Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Chai Lifeline Event 1 of 2: Debbie

Both the yahrzeit yesterday, and the kickoff event for the Chai Lifeline Aaron Rosenfeld Memorial Fund, went very well. I will share some more details tomorrow; I'm thoroughly exhausted tonight, physically and emotionally. But here are the remarks Debbie delivered at today's event; mine in a 2nd post.

In yesterday’s parsha, we read "[Hebrew]" – "do not take vengeance and do not bear a grudge, love your friend like yourself, I am Hashem". As our Rabbi explained yesterday, this means that if your friend won’t lend you something, it is wrong not to lend him something tomorrow. Your pain and suffering may seem to come from your friend, and a vengeful approach may seem to be the most pragmatic, feel-good short-term therapy. But this is prohibited because “Ani Hashem”, I am G-d. Our pain and suffering comes to us as part of Hashem’s big picture, much of which we do not understand. Hashem forbids vengeance, a quick fix intervention which in the big picture is not in our best interests.

Just as someone is hurt to the quick when denied his or her needs by a friend, so too Elie and I, and all of us here today are deeply pained over the loss of Aaron. The grief of a parent over the loss of a child is virtually inexplicable to anyone who is fortunate enough not to have experienced it. It has been said that grief comes in only one size – extra large. I read on the griefhelp.org website that when we grieve, we are at a fork in the road. We have the opportunity to choose a dark path with no lights and no destination, a path that is filled with numerous tunnels and has no outlet. It leads nowhere but to a life of despair and regret.

But we also have the opportunity to choose another path – the high road. This path is very rocky, has twists and turns, and many sharp drops. It can be anything but a smooth road, but it leads in the right direction. Although it appears beyond our sight, many miles ahead, this path leads to a wonderful place, a destination of peace, like a gorgeous rainbow viewed from a mountaintop.

The focus of grief is most easily placed on the feelings of hurt and despair, on what we lost. We can constantly relive what happened. Anger, blame, and feelings of overwhelming regret may fester inside. We frequently feel beyond repair. We mourn for the loss of the loved one, for the loss of fairness in life, and for the loss of our past lives.

This path in grieving is obviously not the path that we want to stay on, at least not for very long. But how do we get off this path and begin to take the high road? In our case, we asked ourselves a few questions: How would Aaron want us to live the rest of our lives? Would he want us to wallow in self-pity? Would he want us to remain bitter? Or would he want us to move on and find ways to attach meaning to our tragic loss.

Victor Frankl, philosopher and Holocaust survivor, in his book “A Man’s Search for Meaning”, says “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the freedom to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances”. Hashem never takes away our freedom to choose the high road, no matter how difficult this choice may sometimes seem. As only grief-stricken parents know, on a day to day basis, implementing this choice may feel near impossible. When feeling bereft, isolated, weakened, exhausted, and worn down by despair, it becomes an acrobatic feat to maintain the choice of the high road in even the simplest ways – to take care of the home and feed the family, to be an effective parent and a reasonably decent Jew – when the quick fix, “short term therapy” that seems to make the most sense is to crawl into bed and shut the door.

And beyond these “everyday life arena” examples, there are more far reaching high-road choices. Elie maintains a wonderful blog, through which he is actively involved in both his own healing and that of others. I have opted to return to the hospice work that I so love. And as a family, we have chosen to take the high road by engaging Chai Lifeline in establishing the fund in Aaron’s name which you will hear about today.

Like Aharon, Moshe’s brother, our Aaron was also a specialist in “vi-ahavta li-rayacha kamocha”, loving his fellow man as himself – or in his case his fellow student. He spent countless hours tutoring struggling students. Despite the potential risk to his own studies, he deeply understood that in the big picture, his grades were not the only goal.

I urge you all today to take the high road along with us, a path that Aaron identified as important so early in life, and to support the fund which is being established in his memory. Thank you.


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