"I haven't got time for the pain
I haven't got room for the pain"
- Carly Simon
Our community suffered another tragedy last week. A husband and father in his early 40s - a couple of years younger than me - passed away after a several month struggle with "yenem machla", as they call it in yeshivish circles. He left a wife and three children, the oldest, their only son, just past bar mitzvah, now charged with the dreadful duty of reciting kaddish for a grindingly long eleven months. The middle child is Shayna's classmate, and the youngest a child of six.
Debbie knows the wife fairly well. But neither of us could bring ourselves to attend the funeral on Wednesday. We intended to, but when the morning came, it just felt too difficult. Was that self-protection, or cowardice; coping, or copping-out? Sometimes the difference between the two feels as thin as that one letter delta. I wonder if I'll ever know myself well enough to answer that question honestly.
We did find the ability to make a shiva call last night. For a house that had just encountered death, it ironically felt full of life. Jarringly - at least to me - the widow spoke with vivacity and even with genuine joy about her husband, shared anecdotes, proudly recounted his accomplishments and interests. I was amazed at how much I had had in common with the man, how many topics we could have enjoyed discussing together - comics, religion, politics, music. Unfortunately, our similarities also included extreme introversion, a barrier which kept us from getting to know one another when there was still that chance.
Leaving the shiva house, I felt shaken and deeply troubled. Encountering an openly sorrowful and sobbing family would have disturbed me less than what I had just gone through. I know that everyone grieves differently. And we've all been to shiva houses which focused, with gratitude and gladness, on celebrating the life that was, rather than mourning the loss that is.
But why is this kind so much more harrowing for me? Pain shared is supposed to be pain divided, yet witnessing someone else's calm acceptance of their bereavement multipled my own grief astronomically. As always, I'm left with my constant, one-word question: Why?