Marking Time

16 Elul 5774

We have arrived, emotional baggage and cloaked hearts in tow, at Gilad’s fourth yahrtzeit. It’s beyond my human ability to comprehend that 4 entire years, 1460 days, have passed since Gilad has breathed air in this universe, more days than that since we’ve heard his voice. Everyone else is growing up, moving on; they are graduating from college, going to grad school or work, getting married, and the next generation has begun to arrive. Gilad is missing all of that, gone at 19, no longer present, not part of our daily lives anymore.

Time is confounding, an invention which measures a continuum between one event and the next. Based on the lunar counting of 354.37 days per year, however, it is only 1417 days (less than 1460 days) since Gilad left us. We endeavor to live our life in harmony, yet these numbers are anything but synchronous. Instead it gives credence to my belief that the earthly world we live in is inexplicable and baffling. How can we can mark time in 2 different – and possibly equal – ways and days?

Time moves on whether we are mindful or fail to take notice, sometimes imperceptibly, often whizzing past. The concept of past, present, and future directs and moves us, and we are inextricably bound and perplexed by it here on earth. I imagine we are like mice running an intricate, puzzling, endless maze.

Each year Gilad’s yahrtzeit precedes the approach of Rosh HaShana. We mentally review our year, are thankful or less than satisfied, and we look towards the next one with hope and prayer. But bereaved parents are more than frustrated; we are disappointed in what we thought our life could and should be. We have lost a critical piece of our future, and it is extremely challenging to pull ourselves up and regain the standard of hope and promise we once possessed.

I used to think that the meaning of life lay in the seeds we plant here in the form of our children, the next generation. They are our legacy and purpose. But I am disheartened and am no longer sure that is true. It is challenging to celebrate the holidays when I am not certain of myself or what my purpose is, and whether I am grounded to a shaky or stable terra firma. The yamim noraim, the High Holidays, are difficult to face. Yes, bereaved parents are aware – intensely so – of life’s joys and blessings. We have experienced the deepest of all losses, and our wishes and hopes and prayers for the future are tempered and less lofty, truly reflecting our imperfect reality.

As I write this, I realize it’s more about me than Gilad. Hah – Gilad would have smirked at that! “Oh, Ima,” I can hear him say, “This should be about me.” Gilad would be right, but sadly, I have no news or updates to share. But I can leave you with a few sweet memories of our special boy. Hold onto these stories, and continue to remember Gilad Hillel ben Eliyahu Mordechai and Bracha Mirel.

From the time he was a baby, Gilad had an iconic smile. As a little boy he’d smile at everyone; as a teenager his smile wooed the girls and warmed new friends. Gilad was headstrong and passionate; sensitive and funny; caring yet sassy at times. When Gilad played guitar his stance was so cool and nonchalant, and his fingers flew effortlessly across the strings while the rest of his body didn’t flinch. 

Gilad moved past Target and Macys clothes, favoring Gap, J Crew, Abercrombie. I think we saw hints of that when he refused to wear the shoes I bought him as a toddler, preferring the more expensive pair, or the time getting dressed in the morning for school was an issue until I bought him new tops (only 2!) from Nordstrom.

He did his best in school, and sometimes it seemed too easy for him. Gilad had a head for Gemara and Calculus and more, and it’s such a loss for the world that he was unable to contribute to any discipline or profession as an adult. Gilad wanted to live, to become an engineer or a philosopher; he hoped to fall in love and get married.

Gilad was warm and sweet and good and made us crazy and happy and life was real and good when he was part of it. He fought the fight well, he did complain, but really not much, and we all know that he should have survived and lived a long life, long enough to bury us. But that is not what happened, not what G-d wanted, and so here we are. 

I am not sure if it’s 4 years or 1460 or 1417 days, but it feels like a thousand days and a million miles since I’ve held him, breathed him, heard his voice in my ear, felt his spirit in my soul. Yehi zichro baruch.

 

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