Losing someone you love is hard.
Everyone grieves differently. Sometimes you really do go through the different stages of grief, and sometimes you just go. Crying, laughing — they can be interchangeable emotions. I write this column primarily to make people laugh, though it seems that the columns that have made people cry have been even more popular. Go figure. I guess we are a morbid people.
So this column. This column. I debated whether or not to write it. But I am who I am, so I will just put it out there. And just so you know, some of you may think I always put it out there, that you know me… but there are some things I keep to myself, because we are all like that.
Husband #1 lost his first friend last week. One of my friends said that he was lucky to have lived this long without having gone through that loss before. I wouldn’t say “lucky” was the right word, but I knew exactly what she meant. A couple of years ago, I lost someone very close to me. Part of my grieving process was to continue to text her after she was gone. After a few months had gone by, unbeknownst to me, the phone company had given her number to someone else. Nothing surprises you more than when a deceased person responds to your text. I quickly texted her brother, just to let him know that if he was as crazy as I was and was texting her too, he should just know that Freddy would be happy to be his friend….
See — laughing and crying. Totally interchangeable.
Husband #1’s friend was larger than life. They met during their year in Israel. Over the years there were phone calls and invitations, but it wasn’t until we were in Israel for Sukkot that they met up again, after all those years. It was a lovely visit, with hours of stories and laughter and catching up. He had just become a grandfather, Son #1 had just gotten married, both of their “babies” were in Israel for the year, and isn’t it funny that they could continue the friendship into the next generation? His wife and I totally hit it off, and it was like we knew each other for years. I had told them how much I loved the Cadbury chocolate that I found in the London airport, and they sent me some.
That’s the kind of person he was. Generous. To everyone. Friend and stranger alike.
When the pandemic hit, they were sequestered in a lovely house by the water, and they sent us photo after photo of them floating in the pool. The son listening to shiurim — the classes given by their yeshiva — in the pool. We would see the pictures and laugh. Whatsapping back and forth. Always positive. Always caring.
Husband #1 had gotten a text from someone telling him his friend had died, and he almost dropped the phone. He just sat on the couch and kept saying, “What? What? What?” Like he didn’t understand what was being told to him. Followed by even more whys. He didn’t understand. In all the years he was friends with this man, never was a negative word uttered. Never was a question about the unfairness of life asked, or an unkind word about someone said. It was all happy and positive.
Was that all a ruse? A mask? Were we supposed to ask other questions? Then you feel guilty, because maybe you should have asked more questions. But who knows. And now there is nothing anyone can do about it anyway.
The Zoom shiva call we paid was probably the most awkward shiva call ever. Husband #1 couldn’t stop talking and I totally got it. I kept writing down the word “relax” so he would take a breath. Guys aren’t the best about sharing their feelings in general, and then something like this happens to someone he was close with and it just boils over. You cannot ask the questions you want to ask because no one knows those answers, and you just feel helpless and ridiculous. But there were no signs. There was nothing that would indicate that anything was wrong. And that is the saddest thing of all.
So you grieve and you cry and then life goes on. Look around at the blessings in your life, put one foot in front of the other, and never forget to say “I love you” to those you hold dear.
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck has been especially nice to Husband #1 as we are entering the month of Adar and he will soon become Megillah Man.