By Malkie Gordon Hirsch
News spreads like wildfire. Especially the bad variety.
Whenever I hear about a tragic accident or any type of unfortunate happening, I can’t help but think back to the end of my ordinary life, worrying about valid but normal everyday things, and the beginning of my new life, trying to survive the unthinkable with a bunch of little kids, and navigating a whole new world with them by my side.
Along with the death of the old life comes the end of the privacy I once had, and the social status of being the same as so many others (wife, mother, etc.) and the things I always had but always took advantage of.
The things I’d never have back the same way again.
I was now that girl. The one whose husband died at work one random Wednesday at the end of March.
The one with the five kids in grade school, with a baby at home, the one who no longer could blend into her community like everyone else.
The one with that story.
I was the one people would be writing, texting, WhatsApp-ing, Facebooking, Instagram-ing, and talking about.
The one whose pain people couldn’t imagine dealing with.
I remember being in my sister-in-law’s house, receiving the news that would forever change my life, about the sudden death of my husband while he was at work. By the time I got to Brooklyn and to her house, I started receiving condolences on my phone.
I myself had just been told this news and as I kept my head down and looked at the text messages, I realized what a small world this is.
How does the news spread the way it does?
It’s the Hatzalah member who was on the call at my husband’s office whose nephew is in the same class as one of my sons.
The one thing that makes being that person a bit better is time. They say that time heals wounds and there are all types. Time also causes people to forget that you were that person in that family that dealt with that tragedy.
Because when there’s so much happening at a speed you’re unfamiliar with managing, the last thing you realize is that you’re the one they’re all talking about.
Until you try leaving the house and start getting the stares and the reactions you didn’t realize would be the occupational hazard of being a widow at 38.
Time is kind when the looks of pity and horror coming from the faces around you are not.
As if it wasn’t hard enough being myself at that moment in time, now I’d also have to deal with the shame of it all, the anxiety of going into public places, having the strength to get through something that someone would say that might trigger me in some way.
On Saturday night, as I sat on my couch at 11 p.m., speaking to some friends who had come to visit, there was a horrific car accident involving a woman I met a few months ago, her daughter, and her daughter’s friends.
The crash site was a few blocks from my house and we started hearing sirens racing to the scene. WhatsApp began blowing up immediately, and the identities of the victims involved were confirmed by the end of the night.
There’s a feeling of horror, disbelief, and sadness associated with each passing story.
I read the messages on various social media platforms but the end result of my own story prevents me from feeling the way I want to.
There’s a numbness that sets in, and although I feel for the victims of this senseless tragedy, I also don’t feel like I used to.
I used to feel too much. Now I feel very little.
But I wanted to address this in an article because I want people to understand what it feels like to be the person associated with a tragedy like this. I want you to think before you catch yourself staring and to remain quiet before something comes out that you can’t take back.
Treat the people suffering from these circumstances the way you’d want to be treated—with dignity, privacy, and kindness. Be gentle and understanding and be that listening ear when they need it.
Don’t say, “It’ll be better” when there’s no guarantee of when that’ll be. Instead, sit with them in their pain and don’t let it scare you away. Lean into it with them instead of distracting them from it. Acknowledge instead of ignore because it’s all too much. Too intense to deal with. Until we’re not given a choice but to deal.
On the day after the accident, I drove around the neighborhood, taking kids from one place to the next, and I observed how mild the day was for a Sunday in December. The sun was shining and families were out together, shopping and taking care of the things they needed to on the weekend. It almost seemed wrong to enjoy the day after the heartbreaking news received just a few hours prior. But it showed me that despite the hardships people go through in their lives, as long as you’re afforded the gift of life day after day, even the darkest night can be followed by a beautiful new day. With that is a new opportunity to start anew. To heal, to forgive, and to choose a new path.
With that said, I’d like to send my heartfelt condolences to the Namdar family for the senseless loss of their daughter Liel, as well as my wishes for a complete refuah sheleimah for Miriam bas Ina Pessia Yocheved and the other passengers who were hurt in the car accident.
HaMakom yenachem eschem besoch sha’ar aveilei Tzion v’Yerushalayim.
Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, a social media influencer, veteran real estate agent, and runs a patisserie in Woodmere.