Felicia and her speech.
| | | | | | |

Der Mensch Tracht und G-d Lacht – Man plans and G-d Laughs

Share our stories on social media:

(An old Yiddish proverb)

Adapted from my book “Amazing Journey, Metamorphosis of a Hidden Child.”

It was to be the weekend of December 1, 2006, a date to remember for our family.

And it all started with a phone call one day in June.

“Felicia,” said Sandie, the executive director of our congregation, “could you do us, Nusach Hari Congregation, a favor?”

Cautiously, I answered, “If I can, sure.”

“Would you consider accepting being honored as our Eshet Chayil (Woman of Valor) at the annual dinner, Sunday December 3?”

I was speechless.

“Me? What did I ever do? I think you have the wrong person. I do not deserve this; I cannot even imagine why you are asking me.”

“You are so wrong,” Sandie retorted. “We have been thinking and considering candidates. Then I heard you speak at our Yom HaShoah program in April, and it hit me that you are our perfect candidate. I brought up the idea to our committee and everyone, without exception, was enthusiastic about you.”

I still could not believe it – it had never entered my mind that I could be the recipient of such an honor. My heart started to pump hard; I could not think of what to say.

“Please consider it,” Sandie, interrupted my racing thoughts.

Slowly, somewhat reluctantly, I countered, “Let me think about it and discuss it with my husband. When do you need an answer?”

“As soon as possible.”

“All right, I will call you in a couple of days.”

My head was spinning as I hung up the phone. I did not know what to think, but I knew down deep in my heart and stomach that my ego would not allow me to say “no.” As unexpected and unbelievable as it was, I could not pass on this one.

A few days later, I accepted, graciously of course.

Then the wheels started to get into motion – a call to my daughter in Cleveland and my son in Baltimore.

“Keep the first weekend of December free – your mother has just become a Woman of Valor. I want all of you to come, you, your spouses and, of course, the grandchildren, all eight of them. Make your plane reservations as soon as possible to get a good rate.”

Three months later, I received another call from Sandie. “We need a list of names and addresses of the people you want us to invite or who would want to put an ad into our journal. I would appreciate it if you could get it to me as soon as possible. Oh, and we also need a bio from you of all your accomplishments.”

“Thank G-d for the computer,” I thought.

The High Holy Days came and went. Then the invitations arrived, and I started planning for the wonderful family weekend. Everyone was to arrive on Friday, December 1. We were to celebrate Shabbat together. This meant I needed to set up 12 additional beds and plan Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch for 14.

In addition, as had become a tradition when we are all gathered together, we celebrated all of the grandchildren’s birthdays. That meant a large birthday cake and birthday gifts for all eight. I threw myself energetically into the preparations.

By Wednesday, November 30, everything was ready. A large roast was in the freezer, all goodies had been purchased, fancy paper dishes and plastic stemware were bought to make everybody’s life easier. I planned for everything – except for the weather.

A big ice and snowstorm hit the area Thursday night. Friday, at 4:00 in the morning, our electricity went out. No one knew when it would come back on. The airport closed. No planes could land or take off.

We called the children. “You cannot come today, so let’s try for Saturday night or Sunday morning.”

The heat went out, of course. We could not stay home for Shabbat in the freezing house. Luckily, my husband, Howard, was able to make hotel reservations.

Saturday evening, after Shabbat was over, I tried to call the house to see if the answering machine would pick up. Nothing.

We called the kids again.

“As disappointed as we are, you cannot come.

We have no electricity.

We are staying another night at the hotel.

We do not know what will happen tomorrow.

We have no place to put you up.”

Both Sarah and Steven argued with us. They wanted to be with us here for the big event in my life. Telephone calls went back and forth until Steven told me, “Mom, leave everything up to me. I’ll take care of everything. This is no longer your problem.”

I tried to interject, but Steven stopped me.

“As I said,” Steven interrupted,” this is no longer your problem. I will take care of everything.” And then he hung up.

Howard and I surrendered. We tried to call the house a few more times, to no avail.

Sunday morning, December 3 arrived. My big day. We were still in the hotel. At 7:00 a.m. I called home again, then 30 minutes later. Same thing—nothing.

Finally, around 8:00 or 8:30 our machine answered. We had electricity! I was thrilled and sad. Our kids would not be here.

Just as I tried to come to terms with my disappointment, my cell phone rang. Sarah was on the phone.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“We are here at Uncle Leon’ s house at Ladue, five minutes from you. We just got in. Steven and his family are on their way.”

I could not believe it. They were here in St. Louis.

We checked out of the hotel and went home. About 30 minutes later, the doorbell rang, and our grandchildren streamed into the house. My first reaction was to hug, kiss and pick the little ones up. I yelled out, “I am so happy that your parents did not listen to us. I am so happy that you are all here!”

Felicia with flowers.

That evening turned out to be one of the highlights of my life. Steven gave a beautiful speech, representing the family. We were all seated at a long table – Howard, my children, grandchildren, my brother Leon, his wife, Ilana and my nephew Eldad with his soon-to-be wife, Danielle. The only family member missing was our nephew Daniel who could not get away from his job in Chicago.

In my acceptance speech I thanked everyone as well as G-d, for allowing me to live to see this day. I ended with the hope that I will be able to see all my grandchildren under the chuppah on their wedding days.

Please leave your comments below. 

Read more by Felicia Graber.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Great story and so heart warming. And the photos are terrific. Thanks for sharing this with us, Felicia.