By Malkie Hirsch
It’s been a hectic last few days — for our family uniquely and for the global community at large.
I had been dreading this occasion for months, before anyone had ever heard the word COVID-19, anticipating the hakamat matzeivah, the yahrzeit commemorating the one-year point since Moshe was taken from us.
I never wish bad things on anyone; it’s odd to take comfort from knowing that others can suddenly get a taste of what you’ve been feeling for months.
We, the changed, have always lived among you, shopped in the same stores and cooked the same foods. We send our kids to the same schools and have been in the dressing room of a local store trying on the same clothing you’ve tried on.
But we were different, because we knew that minute to minute, hour to hour, and day to day, nothing was a given.
There are no guarantees or certainty — there never was.
It’s been a surreal year for us, so many feelings and changes as we processed this loss, leading up to this heartbreaking milestone. I didn’t know how I would feel after; I couldn’t even imagine making it this far.
But I think it’s relief.
An odd word to describe how to feel on the day of your husband’s yahrzeit.
Why relief? Why not despair or sadness or bitterness?
Why not the other feelings I felt as I stood at his hakamat matzeivah this morning?
I feel relief because the acute pain of the last year, the shock and numbness, the confusion, and all the questions racing in my head and my heart have finally quieted down.
The grief is now attached to my body the way the arms are at my sides and the way my heart beats inside my chest.
My emotions have settled, and I’m fully aware of the rhythm of our lives.
And I guess there’s comfort in that.
It takes time to get used to not having someone you’ve built a life with for many years.
There’s a lot of damage control when your kids are as young as mine and they’ve got so many questions I have trouble finding the answers to.
There are a lot of firsts during that first year — the first time standing at a Shabbos table without him, the first time someone has to sub in for a father–son event at their school. The first time you want to tell him something and are horrified to realize that he’s not there to talk to or text anymore.
But life and time have a way of going on, things moving on around you with fluidity. It keeps going even when you dig your heels in the ground and decide you don’t want to live this life anymore. You cross your arms and wait for it to end. But then it doesn’t. And when you sit there, and feel the pain, let it wash over you in all its agonizing glory, you emerge a changed person. You come to a place of acceptance that there never really was certainty.
Just the illusion of it.
With the coronavirus now running rampant among communities, paralyzing places of worship, smothering the economy, and incapacitating whole countries, you ask those questions:
How did this happen?
Is there a way to stop it?
Questions that have been swimming in my soul for the past year.
It’s a time of confusion, and there’s an acute fear of the unknown because we’re so used to having the answers, or at least imagining we do. We can order just about anything online and it arrives less than a day later. We have an abundance of anything and everything our heart desires. Nothing is unavailable to us.
All this can make us feel powerful and invincible. Unstoppable.
Until it’s taken from us.
So, to me, in addition to the hard lessons I’ve personally learned in the last year, I know that these recent events are a clear message from G-d, reminding us who we are and where we come from.
To realize that a single-cell microorganism can bring the world to its knees in an unprecedented way can be terrifying.
It can also be awe-inspiring.
It can wake us up from our spiritual slumber.
It can instill an awareness of G-d that can easily wane in our lives amidst the everyday hustle and bustle.
This can be an opportunity to remember how lucky we are for so many reasons. Being alive, existing in a world where there’s so much readily available to us, is something we can choose to become attuned to now that things aren’t as available as they were.
Being well when you see how quickly things can go wrong, that healthy people can be ill in a matter of minutes.
Being thankful for the gifts bestowed upon us especially when we realize how desperately out of control we feel when things are changing daily, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
For the first time in a year, I’ve felt understood by the world around me.
Like people get what it’s like to be me, or one of my kind — the ones who had no choice but to accept fate, no matter how unfathomable it seemed. We had to move forward, even when it really hurt and the temptation is to dig your heels in the ground and remain in the space in time where your old life ended and new life involuntarily began.
Things aren’t the same and likely won’t be for a while. And yet, there are lessons to learn. We can choose to make this our opportunity to learn a lesson in this trying time.
Instead of complaining about how unfair this might be, we can think of ways to be grateful for what we have, even now.
Things might not be the way we want them to be, but, to me, it’s a golden opportunity for us to wake up and make a change. In this new unfamiliar climate, we can take this time to be introspective and acknowledge our appreciation for all we have, to take moments out of our new day home with the kids, with our unfamiliar schedules, to think about what message G-d is sending our way and what He wants us extrapolate from what’s happening in the entire world during this time.
It all comes from G-d, for however long we have it.
Be kind to others, like G-d’s been good to us.
Count our blessings and bless Him in return.
Love and appreciate what we have. And be thankful.
Malkie’s husband, Moshe, a’h, passed away a year ago at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page @Kissthekoshercook. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.