Tag Archives: GiladSchwartz

Radio Silence

I have been silent but inside emotions roil, voices resound. The pain has quieted but it is present still.

At times I still feel small and shy. As a child I considered myself different, my own unique being whom no one ever really understood. Even as an adult I carry within me that uncertain, inner child. I pull back, emotions tucked neatly in, and breathe deeply.  The drama of family weaves an everlasting challenge, and we are often poised to play roles we didn’t choose. So we dance an awkward show of life.

Do we ever reach an age where we have leverage over our thoughts and actions? 

Why is my self-doubt not tamed by now?

What measure of self-assuredness is enough to upend the questions we struggle with, the issues we thrash against?

When did my sensibilities and deep-seated beliefs flee?

August is the earthquake of my life, when my inner strength is as shaken as the ground I stand on every single August 26. And this year December and January brought tremors of their own, creating new chinks and crevices in my terra firma-turned-quicksand that I am still painstakingly trying to patch and repair with my hands and heart, whether down on my knees or standing still.  

With the end of summer comes the flood of emotion, unabated as if it’s fresh and raw. Yet this time it is not without warning; we fully expect and brace for it. But each year we are taken aback – surprised almost – that we failed to prepare for the pain that it brings.  

I am blessed with my remaining children and their families, for my mother’s unending love, my family of birth, and my friends who truly understand and support me. I have learned to be more than grateful for the good moments, the kind people I choose to be with. I carry with me the love from years past, and especially from a boy who made me promise I’d be alright, and from last weekend in the Berkshires with those I love the most in the world. I cry tears for the life Gilad was unable to finish, for the pain he endured, and for the memories that I am afraid will vanish from our minds.

So I hold tight to my gratitude, to the silver-lining-grandchildren who offer sunshine, to the fortitude I inherited from my survivor father. I promise that I will rock and nurture my inner self, and encourage that uncertain child so that I can dismiss my skewed perspective and confusion and simply be a sad mother deeply grieving her son in August.

If my heart is still full of Gilad, it cannot be silenced. Our boy left us with his thoughts and passion and talents and his voice, and we cannot quiet the part of him that continues to reside within each of us.

 

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.

 

Fall Semester

Spoiler Alert: Contains emotions which may cause heartache. Written August 19, 2014

Another semester begins for me at work, yet I am counting the days. Eight, then seven days to go until August 26 . My mind and heart alternately remember the days; if one is remiss, the other reminds with a flash and a bang.

Gilad – I remember too well your last days: no longer moving around the house, no longer eating meals with us; your mind along with your body transitioning to an unknown place, the inevitable last stop on life’s journey. We wished you would be able to begin your sophomore year at University of Maryland, and you were registered and ready to go, but we somehow knew it would never come to be. You understood it as well, and it was heartbreaking to watch your acceptance of the inevitable, to see the result of years’ battle with disease fade into reluctance and acquiescence.  But our hope remained, even until your last breath. Miracles can always happen while the heart still beats.

At the end of each summer, the point in time when you left us, I begin another semester anew, always thinking of you, forever taking you with me on an academic journey with other students. I guide them instead of you, I see their progress and graduation in place of yours. I observe their frustrations and successes as they make their way through a 4-year collegiate experience that you never had. Your picture is in my office, a locket with your smiling face is over my heart, and my passwords contain your name. I take you with me forever and always, a poor substitute for your own life, but it provides solace to me nonetheless,and helps me maintain the yin-yang balance of life which my grief therapists have encouraged me to find.

Another year begins, another year gone.