August 2, 2009

Death's onward march

The news came with alarming rapidity. Three deaths in one week. Three people whose lives have intersected with mine, all taken in just the five days. Add these to the deaths in the past few months of others close to us, and I’m left numb, in shock, in awe of death’s finality.

First, the death of an aunt. At 92, Helen had lived a full life, and so while her death was not a tragedy it still leaves a big hole. Helen was the last of a generation on my father’s side of the family, and her death reminds me yet again, as if I needed a reminder, that I’m no longer part of the next generation.

Friday my brother-in-law, who had been ailing for several years, died. Donald had smoked, drunk and eaten too much when he was younger, and so his sixties were filled with illness and failing health. But 68 is still too young to die, not when your youngest grandchild is still unborn.

And then today, changing planes in an airport, an email from temple told me the funeral for a 54-year-old member of our board will be held tomorrow. It’s hard to fathom. Seth, with two still young children, was one of the handful of young members to whom I was able to turn for help and advice during my presidency.

The words of prayers and poems about death flit through my head, but now, today, they fail to fill the emptiness. Yes, we know that “there is a time to be born, and a time to die.” And yes, Helen, Donald and Seth will live on in the memories of those who loved, laughed and lived with them. But the finality of death, its inevitability, has struck me today with a force never before experienced. And sitting alone in an airport lounge crowd, I wish desperately to be surrounded by a community that understands.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Emily,
    First I must wish you a happier and of course a healthy New Year.

    When I just logged onto Facebook, I immediately related to your posting.

    Aside from the untimely death of our beloved first born, Steve who died in April at age 45, we have just experienced three more funerals since Yom Kippur. Two were friends and that really hurts. The other was someone's Mom---bad, but more expected.

    Being surrounded by community is definitely helpful---an airport is such a sterile place.

    Hoping you feel better.

    I don't think that I will ever stop grieving, but I try very hard to carry on.