Ice and Solace in Glen Spey NY
Some quick comments on this past week's bereaved families retreat, which already seems a long time ago.
It's been said that getting there is half the fun. But in this case getting there was absolutely no fun at all, though I can think of some other f-words that applied: "fearsome", "frightening", "foolhardy", "fraught with danger" and others that I don't use under normal circumstances. But those circumstances were far from normal.
Those of us in the NY "tri-state area" know that whenever there's snow predicted, the report always says there will be more in the fabled "North and West of the city". Well, that's just where us brave souls were heading - up into the mountains during a blizzard. White knuckles doesn't do it justice. Without a drop of exaggeration I would say this was the single worst drive of my life. If Ben and I hadn't committed to read the Torah there, we would likely have turned back.
There was one silver lining to that storm-cloud - besides the fact that we did (barely) get there before Shabbos. My ability to negotiate those snow-covered mountain back-roads, with zero visibility, received a rare, if somewhat backhanded, compliment from my 15-year old, who said "Dad, never tell me again that you're a bad driver!"
But at least we did get there. And the weekend itself was worthwhile (though not quite at the life-and-limb level of that drive). Once again, as last year, there was the unutterable relief of being, at least for a little while, in an environment where we are not, as Debbie and I cynically call it, the "freaks". Where everyone else had stories like ours to tell, not just in terms of our bereavements themselves, but of the aftermath: the thoughtless, hopefully well-meant comments at shiva, our other children's school issues, the feelings of depression, anger, guilt, or simply not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. Friends lost because they simply couldn't handle being with us. The better friends who have remained, but with whom we nevertheless feel a level of separation; perhaps by a thinner veil, but one that's there all the same.
And most importantly, we were able to give chizuk as well as receive it. In fact, there was more of the former than the latter on our part - especially by my wife, the natural-born therapist. We met, and re-met, some very nice people. And we dug ourselves out of our emotional ditch (matching the physical one that our car had to be rescued from Saturday night by the handy Chai Lifeline tractors!), at least a little bit.
So now we're back, and feeling just a little more able to tackle the "real world" again. I only hope that the memories of this strengthening weekend will be enough to help get us through our first dreadful Pesach home without Aaron.