award-winning documentarian: radio + music + photography
The Rabbi called while we were driving Izzy to his middle school basketball tournament. It was a packed car. Jay answered the phone. After a few moments his eyes became wide, his chest began breathing with a contained intensity that only I could see. He needed to pull over, but couldn't. Then something shifted. He took a deep breath, compartmentalized the information, and focused on getting us to the game on time. The call ended. I was curious to find out what happened, and respected his choice to wait and tell me in the right time. Obviously, the news was huge. Three hours later, after we attended the basketball tournament, had lunch, and came home, Jay and I went to the bedroom and closed the door. I knew a mystery bomb was about to drop. He told me of our new friend (we moved to Oregon from California 19 months ago), a therapist and father to a 12 year old twin daughter and son, husband of a wise, beautiful, and deep woman who came together to feast at our table one month before, whose bunny we house sat while they went on vacation, this therapist, father, husband, friend, son, cousin, and brother took his life.
"WHAT?" I said confused and nauseated as if being punched hard in the gut by this shocking news. It literally took the wind out of me. I am often very astute at reading people and clearly I had no idea how much our friend was suffering. That night Jay and I went to the house to pay our respects and offer support.
Upon coming home, we told the kids.
"WHAT? OH MY GOD. THAT IS SO SAD. HOW? WHEN? WHY? HOW COULD HE DO THAT MAMA? WHAT ABOUT HIS KIDS?" they said in a cacophony of mixed pain and confusion together. We all hugged. Jay and I said something like..."Sometimes people hide their suffering so much that they can't stop suffering and hiding pain makes it worse and worse. It is so important to share your sadness with people you trust when it comes up. We need to feel it ALL THE WAY without holding back to help it let go."
The next morning Jay left for a weeklong business trip. I gave the kids a choice to come with me to the memorial and burial or stay with friends that night and into the next day. Promptly, I brought Sofi to her friend's for a sleepover and into the next day. Izzy was on the fence.
I woke before sunrise for yoga, meditation and journal time before waking Izzy with a back rub and tea. He was still on the fence. I said to him, "When horrible, scary things happen, we have the opportunity to turn toward whatever it is and really take it in. Blink only when you must and keep your senses wide open with curiosity about what is happening. If you do this with me, then I promise it will feel less scary."
He decided to join and held my hand the entire time with a snuggle in my armpit during the more excruciating moments, particularly at the sounds of wailing belly cries from his children and family members at different points in the heartbreaking service. Then, his wife, an extraordinary queen and freshly widowed woman slowly walked up to the front of the sanctuary holding her heart, looking out at the sea of people who showed up to offer their love. She looked out to everyone and gracefully paused, then said with gratitude, exhaustion and a shattered tone, "Thank you all for showing up. I am here to take in what (my husband) could not."
As she spoke, I could feel my hair stand up on the back of my neck and forearms. The room was still with tension and a wisely devastated agony. Izzy looked at me with an expression of soul-filled concern, the kind of empathy that both shook him to the core and made him a stronger human being at the same time.
From the memorial we drove to the burial service. I stopped for a coffee and picked up a lemon poppyseed muffin and milk for Iz, which he sweetly appreciated. Earlier I had warned him to bring a warm coat but his teen cool factor was fine without it. Before leaving for the day, I wore two black wool coats knowing he would need one while standing by the grave at dusk in the cold of winter. When his lips began to turn blue with his shivering body, I asked in a whisper, "You want a warm coat?" He smiled and gratefully took one of my two coats already existing with warmth inside from my body which clearly comforted him. We stood closely with those who showed up to chant ancient prayers and help guide a tortured soul from the human realm into the beloved sea of stars.
At times, it's hard to know how to respond to the waking times in which we live. The truth is, we are all vulnerable and cracked open to a new normal where each of us is being called to step up and stand more fully into the gifts we are here to share. To get there, we humans have an opportunity to be curious about excruciating discomfort within the inner most caves of our lives as key to becoming more alive, awake, and steadily growing toward the light. By staying open to the brutal universal truths of life head on, perhaps we can prepare, little by little, to become fearless in the face of pain and actually consider it an opening, a deepening and a homecoming to the force that connects everyone and everything on this beautiful, breathing planet.
“There is death in life, and it astonishes me that we pretend to ignore this: death, whose unforgiving presence we experience with each change we survive because we must learn to die slowly. We must learn to die: That is all of life. To prepare gradually the masterpiece of a proud and supreme death, of a death where chance plays no part, of a well-made, beatific and enthusiastic death of the kind the saints knew to shape. Of a long-ripened death that effaces its hateful name and is nothing but a gesture that returns those laws to the anonymous universe which have been recognized and rescued over the course of an intensely accomplished life. It is this idea of death, which has developed inside of me since childhood from one painful experience to the next and which compels me to humbly endure the small death so that I may become worthy of the one which wants us to be great.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter to Mimi Romanelli, December 8, 1907
At the burial, I felt an urge to create in honor of trusting that light comes to us on the other side of darkness. A painting came, "Suicide Into Sun"