death

08.21.2014 Seventy-nine Weeks

How do we survive the loss of a loved one? of a child? of a partner? “Time heals” – and that’s true, to a certain extent. But the passage of time alone cannot mend a shattered soul. It takes a collaborative effort of the head and the heart to escape the crushing gravity of deep grief.

Last year, my friend Lisë endured unbearable loss. The sudden death of her 18-year-old son Eitan… and three months later, the sudden death of her partner Larry. No warning. No mercy. But over these past 18 months, I have witnessed the extraordinary journey my friend has undertaken… to somehow rescue herself from her darkest days. I share this blog entry from Lisë marking 79 weeks since the death of her son. It is such a poignant and uplifting moment that she shares. If you have suffered such an unthinkable loss, or if you know someone who has, I hope this post will offer some hope for the future.

Eitan Stern-Robbins z"l

Seventy-nine weeks.
So this happened.

Connoisseurs Marketplace, Menlo Park, California, 7.20.14

He is grown but young.
The attack from within knocked him flat backward,
tight curls torn open staining black asphalt crimson,
in front of a statue of jeans with a pig snout jutting from the fly,
and a coffee shop.

Aunt’s hands, grandmother’s, cousins, holding, supporting, cradling that head,
eyes rolled back white frozen
cold unseeing but alive, the barest hint of terror.

I recognize this stare,
suspended immobility after the shakes,
gaze blank.

And I stop, and freeze, and stare, seeing, and wring my hands,
an action I thought only appeared in writing, but there they are, the left, the right, holding each other, washing with fingers and skin, pressing against my heart.

A crumpled cream colored towel appears in the relatives’ hands,
supplied by someone,
to prop, protect, that head so it will rest on softness instead…

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05.15.2014 Sixty-five Weeks

Lisë and I met early in our freshman year at Clark University, 34 years ago. Last year, she suffered the most immense losses. Her 18-year-old son Eitan died in his sleep in his freshman dorm on Valentine’s Day. Three months later, her partner of seven years, Larry, also died without warning on Mother’s Day.

Lisë is a writer, and her struggle to find her way out of this sea of desolation led her to begin posting on Facebook. That soon became a weekly post, every Thursday (the day Eitan died). Recently, Lisë created a blog, including all of her posts from Facebook, and continuing on from there. Today’s post is “Sixty-five Weeks”. And I share this because my friend writes so eloquently about the journey that has brought her to this point. Of needing to summon memories of her son and her partner, without being crushed by grief. I am inspired by her courage and moved by her honesty.

I hope this will find its way to someone who needs to know that their darkness can be dispelled. It takes time. And hope helps.

Eitan Stern-Robbins z"l

Sixty-five weeks.
Fifty-two weeks and four days ago I lost my beloved Larry,
twelve weeks and three days after Eitan.

I’ve been thinking a lot about love, during these three months when I still had Larry, suffered just one tragic loss, held up by his immense love and support. It was not at all easy for him, how could it be, yet he was there, a rock for me to cling to in a tempest of grief.

Love isn’t physically tangible, you can’t box it or touch it or divvy it up into individual portions. And yet it is, we feel it in our beings, at a cellular level, and so I felt the strength of Larry’s love for me, holding me up through all those first days of living without, shiva, saying kaddish with me during the 30 days, coming here for Shabbat dinner, staying here and coming with…

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