Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Void You Leave Behind...

Dear Uncle Paul,

    I know that with your passing, your children and Aunt Joyce are experiencing an immediate hole in their everyday life.  I unfortunately know how it feels to miss my father and I remember how you helped me through it nearly 4 years ago.  Everyone will experience grief differently, but on the occasion of your Shloshim (has it really been that long?!) I want to tell you about the void you are leaving behind in our extended family.  

    You were the keeper of family traditions and memory, the one we turned to with all our questions.  You organized our viewings of family movies and projected the old fashioned film onto window shades and blank walls so that we could all watch and discuss. You spoke our hearts at every funeral and officiated at every unveiling.  You were the designated passenger in the hearse when Grandpa, Grandma and even my father passed away.  Who else could volunteer to do such a beautiful last kindness?  You knew the locations of family plots across the several NY cemeteries and made annual pilgrimages to visit them all.  At the same time, your shabbat table was always festive and joyful and you were the one who led the singing on holidays and special occasions -- you were the obvious choice to lead the longest, most leibedik sheva beracha at my wedding. 

    At family gatherings, you brought the laughter.  My Donald Duck imitation doesn't hold a candle to yours - I don't know how you were able to make words come across so clearly!  You could tell almost any story in a way guaranteed to attract smiles - even just hanging out and shooting the breeze, your laughter came naturally.  It was never forced, just honest, true and deep - belly laughter from the heart - and prompted a similar response in all of us. 

     I'll never forget your enormous salads brought to family gatherings on Thanksgiving and Purim - so large they had to be carried in a clean garbage bag! - with tomatoes on the side for sensitive palates.  I'll miss my annual "sukkah hops" to visit you in your heavy wooden sukkah and hearing you talk about those beautiful Angelfish that you nourished so carefully and with such success - you were always proud to show them off.  You were the one that we called on for advice from family minhagim to all sorts of fix-it issues.  We never had to wait long for you to stop by and help out with whatever needed doing, especially in the last few years -- it was nice to know that my mother could always count on your help and support.

    I've always been impressed by your knack for engaging with all ages - from adults to teens to little ones.  No wonder you were the shul Candyman - I'm not surprised that the children lined up to wish you "Good Shabbos" every week!  I still see your "Casper the Friendly Ghost" routine in my mind when I think of when the twins were babies and you lifted them up in their sleep sacks to the sound of their giggles!  I've always been so proud to be introduced as your niece.  Oh how we all love you!  

    The void you leave behind is a gaping chasm... for me, for my cousins and for our children.  How will we tell your great nieces and nephews how much you meant to us and to our family?  Even more important, who will be the "Uncle Paul" for the next generation?

     We love you, we miss you and we won't forget you.  

                            יְהִי זִכְרְךָ בָּרוּךְ  

    May your memory continue to be a blessing.  






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I am an educator who is trained to reflect, not a rabbi or any type of halachic authority. These writings are in no way binding, and may not represent all approaches to and experiences in navigating grief. In fact, there will likely be those who disagree with me or can offer additional suggestions and reflections. For this reason, I am leaving the comments section open so that together as a community, we can broaden the scope of this blog to include a majority of human experience.

One important request: Please be respectful in posting your comments and be sure to frame your tips in the most positive phrasing possible. I reserve the right to delete any unkind comments and plan to update the original posts occasionally to include additional insights and reflections from our combined experience.

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