There is something magical and wonderous about being invisible, tiptoeing undetected and taking a peek into other people’s lives, homes, dialogues. Magic elicits curiosity and mystery; our jaws drop as we witness mastery of the unknown. But there is only pain, certainly nothing enchanting or powerful, about feeling invisible.
I believe myself to be grounded, rooted in reality, but what swirls around me is confounding and muddled. I have buried my son Gilad not once, but twice; in terra firma over 1900 days ago, and in my heart only recently. There is simply no room for everything that has taken up residence in my head and heart these past weeks, and Gilad has sadly disappeared from view.
Not everyone who exits this earth has the opportunity to leave a legacy behind, whether in the form of children, with a smile or beloved temperament infused into DNA, or manifest in accomplishments, published works, or recognized success. For some of us, all that is left are our memories, and when that is relegated to the back recess of our minds and conversations, our adored, beloved person dies again. Moreover, as the people who are carrying the precious memories are – sometimes unknowingly – swept aside, they, too, become invisible, wearing not a diaphanous, magical cloth but a heavy, oppressive cloak.
I typically wear my badge of honor in memory of Gilad as proudly as I would a gold star, in my soul and on my sleeve. I bear what I remember of his essence so that his spirit remains with us in this world. To be without that is to feel bereft; to neglect a child – my own flesh and blood – from my past life is unimaginable. Gilad was not merely an ingredient of my life, he was his own force, singular and exceptional, sweet and caring and forever charming. He had the ability to put others at ease with his smile and his strong yet gentle disposition. Gilad was on the cusp of adulthood, with hopes and dreams, and in pursuit of life’s truths through rational thoughts and intellectual discourse. He had the potential to be an entrepreneurial businessman or a provocative philosopher or a ground-breaking engineer. He would have been a loving father and caring husband, too, and he inspired us with his life and his courageous and tragic battle with disease. And if I do not continue to talk about and shoulder what remains of him within us, not only is the echo of his footprint gone, but my soul shrivels as well.
My life, at the moment, is crowded with others, and there are days where there is no room for me, speaking again to my sense of feeling invisible, unremarkable. I faintly disappear into the background when all the while I am fiercely keeping all the fires burning, the appointments kept, the work tended to, the food cooked, the laundry done, the phone calls to check on others, the needs met. I am in the throes of turmoil from many sides.
Eddie is recuperating well after his heart attack 5 weeks ago, and I feel blessed that he emerged relatively unscathed. I took back many of his household tasks and errands, and am only now gingerly and carefully returning them to him. I worry about him, but not incessantly, and I recognize that, although it seems we just stood under the chuppah and moved to our first apartment and started our family, we are now in our final chapter together.
Together we care for his declining mother, who is unaware of all that has transpired in the past month. And while I am grateful for her easy, sweet disposition, the unshared burden of meticulously looking out for both her present wants and needs, as well as her future, weighs heavily on us. My mother remains fiercely independent, yet needs some love and attention these days in the face of the overwhelming and unfair loss of yet another grandson. To say that I look out for her would be an understatement, and although she manages her daily necessities and weekly plans, I endeavor to help her with this and that, and hope to be her future support system.
Moreover, I am beyond sad that Judah is gone, and I am reeling from both a secondary tier and from a deep knowledge of grief and loss. My heart continues to break for my sister and her husband and children, even though there is absolutely nothing I can do for them. In fact, my mere existence is a reminder of something they cannot bear to look at; it’s innately and elementally and vastly different, yet at the end of the day it may actually be the same thing. But commonality only goes so far, and sometimes it causes more pain than comfort. So I reach for the cloak once more, and hide myself in plain sight.
My life is too much some days, but it’s mine so I have no choice. I am functioning in an overwhelming situation, and somehow, Gilad’s loss is buried underneath it all. Would be that I could crawl under the magical fabric of invisibility, clutch Gilad to my heart, and sleep the unconscious sleep until it all gets better.