of strep-throat at summer camp. The antibodies that his body created to fight the strep had targeted and attacked his nervous system. With a lot of hard work and an amazing, unique, personal and educational path he is thriving. I got my boy back; But not the same boy. I was given back a boy with perspective and fortitude that only comes from overcoming an obstacle. In fact our whole family: my wife - Jessica, my daughter - Noa, and I aren't the same people that we were when first delivered this curveball.
Holiness. The Holiness was my strength and continues to be meaningfully woven into my life on a day-to-day basis.