The Jewish New Year is quickly approaching.
There will be honey and Challah and prayers and rejoicing.
There will be families and loved ones and grandparents with grandchildren and aging parents with their own children.
There will be laughter and jokes while enjoying dinner and lunch and walking home together arm in arm, hand in hand with the people most important to you.
But there will also be fresh cuts that will turn into raw scars and never fully heal.
There will be lasting images of the end of a life well lived packed with pain and suffering that served as a great injustice and indignity to the person that they were - a person who cared for you with every molecule of their soul and left this world too soon and too brutally.
And you won't forget because you can't forget.
Just when you think you may be having an okay moment, your stomach turns and you feel as if you are going to be sick except you are sick already - sick, exhausted, beaten and torn and there is nothing you can do to dull the pain.
And when your family sits down to say farewell to the year that has passed and to welcome the year that is present, there will be an empty chair at the dining room table.
Some of you will choose to look away while others will stare in utter disbelief and question "Are they really gone? Will I never see them again?
And there will be a crude silence and an image will form for just a second - their face - their lips speaking your name - and then it will disappear just as you were starting to think it may last.
Every family has someone they miss and someone they wish they could bring back.
And then there would be no empty chairs at any tables - everyone would be together at least for that one meal, that one celebration, that one very sweet moment.
Empty chairs - there are far too many and they will never be filled.
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.
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.