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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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Torn in Half

Today, the 8th of Marcheshvan on the Jewish calendar, marks six months since Aaron's passing. The midpoint between levaya and yarhzeit, between fresh heartbreak and heartbreak remembered. There are no religious ceremonies or rituals to mark such a mid-year date, but it has been on my mind for the past several days nonetheless.

Since I am saying kaddish for Aaron, today also marks the halfway* point of that duty. As I confessed in one of my earliest posts, when I reached this milestone in my eleven months of saying kaddish for my father, I was feeling impatient to be done, relieved to have more behind me than ahead. But I've changed, and kaddish has taken on a different level of meaning to me now. I have begun dreading the end of this period, troubled by the thought of no longer having this daily commemoration, this final unbroken connection with Aaron's last day of life.

I also find myself thinking of all the things, great and small, that Aaron had been looking forward to doing during this timespan. His high school graduation and trip. His last summer as a counselor at our local day camp. Reading Harry Potter Book 6. Completing his second tractate in the new daf yomi cycle. Seeing Star Wars Episode III.

Most of all, the opportunity to travel to Israel to spend a year learning torah and growing spiritually. Several of Aaron's closest friends had all been accepted to, and planned to attend, the same yeshiva together. That chevra, like our family, will forever be minus one.

I miss him every day. But today in particular, half a year after his loss, he is in my mind; the best half of me that was taken away.

* Our Rabbi advised that the custom, in saying kaddish for a relative other than a parent, is to continue for the entire 12 months rather than 11.


At 11/10/05, 11:07 PM, Blogger Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Elie,

I was reading your blog this evening as I do on a daily basis and was dumbstruck by what you had written. It so reminds me of what I have been writing since Wednesday morning. I hope you understand that I mean no grandstanding or self-promotion; I looked for an email link but found none; however, please feel no reluctance to delete this response should you choose to do so. (note that it is still very much of a rough draft)...

Five Years Ago/Later …
The Jewish month of Cheshvan is said to be ‘bitter’ because it has no “yamim tovim”-no holidays except the weekly celebrations of the Sabbath, and consequently Cheshvan is often called *Mar Cheshvan.

My experience is that it is even more so, bitterer … because it happens that its 24th day marks the anniversary of Ben’s death, and when we arrive at that day this year, we will look back upon five years and wonder how well-if at all- we’ll still be able to glimpse his countenance.

I’ve been looking back for some time now and recall how often I would remind Ben that he keep an eye to the future, to look beyond the moment, so as to be able to peer down the road and see ‘whither he was tending.’ I don’t really know if Ben ever acted upon my advice beyond his oft-repeated reassurances that he did understand and would keep it in mind. Truthfully, whether or not he even knew this about himself, but Ben lived his life by and for the moment; his life was supremely of the present tense-a person whose wristwatch read ‘is’ rather than either ‘was’ or ‘will be’.

I’m not quite sure what it is about the number ‘5’ that seems to have brought about these feelings which I’ll characterize as melancholic … feelings that are becoming more acute as the anniversary of that dreadful day approaches. For the first time since Ben’s death, I have chosen to remain unshaven during the whole of this bitter month-as a visible reminder of this difficult time of the year … as if to magnify the sadness I feel … not so much that I am getting older as that Ben isn’t. He remains forever young.


Alan D. Busch

At 11/11/05, 2:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Elie,

Just to let you know I saw this. It was very touching, and yes, I also looked at saying kadddish for Dad more in terms of when it would be over - not of course that I was dreading saying kaddish or anything. (Interestingly, I just noticed that a fellow who started saying kaddish for his mother when we were nearly finished is finished himself - which just reminds me how Dad a"h is slipping into the background.)

I also just wanted to write this again - that the thought that Aaron is no longer with us saddens me personally whenever I think of it. I just wanted you to keep in mind that just as his friends have lost a buddy, there are others out here who miss Aaron dearly. I always just wish there's was more that could be done...

Good Shabbos,

At 11/11/05, 9:21 AM, Blogger Shifra said...

It's hard to believe so much time has passed already... Time has this odd way of stretching and compressing itself so that it passes slowly and quickly at the same time. I had wanted to reply to your "part four" post but I had no word or even thoughts, it was overwhelming. When I got to that part about the ceramic dinosaur it was almost too much to read. I know that's a funny detail to get hung up on but I do know the feeling of when the meaning of all things change suddenly and permanently. Good writing, as always on an impossibly difficult topic.

At 11/11/05, 10:26 AM, Blogger Jack Steiner said...


I may have written about this before but in case I haven't I offer this. A little more than seven years ago one of my best friends in the world died. In truth I thought of him as being more of a brother. Now I won't suggest that the pain of losing him was as profound as losing a child, but I can say that for a long time I was afraid of waking up and realizing that it didn't hurt to miss him anymore.

After a time I came to realize that I was trying to hold on to my grief because it made me feel closer to him but it also gave me baggage that I didn't like carrying around. After a time I came to a place in which I was able to let go of the grief without letting go of his memory.

I still think about him frequently and always will.

As always my best wishes for you and your family. May Aaron's memory be a blessing and a source of strength for you.

At 11/12/05, 10:57 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Alan: I appreciate your comments and words of support, especially coming from one who has also been sharing the story of your own loss so movingly. I spend some time on Friday reading "The Book of Ben" (just added a link on my blogroll) and am very impressed by the depth and sincerity of your writing. Besides the obvious connection, your son's story struck a particular chord with me for two additional reasons: One, my second son (now my oldest son, bli ayin hara) is named Ben. Two, over the past few months we have often compared the rapidity and suddenness of Aaron's illness to a car accident.

Bro: Thank you for everything. I very much realize that this loss has and will continue to affect the entire family. In particular, I know that you were so looking forward to having Aaron in Israel this year, coming to you often for Shabbos, giving you a chance to get to know him better. I know your home would have been a second home to him, and he was looking forward to it as much as your were.

Shifra: You are very perceptive. I will now admit that the ceramic dinosaur was actually the part of the story I was most hesitant to share. Thinking about it hurts on a very deep and primal level.

Jack: Thanks for sharing your story and for your constant reading and commenting. May we all find a measure of comfort in one another's writings.

At 11/13/05, 1:11 AM, Blogger Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Elie,

Thank you for your very kind words and for linking me to your blog. I shall reciprocate as soon as I can remember how it was done the first time. :) I am ...

Very Sincerely yours,

Alan D. Busch

At 1/28/21, 11:26 AM, Blogger -blessed b9, Catalyst4Christ said...

I know PRECISELY what you mean -
my sweetheart was DOA:
my heart is torn in half.


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