This Shabbat marks the first yahrzeit of my father, of blessed memory.
I cannot believe it’s been a year – a year that I can only describe as one filled with meaningful pain. Not only was there the death of my father, but also the challenge of dealing with my mother who quickly went into crisis.
When I say “my,” I really mean “our.” We lost our father. The crisis was with our mother. When tragedy strikes, it is a trauma that impacts the whole family, and families are not simple.
What did I learn this year? After my father’s stroke and death, I learned that family members react in different ways– some step up and handle the practical, some the emotional, and some simply cannot handle anything at all. It doesn’t mean some are good and some bad. Everyone has a different capacity when it comes to a crisis.
I also learned that most of life is just showing up. I now regret the innumerable times that I said or wrote to someone going through a crisis: “Please let me know if there is anything that I can do.” When someone is in crisis, they don’t know if your offer for help is sincere or just polite and perfunctory. And when I was in the throws of it, I didn’t know what I needed, as my days were filled with making life and death decisions. There was nothing left for decisions about where I was going to sleep or what I was going to eat or wear.
I also learned that you don’t always remember what people said, but you do remember if they were there and how they made you feel.
There were two things that people said that brought me great comfort. One friend called during shiva and asked, “Tell me one thing about your father that can help me grow and be a better person.”
And the words that brought me the greatest comfort were from Rabbi Yehuda Weinberg, son of our rabbi of blessed memory, Rabbi Noah Weinberg. When I returned to Israel, he came up to me and said, “Your father always knew what you did, but now he sees it.”
The death of a loved one is always hard, but knowing there is a G-d, and the eternity of the soul, helps the pain turn into meaning.
May my father, Yoel ben Shmuel Chaim HaLevy, of blessed memory, continue to get nachas from all of us from above. Daddy, we miss you and your fierce love for us all.