A Moment in Time

I am sitting in the room that has become your shrine.

Your picture is everywhere I look. Your art hugs the walls. Your space is tangibly empty.

This room holds a lifetime…it beats for an eternal second…it loses its breath and dies every day you are not in it…

I am sitting here and I am wasting away without you. I am losing something that I didn’t know I had until you left me.

This room holds the memories of you…this room holds the timelessness you have become…this room is choking me as I sit here and ache for you.

I want to scream and shout and cry and slam my fist against this room’s towering walls over and over and over again until my knuckles rip open and my blood paints the images of you parading inside my head.

I sit in this room and I am silent as I remember how much I do not remember.

Once you looked at me with a smile that made me smile and we shared a moment that was captured forever. I did not know that you would take your last breath twelve years later on that day. I did not know that you would not get to have the things I get to have. I did not know that you were not forever.

Had I known I would have held you in my arms and hugged you tight. I would have whispered my love for you. I would have let you feel my heart beat. I would have lifted you up and raised you high above my head and I would have made the world see you and cherish you.

Thirteen years ago I patted your head and laughed as you danced and walked into my own life without glancing back at you. Thirteen years ago I stepped away from you and let you find me without the urgency I would have had if I had known that thirteen years later I would be sitting in this room and wondering how a year could have passed since you walked away from me without looking back.

I am sitting in this room and I am aware of the lack of you. My heart is racing and my head is spinning and I am falling apart at the seams where I have been sewn back up too many times.

You aren’t in this room with me and you are in this room with me and you are playing with my head and you are looking up to me with your eyes wide open and you are never coming back and I am not sure if I can live another year without you.

Thirteen years ago I looked into your eyes and I smiled and you smiled and your timeline stopped and mine didn’t so now I sit in this room where you aren’t and you are and I am as still as a moment in time and I whisper your name and I hold your hand and we smile.

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Geoffrey with a G

We are sitting together on the couch and we are not paying attention to one another. We are both tired and need some time to unwind and let the stress of the day dissipate. I am reading a fluff piece and you are scrolling down our feed as we actively turn our brains off.

You suddenly gasp and I feel your body tense up as you raise your head and turn to face me. I feel a constriction in my throat because I know you are about tell me something horrible.

He’s dead, you say. Geoff is dead.

I turn to you and my eyes well up and I shake my head because I don’t think it can be true. Your eyes have filled with a pain too big to handle. My hand trembles as I reach for yours and we hold each other at a distance.

Our pain is too hard to face. We turn back into ourselves and we try to live another day.

It takes us until morning to hurtle back into each other’s arms. We interlock our fingers and we gaze at each other’s pain.

You speak first.

He took the Brooklyn out of me, you say, as the tears break through and pour down your face. He let me be me.

I squeeze your hand and I am transported back in time and I remember the boy from Brooklyn I met on the streets of Jerusalem. I remember how you walked inside your cage and surrounded yourself with the kinds of people who helped you blend in.

And then you met Geoff. Geoffrey with a G.

Geoff was a rock n’ rolling artist who didn’t care what the world thought of him. Geoff wore little ties and suspenders and had swagger long before people thought that was cool. Geoff sat for hours in his room with that boy from Brooklyn and talked about Star Wars and superheroes and punk rock. Geoff painted and the music blared and the layers of New York street slowly shed as the boy who loved music and thought deeply about the world with a sensitive, kind view was revealed.

I saw how you changed and I fell in love with the person you had been hiding away. Without understanding what he had done, Geoff became our stabilizing third wheel. He sat with us in our corner and called it an office. He laughed and he danced the rock n’ roll dance and we followed his example and let the weight of our past go.

We fought for him when others wanted to give up. We wanted him to be in our lives forever. We wanted his joy and light and art and music to be part of the foundation we were building.

We still loved him when we said goodbye. We still wanted him to show up one day, in his little tie, his hair slicked to the side and a goofy smile on his face.

We watched from far away, too far away, as Geoffrey with a G wandered around looking for something he so easily brought out in others. But Geoffrey with a G didn’t have a Geoff to lean on and he got lost.

Our kids do his rock n’ roll dance and don’t know where it came from.

You and I sit here now, in grief and regret, and wonder if Geoffrey with a G can see us rocking and if he is happy as he paints, dot by dot, line by line.

You look at me and your face is red and your eyes are swollen and you swallow hard as we hold each other and remember the broken boy who fixed another broken boy but could not fix himself.

Geoffrey, you will never know how much we loved you. You will never know how much you will be missed.

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Worthless

Worthless.

That’s the word.

I have been looking for something to wrap the feeling I’ve found festering inside me, bubbling up to the surface where I wish it away with a half-hearted attempt to access my vast toolbox of self-help and therapeutic gadgets I have amassed over the last decade.

Worthless.

The word stops me from shoving my heart down to my toes for long enough to surge upward and press against my eyes.

I’m pretty flexible. I can adjust to this new development and work my dissociation like a charm.

Worthless.

That must be the word for the loneliness that washes over me every day. It has to be the word for the despair I feel as I search for something to make my days mean something.

Worthless.

I know what I am going through. I can pinpoint the exact cause. I can explain it to you and you would totally understand where I’m coming from. I can tell you that I lost my sister so then I lost my faith so then I lost some friends so then I lost my job so then I lost my sense of worth I had carefully cultivated for as many years as I knew the meaning of worth and now I am feeling worthless.

Worthless.

I get it. I really do get it. I am so sympathetic to that poor woman who sits and waits for the wave of depression to wash over her and take her out to sea. I know her so well. She curls up into herself and holds the tears at bay and I am overcome with a feeling as I watch her from that place just outside the window, floating in the trees.

Worthless.

I wish I could tell her she can’t measure worth by the things she’s lost. I wish I could tell her that it’s okay to let her loss rip her heart to shreds. I wish I could tell her that she could be anything she sets her heart to. I wish I could tell her where her heart is.

Worthless.

She turns her head towards me and I think she heard the word but I can’t be sure. She doesn’t see me floating outside. She doesn’t see her heart nestled in my arms. She doesn’t see my clear understanding of the torment she is going through as she searches for a word to wrap the feeling she found festering inside her, bubbling up to the surface where it washes over her face.

Worthless.

I wipe the word away and shove my heart back into my chest where it settles down in the depth of loss and pretends to beat.

Dry eyes

My grandmother ran out of Poland towards Russia with only the summer clothes she was wearing and spent the next five years seeking warmth in a world that had frozen over.

I was raised on her story, as well as all the stories of my generation’s grandparents. We were their proof that it had been worth it and we were reminded of that as often as possible.

Black and white images of striped prisoners dominated my youth and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that my life was a living testimony to six million corpses.

I devoured memoirs and drew black and white sketches of emaciated Jews melting in pools of blood. My drawings hung on the walls as trophies, as though they meant we had won.

I knew what gas chambers were before I had ever watched a Disney movie. I scoffed at Socialism before I learned about Democracy. I could recognize Hitler and Stalin and swastikas before I ever saw a picture of JFK. I wasn’t brought up in the shadow of the Holocaust, I was brought up in the tangible fear and hope and pain and joy of a generation who went through something they either couldn’t stop talking about or never mentioned at all.

I didn’t think death and destruction could faze me; I was basically a survivor.

Almost 11 months ago, my ninety-something-year-old grandmother walked across the green grass leading up to the hole they were lowering my 17-year-old sister into. She stood as tall as possible for a 4 foot-something woman and looked straight ahead. “Dayeinu,” she stated. She remained stoic and unmoving throughout the week, solid as a rock. When someone told my father that we don’t ask questions; we just cry, she marched over and made another statement. “We ask questions,” she said, “we don’t cry.”

At one point I escaped the crowds and went upstairs to the room with the candle where we watched my sister die. I took out her paints and brushes and covered one of the canvases she never got to use in the colors of my pain. The release was more powerful than a thousand tears. I brought it down to share with my family and someone said, “show Bubby.” I sat down at her feet and held up the painting. She stared at it and patted my hand. “Bubby, I can’t share any other way,” I said. I wanted her to know that my eyes dry up when it hurts, but the words caught in my throat. “I know,” she said, “I see you crying.”

My grandmother survived more than the Holocaust. She survived immigration, she survived the loss of her mother, she survived the loss of her son, she survived the loss of her husband and she just survived the loss of her granddaughter. Dayeinu.

For two years I held my breath as I waited for my sister to die. Then she died and I stopped breathing. For almost a year I have built up a tolerance to air filling my lungs. I can learn to live.

The siren blared yesterday and rang in my head all day. I wanted to think of the lives lost…I really tried…but I have carried their memories in my essence since the day I was born and yesterday I suddenly felt like I wanted to break away.

I turned on the TV and the images of my youth jumped out at me on every channel. Nothing made my soul churn, it was like flipping through a worn out photo album and knowing each picture before getting to the next page.

Without warning, images of Syrian children flew across the room at me and slammed against my chest.

I thought of a child running for the border with just the clothes on her back towards a future she could never be certain of. I thought of her grandchildren, raised on her losses. I thought of her eyes drying up.

The ringing of the siren subsided. I took a deep breath and I reached for those paints and brushes.

My grandmother’s story was told. It is time to tell the ones that are screaming out at us from behind our screens.

Source: Dry eyes

Six Months and One Day

I watched you exhale for the last time and I grew cold.

Your body lay still before me and I could not move.

Your death took the jagged shape of the piece of me long broken as it stabbed me in whatever was left of my believing soul.

It has been six months and you are still dead.

It has been six months and I am grieving and nothing can comfort me.

You are gone and I am writing to you as if you could respond.

That shard of you is embedded in my depths and I am afraid to dig it out because I am afraid it is all I’ll ever have of you.

I am no stranger to loss.

Death and I are friends.

But your death still feels like it is happening in front of me over and over again as if you want me to give it a damn explanation.

Death and I are friends.

We don’t need to explain things to each other.

It’s been six months and one day and it feels like a second ago that I watched you exhale for the last time and I grew cold.

Where Have You Gone?

Sometimes, when my heart allows it, I see you everywhere.

In the lyrics of a song…in the casual words people string together without thought…in the rush of memory a picture evokes…in the gait of a stranger…in the pain all around…in the walls…in the corners and in every speck of undusted past around every jagged edge of my battered heart.

Most times, I cannot find you anywhere.

I search for you…under every rock weighing down my soul…but you have disappeared forever and I am left wondering what could have been…wishing my life had been different.

When you were born, I refused to acknowledge you. I was so angry…so hurt that another human being was going to be part of something so damaging. I wanted to hate you…but you smelled of innocence and hope and when I held you I felt something shift inside me and a door opened just a tiny crack to let you in.

I wasn’t home much…you grew up with me on the sidelines…always an outsider…and you weren’t even sure how we were related.

But when you saw me, you hugged me.

I hadn’t known touch to be pure and loving and I hugged you back, probably too tight.

Each time I saw you, I got to know another little part of you. You became something of an ideal for me. You were the little one with all the potential I never got to have. Maybe I was a little jealous.

There were so many brief moments…so many times we built on this distant connection…so many times we almost sealed the bond.

Then we got to have magic.

Four and a half weeks of magic marred by a whirlwind of emotional turmoil and exhaustion coupled with an inexplicable physical drain…

But of course, we know what it was now…we know that it killed you and there was nothing we could do to stop it.

You went home and I tried.

I tried to keep building…I tried to make something that could last forever.

I failed. You slipped away from me…in every way…and when you died I lost the part of me that believes our fates are never sealed…that we have the power to change the way we live our present so that our past can finally rest.

My past tosses and turns in a shallow grave while you lay in one too deep and inaccessible to me.

I have only small remnants of you left and they get swallowed up by the ever-dying embers of lives that should have been…children always protected and loved…individuality accepted and embraced…cancer beating down a door built so strong and impenetrable that it shatters every ugly cell.

So, I look for you…everywhere…and sometimes I find you…but most times…I don’t.

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Goodnight my Angel

“I figured it out,” you said.

“I know what death is.”

It was last August, at the end of an epic summer, and you were saying goodbye.

It was in the living room – on the couches you hated and in typical fashion, you spoke bluntly and decisively about the topic most people avoided around you.

“It’s just my body.  That’s all it is.  And I am not just my body.  My body is sick…my body will die…but I am so much more than that.  I am everything else that I am, and that will never die.”

Oh, Hudis…

You are right.

You will never die.

Your body is here now – finally pain-free…finally unhooked and untethered from everything that you are…

And Hudis you are everything.

You are the strength of a thousand people…

You are the courage of one lone soldier against a mighty army.

You are the love that binds hearts together….

You are the innocence of a million children

You are the joy and laughter of uninhibited play…

You are the song that rises from the brokenhearted…

You are the notes teased from ivory keys, rising and falling with every breath you no longer need to take as you write the lyrics to the greatest song on earth…

Hudis – we will play that song…

We will add notes and harmonies and a baseline that keeps us moving forward.

We will write the stories of our heavy hearts and weave them through your lines.

We will create a bridge that connects it all and we will sing it…

And we will surely sing it too loud and too intrusively and off-key – the only way you can possibly sing a song that can never die.

Achrona achrona Chaviva Hudis.

Save the best for last.

You’ll always be the best.

Daniel my Brother

His name jumps out of the screen at me the moment my husband walks into the room.

He sees what I see…

“I know,” he says.  “I was just coming to tell you.”

My head falls into my hand for a moment as the familiar pain of loss washes over me.

Another one bites the dust, I think, as the names of all the others parade through my head to the beat.

I read the comments…the shock and the sincerely felt words tossed at a screen that condenses those feelings into meaningless letters spelling RIP and MISS YOU and BROTHER even though most of the people writing it feel as I do…

almost guilty for being alive…

almost sorry to have made it through hell…

almost regretting that my life choices made it impossible for me to be there for the ones I left behind even as my heart wished it could have convinced each and every one of the people I met on my journey through torment that it would get better, knowing full well that my brain disagreed.

He wasn’t my brother…not since I left the streets we roamed together…

But when I see his name…I feel a shooting pain…

And another door I’ve been holding hope for…

is lowered to the ground.

525,600 Minutes

a year.

it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

it was supposed to be a fairy tale ending.

it was supposed to all work out.

there was going to be this moment where it all came together.

and we’d be whole again.

there was hope

that even though it seemed so damn black we could find a light.

we almost found it.

you believed in it.

you said you would make it happen.

this time, i will thank god…this time i will thank god…

but

here we are

lost

confused

ripped at the fragile seam we had left

never able to be whole

and we are hurting so badly

in so many different ways

and there is nothing anyone can do to fix this one

except hope

and pray

if you still believe.

but some of us

don’t.

My Heart Writes

Most times…I write.

I write what I feel and I pour my own heart

into words on a page

that someone may read

on the other side of a screen

where perceptions and life experiences

will slowly change

the words my heart meant to say into words you understand

your way…

But this time…

My heart refuses to be heard in any way other than how much it hurts

as people die and other lie bleeding and other hearts

quicken their beating

while bloody hands press down on their chests

and pray to any god that the bodies of lovers, strangers and friends

will muffle the sounds of those hearts…

those hearts…

that cry out to a god who answers with gunshots and convictions that men die for…

but I don’t want to die

for a god who hates

a god who calls to arms the deranged

and lets his goddamn name be said in vain

in vain his goddamn name is found

in every blood-soaked temple of the innocent

clotting lives of those who dared to live

against the wishes of some goddamn god

my heart refuses to let it

my heart…

writes.

 

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