Due to the fact that I’m a Jew, and I am still coping with grief, I have an incredibly complicated relationship with this time of year. Last year, the holiday season was horrible. I was bombarded with Christmas greetings and music and messages and, more than once, I ended up in a puddle of tears because of the memories of my childhood and the people – my brother, my father, my paternal grandparents, my mother-in-law – that have all died in the past four years. Add to that that I literally had a Salvation Army bell ringer yell at me because I didn’t wish her a “Merry Christmas” back, and I simply couldn’t handled it. I made a vow that in 2020, I would not be subjected to the onslaught of Christmas cheer and memories that were too painful to enjoy. For months now, I’ve been making plans to ensure that I didn’t have to get anywhere near a store between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
The thing I hadn’t planned on, though, was that in a year, I would change. I would heal. I would feel better.
Two weeks ago, I put up this post about heading into the High Holidays still mourning the loss of my father, but in a very different place grief-wise than I was a year ago.
Two hours after I posted that, I found out that my younger brother was dead.
We discovered a minor leak inside the Winnebago the day after Thanksgiving. It’s in the spot where the coach and the cab meet and it’s midway down in a corner area. Since we’ve only owned it for a month, even though it’s 12 years old, I was fairly dramatic about it. (“I can’t believe she’s leaking! I hope it’s okay! What if they can’t fix it? What if we’re left with nothing but a pile of rust and mold? Did we buy a lemon?!”) Continue reading
My dad believed in visitors from the afterlife. He was also a man of stories, and one of his frequent stories was a memory from when his younger brother, John, died as a teenager in the early 70s. The story goes like this: John was in his hospital bed, comatose in the very last minutes of life. My dad had rushed to his bedside from several hours north, barely making it in time. Right before John succumbed to cancer and died, my dad looked up and saw, floating near the ceiling in the corner of that hospital room, ethereal versions of his grandmother, grandfather, and an aunt. Dad said it was as if they were there to greet John’s spirit on the other side. Continue reading
I love the Jewish High Holy Days. While we have a lot of holidays on the calendar, I’ve been practicing Judaism long enough to know that Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is joyful and celebratory, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is serious, somber, and breathtakingly powerful. This year was especially poignant because I attended the Yizkor service, which honors those who have died during the previous year and comforts those who are mourning.
Yom Kippur is about ensuring that we have righted our wrongs so that our names are inscribed in the Book of Life for another year. Continue reading
Three weeks, one day.
These days, I measure the passage of time based on my father’s passing. In these subsequent 22 days since his death, grief has taken its place in my life like a shadow. My only real reprieve is for a few hours of work each day when I’m so immersed in the crazy world of employee relations that I can compartmentalize my pain.
Of all my memories, the one I associate most with my grandfather is a crushed velvet couch piled six across and two high with Cabbage Patch Dolls. Blondes. Brunettes. Redheads. Boys. Girls. There seemed to be one of every kind displayed on that couch in that wood-paneled living room.
It’s been a year, Kyle, since I kissed you on the head for the last time and watched as you drifted into a peaceful death. I know that you’re finally free from pain but a year later, I’m definitely not. Our family isn’t the same without you, buddy, and I’d give anything to have you back. I know I can’t, though, so I have to deal with the pain and trudge on. You were the most wonderful companion and I hope I did right by you. I hope you knew I loved you right until your very last breath. I’m sorry I didn’t know how sick you were sooner. A year later, I realize that I was in denial. I refused to accept that my Kyle, my baby boy, my shadow for the past 13 years wasn’t doing well. In the end, I know that we couldn’t have stopped the cancer and that it was your time to leave me but it doesn’t make the hurting any less acute. I’ve shed many tears, and I’ll shed many more in the years to come because you’re gone.