By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

I suffer from opposing thoughts and feelings more frequently than ever before and though I know it all still thankfully falls under the “normal feelings” category, I can’t help but wonder how others come to terms with sad, sudden news that seems to hit us more often than it ever has in the past.

Yesterday, after Shabbos ended, we received news on the petirah of a neighbor of ours—someone who stood out publicly in our community and touched so many in his various ways—a pediatric dentist in our area, a practice that he had for many years.

He was a baal koreah and frequented our house to lein and daven Minchah occasionally as well.

He was a husband, loving father, and grandfather, a long-standing Hatzalah member in the Five Towns community (RL76) and just an all-around great human—happy, helpful, and seemingly never bothered by going above and beyond for so many.

It was a dreary Shabbos day and I had seen sirens stopping by a local house in our area, but I was making my way to a friend’s simcha, so at that moment, I didn’t give it much thought.

At the same time, a family’s world shattered.

It’s a hard thing to reconcile, even for me, someone who went through this just a few years ago. I was there not too long ago, watching people who truly felt for me leave my house and go back to their lives, temporarily saddened but ultimately ok.

What was going to happen to me, the person who couldn’t escape this unscathed like one of those people? I felt bitterness and envy. I wanted my old life back, imperfections and all.

The numbness I usually feel as a result of what we’ve been through as a family, paired with tremendous empathy and emotion towards another family that will suffer with suddenness of loss, the lack of closure this type of loss can cause, and the finality of it all.

Not being there to say goodbye because of not knowing time had run out. But at the same time, having gratitude that the suffering was minimal, and those feelings shouldn’t necessarily go together, but they still somehow do. There’s anger, sadness, confusion, and a lot of unanswered questions.

The type where we as a people need to justify loss to understand it better.

But now as I digest the information after the series of events that brought us the news of Dr. Stephen Krauss’s untimely death, I realize that it doesn’t matter how often this type of thing happens. Death doesn’t discriminate—eventually it happens to us all.

It doesn’t matter if you can’t understand the details surrounding the loss. It’s not about that and it was a source of a lot of pain when people would whisper and want to know information.

What matters is what you did with the time you were given while you were here.

It’ll never look the way you thought it should. That’s simply not up to us. We’re not the writers, we’re just in the cast.

I knew what this levaya would look like as I drove to pick up my kids from various places this afternoon.

I saw people walking from my block, and not bothering to get into their cars to attempt to get parking because there’d be none to be had.

There was a police and Hatzalah presence and throngs of people pouring out of the Edward Avenue shul, the synagogue that Dr. Krauss prayed and leined at.

The weather reflected the somber nature of the day’s activities and it wasn’t lost on me or I’m sure others at the timing of this particular loss.

The time, referred to as “aseres yimei teshuvah,” a time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when each person’s fate is determined and then sealed for the year to come.

The loss of such a vibrant person, a servant of Hashem and a community member who’s been in service for others during his lifetime during this time of year speaks volumes to others. Some people who survive trauma find that they need to try and steer clear of “triggers”—incidents that precipitate feelings similar to and connected with their pain. Everyone needs to do what works for them, but I find that I actually seek them out. I would specifically go to levayas, to shivahs, to widow groups. Not because I want to relive the suffering, but because the way I’m doing my healing is by leaning into the feelings. By actively walking through the loss, the grief, the aftermath, the lessons, and the choices that come next. By connecting more deeply and meaningfully with all my relationships—with my children, friends, myself, and G-d.

Sudden losses like this highlight the fragility of life and can be an example of the way we should really feel as our eyes take in the paragraphs of “Unetaneh Tokef.” Somehow, these thoughts are the things that prepare me to get into the right frame of mind for Yom Kippur. The idea that whatever we have is a blessing, that even the things that I’d rather not have, have the potential to become the biggest life lessons. It’s a practice in holding onto faith at the hardest of times and to be thankful for things we didn’t know we needed to be grateful for. It’s understanding that everyone has our time here. We don’t know how much, and so we need to make sure to make the most of it, like Dr. Krauss and Moshe did. As I enter into this time of year, a time filled with hope and prayer for a year of life, health, and goodness for friends and loved ones, I’ll keep him and his family in my heart and daven for his neshamah, for his family, and for our community who lost someone so special and will continue feeling his loss for years to come. May this be the year that ends this and all suffering. 

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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