I was going to write Part II of the Passover series, but I think it’ll have to wait.
You may recall me mentioning that my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal cancer shortly before my trip to the USA. So, she passed away Monday night.
I would probably write about how Judaism deals with death and mourning, but right now I’m just feeling even more strongly what I wrote in that letter. My heart is perpetually broken, and there is nothing like losing a family member halfway across the world while you are deep in Passover preparations and trying to entertain your kids (who have been on vacation since Sunday. Thanks a bunch, Ministry of Education) to emphasize how unnatural and painful it is to be so far away from your family. I am so jealous of my Israeli friends whose families can converge within a few hours when something like this happens. The Jewish mourning practices–on which I’m sure I will elaborate eventually–are really very sensitive to this need for family to mourn together, and to be with friends and loved ones, without necessarily needing to speak. Funerals and the surrounding customs provide a context for your grief, they surround you with your loved ones, there’s a catharsis. That is what can’t be fulfilled by the miracles of modern technology. I couldn’t attend the funeral. I couldn’t be there to hug my mother and grandfather and sister. I wasn’t even able to be with my father or brothers, who are here. You know how much I struggle with the pain of distance even without the added pain of loss. It’s agonizing, Josep. It truly is. It makes the process of grieving ten times more painful.
It sounds so cliche to say my grandmother was an amazing lady, but she really was, and there is so much to say about her, I can’t even begin. I think you would have loved her, and she you. You would have talked about Shakespeare and both of your world travels over a glass of fine wine. The “chai” necklace I mentioned (the gold one in this entry about Jewish symbols) is around my neck, and I think that symbol really embodies so much of what she was–full of life, to the very end. She used to wear that necklace all the time, and when I was a baby I would always play with it and put it in my mouth, so she decided she would give it to me when I got older. She gave it to me before my wedding day. A couple months ago when I spoke to her on FaceTime I was wearing it, and she pointed out that I was fiddling with it exactly the same way… I hadn’t even noticed 😉
I was lucky to get to say goodbye to her. Three weeks ago, I was at her apartment in Florida, and we talked about her life and her family. “You come from a long line of strong women,” she told me, “and I see that spark in every one of you.”
When time came to part for the last time, she held both of my hands, smiled, and said, “We will be in touch. Forever.” I started to cry. She told me not to, and we hugged.
I inherited her smile. I can only hope to emulate some of the positivity and joyful strength of spirit that shined from that smile.
I loved her very much, and I miss her, and I am a total mess and I have no idea how I’m going to survive this holiday. Honestly I have no idea how I’ve survived to this point, either.
Anyway. That’s why part II is postponed for now. I hope I’ll get to it sometime during Passover. If not… there’s always next year.
Sending you my love and blessings for Holy Week,