Malkie Hirsch

By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

Most people don’t get it. And it’s not that they don’t try, but they’re simply not equipped with the tools to go there.

In some ways, I feel jealous of their innocence, and in other ways I feel pride in overcoming a lot of pain I’ve suffered in my life. Who wants to be proud of something like that? Someone who’s moved forward tremendously in many ways, I suppose.

But like a scar that’ll never fully heal, that’s somewhat discolored and bumpy, a texture that isn’t as smooth as the surrounding skin, it takes that moment until your fingers sweep over it to realize that it’s still there, even when the rest of you looks the same as everyone else.

That scar is a reminder that you’re different and will never have the chance to fade into the group of others anonymously again.

All I need to do is touch it to remember the time and place when that scar was an open wound, threatening to never heal. It provides a memory with both good and bad associations. It’s the saddest sadness and greatest resilience all in one. It encompasses both extreme depth and tremendous promise.

And suddenly, you’re that person—the one who’s called when someone’s friend’s husband collapses suddenly or when someone’s family member doesn’t wake up one morning and they need help figuring out how to navigate this. The one who’s invited upstairs into bedrooms at shivah calls to be with the mourners who need something meaningful from you. The words to say or not say, the key to surviving something that seems impossible to get through.

Time does two things—it helps with the intensity that almost feels unfit for human consumption, but it also is responsible for helping us forget how that pain made us reach out for G-d more than ever before.

Because there’s no one and nothing that can provide the type of healing needed after living through tragedy like G-d can. At times like these, we don’t need to look, because He’s right there. He’s the only One you allow to see you in that way, the only One to never judge, and the only One Who can help. Eventually, as we regain our footing, we start forgetting how we got there. Back to the living, back to practicing happiness, and we forget about the gratitude we need to have daily to the One responsible for getting us back on safe ground.

It took me around a year to start feeling like myself again. What does the passage of 2,000 years do to a nation of people? Does it make them forget too much? Or maybe not even realize what they had in the first place, perhaps?

It had been roughly 15 years since I had the chance to attend Megillas Eichah on the night of Tishah B’Av.

And this year, to remedy that and to accommodate others who wanted to come by for a faster-paced rendition of the scroll written by Jeremiah, we decided to open our home and have it read here.

I hadn’t thought fully about what that would mean for me. I forgot with time that we were suddenly in mourning to commemorate the destruction of the Second Temple and that we would be acting the way mourners do.

Sitting on low chairs—something I had done just a few years ago.

Wearing slippers, forgetting our vanity, not having an appetite for food or drink.

We try recreating all these different ways to conjure what it must feel like to yearn for something we’ve lost, but, thankfully, most people at my age and stage of life don’t fully grasp what that feels like the way I do.

Sitting on a stool and feeling that discomfort from a hard floor is trying to make you recall something you’ve never known—what it truly feels like to lose something you loved.

We go through the motions and do the things we’re told to do to feel the way we’re supposed to, but do we really get there? How are we supposed to feel loss for something we don’t remember ever having?

But there are some who understand it all too well. The girls on my widows’ chat group know what this feels like. The fear they always expect to be repeated, because once it’s happened the first time, you never again feel that safety that you once did. That security you once took advantage of.

You’ll never again hear that voice in the back of your head that whispers: “Stop thinking that way, because it can’t happen.” After it does, it’ll always remain a possibility.

There’s a strong sense of PTSD and it affects most of those who have experienced sudden loss in their lives. It’s the feeling that tragedy could happen again and again, and you almost come to expect it. It’s a stressful existence, I’ll admit that.

For me, motzaei Yom Kippur was my trigger. The time I felt he wasn’t coming back even though he came back for years until the year he could no longer.

For others, it was Tishah B’Av, appropriately titled the saddest day for the people of Israel. It got me thinking about the type of sadness that isn’t natural but somewhat encouraged on a day like Tishah B’Av.

When G-d is waiting for us to find Him as we try forcing ourselves into the mood that will enable us to understand what a loss really feels like. For some, it’s right there, like the healed scar that’ll never fully fade. For others though, it takes a bit more effort to create the right mood.

For my small group of warriors disguised as regular men and women, we know all too well what that looks like and how it feels. It doesn’t take much to get back there, which is itself dialectical in its emotion.

I hope that one day we’re able to achieve the type of yearning needed to express how much we long for what is missed in the world today.

Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.

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