Tag Archives: death

dear friend


to Nedra with love

It was half a lifetime ago
that we sat by your table on your front porch
it seemed then that we’d fulfilled all our goals
and our dreams had come true.
We discussed the problems of life
smiling and laughing in conversation
all the way through

We loved each other with all our hearts
though never knew each other in the biblical sense
you were my sister and I your brother
though we came from opposite sides of the world
I loved your parents as you loved mine
and we were never bothered by the time…

the hills and the valleys, the hard times and good…
we lived our lives the best way we could.
You, as light as an angel, walking through walls
stalking me in my territory…
as with heavy heart, I walked the study halls.
We found partners, had children, cooked meals…
working as we should; we tried to delight;
you taught me to laugh, you gave me new sight.

and life kept on going, each of us in his way
did we ever imagine that we’d get so gray?
the loss of you, has finally broken my heart…
could we have imagined that we’d fall (so) apart?

You’ve gone to your grave. I’ll soon go to mine.
And let us never be bothered by the passing of time.


Hurricane of the heart

My mother, my teacher, fell ill on Saturday night, almost two weeks ago. She was ill for a day and a half before she died. My two sisters, both of them nurses, were by her side till the end. She had asked that her life should not be prolonged by any artificial method. She was 101 years old, and she thought that she had lived long enough. I did not expect to be upset by her death, or very unhappy. She had had a good life. I know that life is temporary, and she lived longer than most. We buried her a few hours after she died. It was raining that day. Listening to the eulogies, I thought of how difficult it is, to depict a life in a few words. So many people knew her, and admired her… yet few really knew her intimately. And now she and her generation are gone… and the world continues.


In our tradition, when one loses a parent, a very specific mourning period is prescribed. There are rules for the first week, and rules for the first 30 days. And then more relaxed rules for the first year after the death. During the first week, the mourner disconnects from the world, sits on a low chair in his home, wears the same clothes he wore at the funeral, refrains from bathing, refrains from study, doesn’t cut his hair, doesn’t listen to music, doesn’t look in a mirror. We are not supposed to distract ourselves. We look inward, and try to fully accept the loss. Friends and relatives come to give support. All your needs are taken care of. And all you have to do, is to listen to your heart, and relate to what has happened. I was definitely ready for that.

looking at pictures, my mother and father

And as I thought of my mother, many memories came back. Memories of a lifetime,
of good times and bad; of choices, of mistakes, of disappointments… and the way she handled all those things. Many of my personal intimate memories were mixed together with memories of her struggles and accomplishments. I remembered showing her my senior citizen card… and her amazement. What? Are your already old, she asked. And I said yes, I’m getting old. ‘If you’re old, then what am I’, she asked again. You’re ancient, I said… and we both laughed. As I thought of her, and told my children stories of the past, I realized that even if it was time for her to die, and that had to be accepted, there was pain and sorrow at the parting. And I had to accept that too.

enjoying life in the old age home

I have experienced the week of mourning before, both personally, and accompanying friends. It works very well. It allows the mourner to work things out in his own mind and heart. People who don’t have the advantage of this process, sometimes suffer pain and sadness for years… having pushed those feelings under the rug. It is a very good thing to work it out right away. But this time, there was an unexpected event that changed everything for me.

together with my mother

On the second day of my mourning, war broke out with our neighbors in Gaza. Rockets struck many of the villages and cities in the south of Israel. A few even came as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In places like Sdeirot, Netivoth, and Be’er Tuvia, people had only 15 seconds to get to the bomb shelter. In Ashkelon and Ashdod you have a half a minute. In Tel Aviv you have a minute and a half. You could see children running for their lives. This is nothing new for us. Seven years ago, we moved all of the Jews out of the Gaza strip, even though Jews have lived there for generations… and even though Arabs live all over Israel and enjoy many advantages of life among the Israelis, they didn’t want one Jew living in their territory. The government saw fit to move the Jews out, hoping that this would bring peace. But it didn’t. Gazans get electricity and food from Israel. They have a common border with Egypt, but send their sick to be treated in Israeli hospitals. Still, they continue to attack us in every way they can. They shot an anti-tank mortar at a yellow school bus, hitting little children, and passed out candies to celebrate the event. They shoot at us from civilian places, using their own children as human shields. And sometimes in the exchange of fire we hit civilians… and this fills us with sorrow. We see it as a failure. But on the contrary, they aim their rockets and terror attacks at civilians on purpose.


So instead of enjoying the peace of introspection, and dealing with my own sorrow, I became distracted, listening to reports from the radio. Even when hours went by, without listening to the news, I would be thinking about it… worrying that some terrible disaster had happened. And torn between mourning for my old mother, and worrying about my fellow citizens who were facing difficult trials, I became tense and troubled. It was a difficult time. Meantime, the week of morning has passed, and the latest military action has come to a close. There is a cease fire now, and we do hope it’ll bring peace. Last night, I visited my mother’s home for one last time. Looking at her possessions, I was reminded of her life long love for my father, and the many years they enjoyed together. Their love played a very central role in her life. I hope to write that story one of these days. May she rest in peace.

burying a piece of us

rest in peace

Bless the new green shoots of grass
and the leaves and flowers of spring
under the blue sky.
The morning dew on the flowers,
the bumblebees jumping from one luscious flower to another,
and the happy shrieks of children in their play.
But it isn’t always like that.
Sometimes it’s bleak and dark,
with the frost hugging plant life with deathly cold,
and cold fingers of the low lying foggy day
reaching for our aching bones,
nudging us with hints of despair.

Not to speak of the children
who haven’t had the chance to live
before the hatred of a stranger cut ‘em down
tears not dry on their cheeks
from the dress that didn’t fit
or the skateboard that was stolen
their very lives wiped out before we noticed…

And we, simple human beings;
trying to live our lives in the free spaces
between forces much greater than our understanding…
often greater than our perceptions;
carried by winds of fortune and misfortune…
in the heat of summer and the cold of winter,
forgetting in our youthful exuberance
that this life is lent to us for a time…
with the due date hidden in the tiny letters of the contract
on which we impatiently checked the ‘I agree’ box
before throwing our copy into the recycle bin…
we, the slowly evolving church mice and bed mites,
and city cats and fat cats and mountain lions…
all of us with a due date…
with head aches and back aches,
and dyslexia and mothers in law,
and some of us with the law on our backs…
and some with a monkey on our back…
all of us looking for a little light in the dead of night…
we have to learn, don’t we,
to take the good with the bad…
to enjoy a good cry as much as a good laugh…
and to moan the pain away
when it’s filled our bodies and souls past withstanding…
to moan the pain away…

and know…
that we have to take the good with the bad
and the bad with the good…
cause this is life, no matter what we came up with…
no matter if the other guy has it better,
or it isn’t fair…
or we were promised better…
this is it, for as long as we make it through…

it only matters that we like red roses,
when we’ve got the dime in our pocket,
and the all the bouquets are before us on display.
and when we’re saying goodbye to mother
or brother, or sister, or friend
or even a son, who couldn’t take it
and put a bullet in his brain,
saying… I’ve gotten this far,
and it’s as far as I wanna go…
carry on from here, I’ve done my time…

and we, who’ve put our cut hair in the pail,
and put our fingernail clippings in the dust bin
and our cigarette butts in the ashtray…
our old whiskey bottles,
and the old cardboard boxes from the super…
and the wrapping paper that came
with the shiny new purchases…
and Christmas presents found under the tree…
and the spam, and the candy wrappers

let us dig a deep hole in the ground
and with due respect
not exaggerated, and not inflated,
nor overloaded by solemn ritual…
let us put the body of our loved one
who is no longer here…
who’s body is the left over peel
of his earthly existence.
no more than the fingernail clippings
and the cut hair.
not what we will remember
it wasn’t that, we hugged, in better moments
now we’ll lower it into the ground
and shovel some dirt on top of it…
and tamp it down, we will
and say goodbye…

and keep on living, as long as we can…