Passover in the Children’s Hospital

soup-veggiesTonight is the first night of Passover, and I woke up early to chop carrots and celery and onions and garlic, the four-musketeers of my favorite parts of the traditional festive meal we’ll have tonight. As I type, I can smell the matzo-ball-soup cooking, the potatoes I added thickening the broth, the dill adding the freshness of spring. I don’t have much time to plan the seder itself, a religious service observed at my second favorite chapel in the world: my dining room table, second only to my kitchen.

I appreciate this day more now than when I was younger, possibly because I spent one terrible, heavy Passover in the hospital with my youngest daughter as she recovered from heart surgery. I think of it now, every year, as I chop and season and clean and prepare for the sometimes 28, sometimes 15 people who come to my house to share the meal with us.

That year, it was just me and Sammi: me in an armchair and her in her tipped-up hospital bed, eating matzo with jam and fat-free cheese and watching The Prince of Egypt on Netflix. It was beautiful, and it was terrible, and while I’m glad we did it, I never want to do it again.

In skimming resources online for new readings to share oat our seder, I found this poem, which made me teary:

Ode to Kosher-for-Passover Pudding
By Rabbi Annie Lewis

Praise be to
Kosher-for-Passover pudding
in packs of four
cups stacked like cars
on a trailer.
A traffic jam of Kosher-for-
Passover pudding cups
on a tin-foiled shelf,
behind a latch
in a room with a code –
Hamesh – Echad – Shalosh.
If you can read and
translate you can
make it inside this
Chai Lifeline safe zone
with the Haimish soda
and the mini bottled waters
labeled Mayim Chayim.
If you can crack the code
you can dip into this
oasis of muddy sweetness,
this Kosher-for-Passover pudding,
while your baby breathes
sixty-four times a minute,
while she kicks and dozes
and cries out
from her fevered body,while you wait for the resident,
for the attending,
for the x-ray,
for the bag to fill with pee,
while you take turns
holding her between
rickety bed rails,
while the people on HGTV
find their tiny dream home,
a whole house the size
of this Chai Lifeline Pantry.
No windows,
no worries,
no regrets
for these Exodused people.
Only Kosher-for-Passover pudding.


I can hear her. You can read about Sammi’s and my hospital-room seder in this essay I wrote for several years ago.

That night, after my husband left for home and the first night’s seder, I looked sadly at my uncomfortable, medicated daughter. I wanted most of all to whisk her away into the arms of our friends around that seder table—to remove all the wires, tubes, and monitors, to forget the medical dietary restrictions and the incision in her back, and to erase the pain of the last few days. I wanted this to be over. I wanted her to be delivered from her misery into freedom.

“We’re having a seder,” I announced.

I look back on it with compassion for both of us and with gratitude for the freedom both of the Egyptian slaves and of me and Sammi.

We are free. Let all people be free.


This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee and Kenya of Sporadically Yours. This week, we got to revisit an old post.

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6 thoughts on “Passover in the Children’s Hospital

  1. Aw, loved that last line and just glad this Passover isn’t being spent that way. Hugs and Happy Passover to you and your family.

  2. We have celebrated holidays in hospital, too. I definitely understand the mixed emotions. The poem is great. Happy Passover.

  3. Chag Sameach!

  4. Here’s to being free and to not spending this Passover in the hospital and that you will enjoy the celebration with a wonderful-sounding meal and loved ones around your dining room table. <3

  5. That was beautiful, especially the last line.

  6. […] can we learn to do that?” We just made our first dish with saffron for our hosted Passover seder, and I think this one’s going to stay on that table for […]

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