Cooling Off: A Look Back

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Only a few days ago I finished saying Kaddish, and today was the day my mother would have turned 56. In a few weeks the family will gather in Chicago for the unveiling of her gravestone. I feel almost as if this is the triathlon of grieving that we’ve all been preparing for all year. Within a few weeks, everything rushes to the surface, and then, on Friday night August 28th I light a yahrzeit candle, and say Kaddish, and it’s over.

I’ve been wondering a lot about what I’ll take away from this year. My last blog post struck a chord with a lot of people, I think, and I got a lot of phone calls and emails from old friends and strangers who wanted to check in and said all kinds of nice things. As I was reading the emails earlier today it struck me that the number one lesson I’ve learned about this stuff is that it’s always better to acknowledge someone else’s grief than to ignore it out of fear of saying something inappropriate. Maybe this is petty, but there are some people who never got in touch with me after my mom died, and though I’m almost certain it’s because they were worried about saying the wrong thing or just repeating clichés, their absence is something I will never forget, and may never be able to get past. When people who I wasn’t really in touch with anymore made contact to tell me they had heard and were sorry, it was really powerful. People showed up at our house during shiva who I never got to speak to because there were so many people there, but just seeing that they made it was really important to me.
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Shortly after I moved to Nashville I went on a date with someone who I didn’t know very well. While we were out he told me that his father had died a few months earlier, and he was visibly upset about it. Later on he brought it up again. And I remember thinking it was kind of inappropriate that he was bringing it up, and—this really makes me cringe—I remember so vividly thinking he should just get over it. I don’t think I even said anything to him about being sorry. I have thought back to that moment literally hundreds of times since then, and my regret is just—well, monumental doesn’t really cover it.

Posted on August 3, 2009

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