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A Fading Light: Chapter 21


Seeing an older man holding the hand of his young grandchild on the way to school brings the proverbial lump to my throat

G
rief doesn’t follow a timetable. It can occur before an actual loss, and persist for far longer than we — or others — think it should.

There’s another unpredictable thing about grief. Many months, or even years, may have passed since our loss. We think we’re doing better — and we are, in fact, feeling and functioning better, finding our footing in our vastly changed world. We believe the worst is over, when all of a sudden, something happens to trigger our grief.

The other day, I happened to be in shul midweek and saw the men putting on their tefillin. Flooded with memories of my husband z”l doing this, both on ordinary days and on special occasions, when, for example, he was the sandek for our grandsons, I felt myself starting to tear up. It got even worse when I remembered how, later, he wasn’t able to do this by himself.

It’s not surprising that Yamim Tovim, birthdays, anniversaries, and family simchahs are emotionally difficult after a loss. Bar and bas mitzvahs and graduations are particularly challenging for me. I always have a hard time at a particular moment at the Seder; everyone knows this and begins watching for the signs when, right after bentshing, we begin Hallel. There’s always a family member at the ready to grab my hand or put an arm around my shoulder. It’s that predictable.

But why at this precise point in the Seder? It may have something to do with the niggun. Hearing particular pieces of music, especially those my husband and I enjoyed listening to together, inevitably triggers my grief, as does the sight of an older couple walking together arm in arm. I try to imagine what my husband would’ve looked like had he lived longer, how we might’ve looked as a couple walking down that same street, how we would’ve spent our “golden years,” had we had them.

Once I saw a couple walking ahead of me. Suddenly they stopped. The woman leaned on the man for support while she tied her shoe, which made my reaction even worse than usual.

Seeing an older man holding the hand of his young grandchild on the way to school brings the proverbial lump to my throat. I imagine the joy that this would’ve brought my husband and how much nachas he would’ve had, had he been around to see his grandchildren growing into teenagers and young adults.

And let’s not even talk about hospital visits. The last time I visited someone in the hospital — an acquaintance, mind you — I had to run out of the room because my reaction was so over-the-top. I know now that hospitals are not good places for me to be and try to avoid them.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 659)

 

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