Monday, March 5, 2018

I wanted to help

We were in another town last night.

D has his general doctor's appointment and we met a friend for dinner.

We were looking at dessert when my friend's phone went off. She answered and I saw all the blood leave her face.

Her father had been in an accident and was taken to the hospital. D and I split up. I went with her. D took Belle and we went to the hospital. On the way there, my friend was told her dad didn't make it.

I sat with her for the first hour of so of the surreality of a loved ones death. We didn't talk a lot. There was nothing I could say or do. Also she's an old friend, we've filled silences in college and after. We've traded authors that we love. This wasn't the first time we've cried together, it won't be the last.

I wanted to hold her and let her cry. I wanted to tell her that everything would be okay.
But of course it won't. She has a dad-shaped hole in her life now.

I wanted to wave a magic wand and make it all go away. Moreover, I wanted to wave a magic wand and give her her father back.

People ask, "what can I do?" when someone dies. What I wanted, more than anything was for someone to give me my mother back and that's the one thing that can't be done.

The rabbi who taught me when I was growing up said that there were three great mitzvoth that were the most important.

Visiting (and cheering ) the sick.
Gladdening the heart of the bride and the groom.
Comforting the bereaved

I don't think that these mitzvoth are so important because they are easy. In fact I think these are the most important because they are hard.

Visiting people in a hospital is not easy. It reminds you that you can get sick. It reminds you of the frailty of life. It's scary. To see someone you care for, strong and vital--not so strong and vital.

Gladdening the heart of the bride and the groom, is easy--and not so easy. I mean there are groomzillas, bridezillas, and a whole lot of change that you have brought on yourself. While it is (or should be) a happy time, friends who cheer you--well then they are good friends.

Comforting the bereaved.
I am getting too much practice with this. Since 2018 began, my heart-sister lost her father--equally suddenly as my friend did today. My father's lady friend, the one who helped him through mom's death passed away. And my friend's dad. There are people who don't call or visit because they don't know what to say. So don't say anything! Let your friends and loved ones hold you and be held by you. Feed them. Invite a widow or widower out to dinner. The world is so filled with couples once you've lost your other half people sometimes act as if it might be contagious.

I wish I could shield her from the stupid things people will say. I wish I could shield her from the sounds of mourning. I wish I could shield  her from the reminders of loss which will be so sharp for the next 365 days. After the first years the reminders are still there. The sharpness is still there, but it isn't so frequent, and it is a microscopically amount duller.

I wish I could help.


  1. I am so sorry for your friend’s loss. Grief is such a lonely place. I love the idea of the three great mitzvoth. It is also very hard to watch someone grieve and have to just step back and let them feel. It goes against human nature to not be able to do anything to help.

  2. Very sorry for your friend's loss. But I think you are doing an amazing thing just by being there with her. Granted, it's not what she ultimately wants to feel whole, but it is no less important. And as you pointed out, something many don't do.

  3. What a shocking experience for your friend and for you. It is so true that grief can only really be healed by time. While you can't take away the feelings, I think being beside someone and accepting them in their sadness really is doing something helpful.

  4. I think you already did help. I am sorry that both of you had to go through this, though. :(

  5. Oh that's so hard. I'm so heartbroken for her. It's so hard knowing how to help those closest to you when they lose someone.