Everyone keeps saying, "How are you?" Well, it turns out grief comes in waves, but those waves are mitigated by the throngs of people who love you. I am so grateful to Merrick Jewish Centre and Rabbi Klein for making sure we could use the shul as the home away from home it was for so many years.
So much food arrived during the first days. Bagels. Deli. Egg salad. Tuna. Lox. Whitefish. Potato salad. Cole Slaw. Pickles and olives. And cookies, cake, and more cookies.
(If you haven't seen them, please check out these videos on YouTube: iShiva and The Seven Days of Shiva)
Shiva isn’t so much one smooth period, rather a series of disjointed moments rising and falling with emotion. Memories are shared and laughed over. Family drama bubbles under the surface as we attempt to be strong for our mother. Though we know she’ll be fine in the long run, her anxiety flows when no one else is around (as if we or our aunts and uncles would allow our mom to become a bag lady wandering the streets). In moments of clarity she will admit she has investments to live on. Our father made sure of that. But then the ball drops again, and we’re back in the abyss.
Thursday morning. Mom is moving things around. No more trucks or rocks in the living room. I’m happy to see she’s exerting her own personality. There was a leak in the kitchen to be fixed. And then my first minyan beyond shiva. It was both odd and comforting, a feeling I expect to encounter many more times before this is over. Last night I realized that there will be no more mornings to lie in bed, no cold weekends to hide under the covers. A large part of my own psychological health is about to be sacrificed to tradition, and I don’t know how I feel about that.
Following retirement, my father studied at Yeshiva Etzion on Long Island and in Queens. Though the students were in their 20's, he was welcomed. Daddy wasn’t easy. He wasn’t an Orthodox Jew. He was a mitnaged who challenged religion. He wanted to know and to deeply understand. The Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Avraham Gaon, welcomed Daddy and challenged him right back. Over the years they developed a deep friendship. In our sorrow, we neglected to inform Rabbi Gaon immediately. I spoke with him today. The yeshiva will be dedicating their learning to Daddy for a month. (Cue tears.) Just received a condolence call from a student at Yeshiva Etzion. He never knew my father. He said, “I knew your father was very close with my rabbi, and I heard so many wonderful stories about him, so I wanted to call.” Wow. (Over the next couple of days more students called. Really - wow!)