Author: Yonina Andrea Foster, Ph.D.
Buffalo Rising in my inbox for months, seeding my soul. Here I am, back in Buffalo almost forty two years after leaving. I never imagined returning, though for years I envisioned a license plate that said “ILVNY2.” One therapist said I have experienced too many stressors for one year: my husband’s death, we together twenty seven years, closing my business, selling our home, moving across two States. States? States of mind, in addition to leaving Maryland and returning here. What called out to me? Did I return to some spiritual anchor? Visiting my mother’s grave and those of my in-laws, and my husband’s, the message I heard was “throw caution to the wind.” Here I am. Perhaps I left a “metzar,” in Hebrew, a small place, and came to one of expansiveness. I look out over Lake Erie and I want to believe it is so.
Two years ago my husband accompanied me to my fortieth High School reunion, Amherst grad, class of 1975. You won’t find my name, Yonina, there, however. You will find Andrea Kim Foster. I am she, now, Yonina. I delighted in the new Williamsville on Main Street alive on that Thursday evening in July 2015, bands playing, families strolling. And there we, Steve and I, found the Williamsville Cider Mill, ice cream and more, though I wanted the apple cider we had every Thanksgiving when I was growing up.
And we took the bus ride downtown and I was in awe of Canalside. Steve, took my photo, head in the heart of the Buffalo metalwork sculpture (lead image). Where is that now that the spot is under construction? I wonder. And I took us to the Amherst SUNY Buffalo campus, we leaning so to take a picture next to the Center for Tomorrow sign. We were married there, September 24,1989.
I live with two calendars, a lunar based and the Gregorian. By the lunar, my husband died on Elul 23. That was two Thursdays ago. I lighted a candle in my downtown Buffalo apartment. This the first Yahrzeit. Remembering. Now I will live through another calendar date of his death, September 26. Sometimes it is a challenge living with two such dates in one life as I wander and find myself anew here in Buffalo. My stories will reflect that spiritual challenge, journey, and my return home here, as I explore this town anew in its rebirth, its Renaissance, and my own back in Buffalo.
Here’s one such story as we explore my old hometown:
How, I want to know, did this shofar blowing Jewess in Elul end up davening and crying this afternoon in the Chapel of St. Mary of the Angels with the Sisters of St. Francis in Williamsville, NY? I ask you. I guess, Shekhina wanted me to be with a lot of angels. Walking the unfinished pathway of the Amherst State Park brought me there as I found myself where as a teen I biked from another direction where I lived, off North Forest Road. Days earlier my friend, Rabbi Eva, asked me, “What energy do you want to bring into the New Year?” Through the mitzrayim of emotional turmoil I knew. Strength. Setting boundaries. I finally understood that at this time I could not risk my health and well-being to help someone I loved. The forces of strength grew as I conferred with NAMI volunteers in Buffalo and NYC, school personnel, spirit sisters, friends Rabbi Abby and Reverend Carmen. I postponed my plans. Tonite I lighted a Yahrzeit candle for Steve. The first. He loved my music. I practiced for the High Holy Days on the porch. Before leaving the convent in the afternoon, I offered a Sister my card and a gift of music.
- Davening – Praying
- Elul – Hebrew month
- New Year – Rosh Hashanah
- Shekhina – Feminine aspect of God
- Mitzrayim – Egypt of ancient days, a narrow place in mind
- NAMI — National Alliance on Mentally Ill
- Shofar – A ram’s horn, an announcing instrument – We hear three different cries blown through it during Rosh Hashanah services
- Yahrzeit – marking the anniversary of a loved one’s death, Jewish ritual, light a candle on the evening of the beginning of the day, our days beginning at sundown. The candled lasts twenty four hours.