Sep 10, 2012

Walking Around the Block

In the Jewish religion it is traditional to “Walk around the block” at the end of the Shiva/mourning period. As a Rabbi recently explained to my family, it is a way of saying “we are finished mourning and are returning the community rather than having the community come to us.”
For me, the “walk around the block” symbolizes the circle of life and the hard, cold fact that life goes on.
You lose someone you love. You open your home to friends and family and people who come out of the woodwork that you never imagined seeing. You sit on low chairs that are hard as rock and your back aches, your legs cramps and your neck becomes stuck in an unnatural upright position.

There are swarms of well-meaning people who “close talk” and touch and even kiss and hug you although if you ran into them on the street such acts of affection in many cases would not take place.
People come to pay their respects for different reasons. Some have recently lost a parent and can relate to the awful, sick feeling you have in your entire body while others knew the deceased and find it impossible to believe they are gone. There are strangers who knew them but never knew you or the rest of your family and if you scan the crowded room you’ll see people who don’t seem to know why they are there at all but still they are there.
And in some ways it’s beautiful, in others overwhelming and you feel as if you are drowning in it all and you just want to hide in a room so that you can be alone and really reflect on the tragedy that has unfolded. You want all the noise to stop so you can feel and not listen; so you can close your eyes and see their face and imagine them there with you.

This morning we walked around the block and cut through the park in back of my parents’ house, one of my dad’s favourite places where all of us played baseball and hockey and stayed out after dark under the watchful eye of the moths dancing in the glow of the park lights.
Did I feel his presence? Yes I did but truthfully I have been feeling him all around me since he passed. I don’t have to be in the park or on the back balcony or in the den or at the kitchen table.
He is with me no matter where I go. And this is so comforting because one of my biggest worries and one I am sure others share; was that I would lose him completely including the connection to his soul and his very being.
I watched my mother as she walked arm and arm with my older brother. I tried to imagine how she must feel. They had over 50 years together.
50 years – my God.
Their favourite part of the day was first thing in the morning because they always had breakfast together. Something as simple as sharing the paper and talking about what each of us was up to at work and in our personal lives and anxiously awaiting each of our phone calls that would come in by the end of the day so they could hear our voices.
I can’t imagine what it will be like for my mother to sit at that kitchen table and have breakfast without her life partner by her side. I know she will talk to him as I have been doing these past few days. I know she will feel pain, loss and bewilderment. And through all of this my wish for her is that she feels my father, her husband, her best friend – all around her like a walk around the block and the circle that is life that goes on and on forever.

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