Archives for category: Reflections

So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love. (E.A. Bucchianeri)

tear

Dear Grief,

As 2016 approaches, it is hard not to reflect upon this eight months we have spent together. You, my constant companion since my father’s suicide. Some days you lay dormant, content to give me room to breathe, to laugh, to celebrate and to be reminded of my capacity to live, truly live. Other days, you are feisty and disruptive, unwilling to be ignored or pushed aside. You demand that I tend to you, turn to you, pay attention to you and feel you in all of your fury, in all of your sadness. If I were to choose, surely I would choose the former version of you, but it seems that you are the narrator of our story, it is you who often sets the scene, the tone of our days.

Grief, at times I am reminded of what you have cost me. The person that I was before you came crashing into my world, I don’t recognize her anymore. Yes eight months later, I get periodic glimpses of my former self, reminders that the best parts of me still remain, hidden among the wreckage. I still have the ability to love fully and wholly. I still remain a person of compassion & kindness. In truth Grief, those parts of me are perhaps even more heightened than they were before. I know suffering. I know hurt. I know sadness. I know helplessness. I know you Grief. And through my knowing, I feel a kinship to those around me who have come to know all of these things too. Perhaps that is the light that seeps through the broken parts of me, shining through the cracks, warming my wounded soul. Perhaps that is what you have given me.

And then there are the friends, not all to be sure, but some. Those who have quietly drifted away. I understand it, I do. Traveling through each day with you is hard enough for me. So it makes sense that for some, sharing in this journey, day in and day out, would simply prove to be too much. How strange it must be to look at me, looking the same on the outside as I did before; and yet to continuously meet this whole other person. It is almost like watching a friend become a stranger. At least that is what I imagine it is like. It makes sense to push for the old me to return, to move on, to simply get over this traumatic loss. If I could snap my fingers and make it so, I would. But I can’t. Life goes on; shiva ends, shloshim ends, and slowly but surely, the texts, the check ins, the words of support lessen and so begins the divide. Not simply with the me I was before, but the friend I was.. the friends I had. I’m not angry. It’s no one’s fault. But it does make me sad. Because loss seems at times to unwittingly open the door for more loss, goodbyes of one kind, lead to goodbyes of another. That is what you do at times Grief. It is the cost of knowing you so intimately.

And yet as the ground shifted beneath my feet, the tsunami of my father’s death so closely followed by a move across the country, something deeply beautiful happened. In this new place, in this new home, in this community of strangers, I found acceptance. I encountered new friends willing to step into the muck & mud, the messiness that you Grief brought into my life. With open arms and hearts full of compassion, they embraced me in all of my brokenness and have accompanied me on this long, arduous, complex journey of loss and healing. They met me where I was at, when you brought me to my knees, and they have loved me, nurtured me and allowed me to trust in them. And even more, there are those who once were on the periphery of my world, perhaps living in the same place, but traveling in different circles, or strangers whom I had never met at all. And through this place we call social media, our lives began to intersect in a more intimate and personal way. Friendships were forged across computer screens, strengthened by common experiences, loss and struggles. My pain, honesty and compassion touching them. Their pain, honesty and compassion touching me in return. That is a lesson you have taught me Grief, to use my suffering, my pain, as a bridge. And I am grateful to the friends of old who have walked across it, and the new friends who bravely stepped onto it.

Oh Grief. If I could wake up tomorrow and outrun you, I think that I would. But I know that instead, I will have to walk with you for some time to come. In truth, I believe that you will always be a part of me, etched into my heart, imprinted upon my soul. But in time I know you will fade into the background, that each step that I take will not share a footprint with you. In time it will happen.

You have made me a different person Grief. I am a different wife, a different mother, a different daughter & a different friend. There are many days that I lament that fact. I don’t want my children to look back and say that their grandpa died and took the best of their mother with him. But I do hope that they have gained a better understanding of what it is to love and to lose. I hope Grief that I’ve taught them not to fear you or run from you, but instead to feel you, to honor you and to journey with you towards healing and wholeness. I hope that my husband won’t tire of carrying me when you leave me feeling weak, or picking me up, when you cause me to crumble. I hope he’ll keep reaching for my hand, pulling me ever upward, walking every step forward and backward with me. I hope that in the end, who we are as a couple will be strengthened by the time that we shared in your presence.

Grief, you took so much from me. Soon the ball will drop and the year of 2015 will draw to an end. The very last year that I shared with my father in life will be a thing of the past. Yes part of me wants to wish that year away and never look back at all that you cost me, all that I’ve lost. But to do that would be to lose sight of the gifts that you have given me as well.

And so I approach this New Year with ambivalence. The bitter and the sweet converge. I do not have resolutions to offer, only prayers. Ironic since it seems that you Grief have made even that hard to grasp on to, at a time when I need it the most. And yet…

In this new year, I pray for continued healing so that I can look backward with fondness and forward with hope. I pray that some of the pain will be left behind, making more room for joy and laughter. I pray that the love that I lost will remind me to savor & cherish the love that still remains and the new love that I have found. I pray that I will come to remember my father in life and images of his death will no longer haunt me. I pray for his peace, as well as my own. And I pray that I can learn from the time that I have spent with you Grief. You have taught me some of the hardest and most painful lessons a human being can learn. I didn’t ask for them. I didn’t want them. But you offered them nonetheless. I pray that I can carry them with me, in this new version of self that I must now create. Grief you have both shattered and shaped me. You have weakened and empowered me. You change, as I change. We are bound together not only by death and loss, but a greater and deeper appreciation for life. You giveth and you taketh away. You are the reminder & the price that I pay for having loved & been loved. How can I possibly wish all of that away?

shamash

In a place where there are no humans One must strive to be human (Hillel the Elder)

It is the holiday of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. It has been our family tradition these past few years, to perform eight mitzvot (moral deeds) over the course of the holiday, one for each light & night of Hanukkah. Our hope is that with each deed, each act of kindness that we perform, we can help to bring light and warmth into the world; at least our own little corner of it.

Last night, homemade cookies in hand, we headed to our synagogue, Congregation Har Hashem in Boulder, Colorado. On a cold and windy Tuesday night, we were housing and feeding members of our homeless community in partnership with BOHO ( Boulder Outreach for Homeless Overflow). We laid out the blankets that our guests would sleep on for the night. One blanket that served as their bed on the hardwood floors. We greeted them, served them food and rotated around the room offering desserts. We had the opportunity to talk to some of our guests, others were tired, cold and hungry and simply wanted to eat and close their eyes for some rest.

As we drove home, our daughters, ages 17, 16 and 13, reflected on the evening. The experience granted them perspective on their own lives, but more than that it allowed them to challenge the stereotypes so many of us have about the homeless. They reflected on the warmth, the gratitude, the eloquence and even the sense of hope that they encountered with so many of the people they served. They noted the smiles that met their own & reflected on the diversity of our guests. They were young, they were old. They were disabled and able-bodied. They were quiet and they were outgoing. They were single and they were couples.

It isn’t the first time we’ve given our daughters the chance to participate in a volunteer project that serves the needs of others. We’ve done it many times. It’s an important value for us. But yesterday evening, I believe, gave them the greatest opportunity to see, really see, the human beings who are without homes, not simply “the homeless.” They were moved by the people that they met.And each of them agreed that they very much wanted to participate in BOHO again.

This weekend, at the culmination of Hanukkah, we will head into Boulder with bags that we put together on the second night of the holiday; bags full of water, hand warmers, snacks and notes of kindness. We will personally hand them out to our homeless neighbors, those we so regularly encounter on the streets of this college town. We will keep the rest on hand in our cars, to ensure that whenever we pass another human being who is hungry and in need, we can give them a little something to quench their thirst, fill their bellies and show them that we care, that we see them and that they matter. We will also volunteer some of our time with Community Food Share. We won’t avert our eyes to the strangers in our midst. We can, in whatever capacity that we are able, reach out and act with compassion, faith and humanity. That is what we want to teach our daughters. That is the ultimate lesson we hope that they will carry through life.

So, what does all of this have to do with Donald Trump? I’ll tell you. It’s quite simple you see. Donald Trump offers sweeping, hateful, fear filled generalizations of people. He labels, he demonizes and he feeds on the worst notions that we have of the stranger. It’s hard to out shout him and we certainly can’t out spend him or find for ourselves the same type of bully pulpit from which he espouses his views.

But here is what we can do. We can give our children and ourselves the opportunity to have encounters with those who are different. We can engage in dialog with those whose socioeconomic, race, religious or even political views, are outside of the daily realm of our own lives. We can look them in the eye. We can introduce ourselves and we can talk to them. We can offer a smile or a kind gesture. We can, in short, begin to recognize the humanity behind the label or the circumstance. This is what happened for our daughters last night. This is what we hope will continue to happen each time we act upon the teachings of our Jewish faith.

Rabbi Tarfon taught: “It is not your responsibility to finish the task [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either” Pirkei Avot

I know, our food bags and our time serving others isn’t a global movement, nor does it address the overwhelming and very real challenges we face as a nation and as a people. But it does teach our children, our three precious daughters, to open their eyes wider. It teaches them to meet the stranger with compassion and to refrain from easy judgments and stereotypes. It teaches them humanity and compassion for others. It teaches them to answer hate with love, bigotry with acceptance, apathy with action and cruelty with kindness. And, we hope, it helps to protect them from getting swept up in demagoguery that categorizes anybody else as simply an “other” or an entire group of people as evil or villainous. It is our own family’s answer to the dehumanization of another human being based on race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic standing or other differences. Answer with humanity. Answer strongly and with your whole self. Answer wherever & whenever you can. And where there is darkness, seek always to be a source of light.

The Shamash is the candle that lights the others. Be a Shamash (Rabbi David Wolpe)

mom and dad wedding

Tomorrow.

Fifty years of marriage

It is referred to as The Golden Anniversary.

But my father isn’t here…

Still, his death & his absence does not, cannot tarnish what he and my mother built together.

They were best friends. Children really, when they first met. They grew up together. They started a family. They built a home. They built a life.

It wasn’t always easy. And no, it wasn’t perfect. Nothing worth having is. They always taught me that marriage is work. It takes two imperfect people striving to build a foundation of trust, acceptance, respect and unconditional love. And when that foundation is strong, the hardest of times become somehow more bearable and the best of times, so much more meaningful. But the foundation must always be tended to. That is the work. The labor of love.

I always knew my parents loved one another. They said it. They showed it. They were demonstrative in their affection towards one another. They held hands and they kissed. Yes, they kissed in front of their children…

Ani l’dodi v’dodi li I am my beloved & my beloved is mine.

Fifty years of marriage. It was supposed to be celebrated as a couple. The toast to be shared wishing for “many, many more anniversaries to come.” It was supposed to be a day of great joy. But alas, life did not honor what was supposed to be.

Gold should shimmer, it should sparkle, it should glisten. It reflects light and life.

Without my father it does not shine so brightly. It is muted by his loss, by his absence.

But still, we must honor this milestone. We honor it for my mother, and in loving memory of my father.

Fifty years is quite an achievement.

My mother & father on the day my mom turned Sweet 16.

My mother & father on the day my mom turned Sweet 16.

Together these two kids who met in Brooklyn 55 years ago-built something so very beautiful.

June 13, 1965 was the beginning of their journey as husband & wife. And from that day, and that commitment, came a family. Two children and six grandchildren. That is the legacy of their love story.

So, we celebrate that. We celebrate the family that love built and the love story that started it all. And we mourn the husband, father & grandfather who is not with us on this day! But never will we allow his death to diminish all that he and my mother shared, all that they were to each other, all that they had been through, all that they had experienced in good times & bad, & all of the love that filled their days.

Mommy~
This is for you…

“I carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)I am never without it (anywhere
I go you go,my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet)I want no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)”
― E.E. Cummings

greene party1652

This post was originally posted to my Facebook page on 5/29/15.

Dear Dad,
It’s Shabbat. Soon we will light the candles. I cooked today, sweet & sour lentils. I even made a banana bread. I haven’t found the joy in cooking again. But I am doing a little more of it. Feeling good at least to be feeding my family good food, healthy food, food that nurtures their bodies. Cooking & baking truly fed my soul before that phone call, before you took your life, before we buried you. I know that feeling will come back, but for now-no photos of my food, no recipes shared on social media, nope, I’m not there yet. I miss you dad. The words to Mourner’s Kaddish do not come easily. Simply uttering them makes the loss seem somehow so much more real & palpable. You were never really a religious man dad. I wonder if you had been, if it might’ve been easier for you to have “faith” that things would get better. It’s another one of those questions dad, the kind you’ll never answer, the kind I’ll never really get to ask. There are so many of those damn questions. Where are you dad? That’s another one–why can’t you come and visit me in a dream? Whisper to me in the wind and tell me you’re okay? I always wonder that dad-Are you okay? It’s Shabbat. We kindle the lights, we bless the wine & the challah. We welcome the Sabbath Bride into our midst. We wish for shalom, peace, on Shabbat. I haven’t found it yet Daddy. But I’m trying… I love you. And I miss you more than words can say.
Love,
Deborah

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