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The Unveiling
Chief Editor's Blog

The Unveiling

I went to Toronto expecting to confront my mother's death more deeply; I encountered instead my father's remarkable dedication to life.

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The cover was removed and I was standing in front of my mother’s brand new tombstone, along with family and close friends, waiting to feel something. I read how seeing the actual tombstone makes the death more real. All I felt was relief that there were no mistakes with the text on the stone.

But then my father spoke. It was his first time eulogizing my mother since she died almost 5 months ago. There was no way he could speak at the funeral without completely breaking down. At the unveiling the tears came before he could get the first syllable out, but he fought through them and gave a glowing, very truthful tribute about my mother who, as the tombstone said “dedicated her life to her family and to the Jewish people.”

My parents were married for almost 63 years and you can feel the palpable love my father had – and still has – for my mother. It’s no wonder that according to Jewish law children mourn their parents for a year but a spouse mourns for only 30 days. I need to say Kaddish a zillion times to be forced to think about my mother in the midst of my very hectic day. My father needs no mourning practices to remember my mother. There isn’t a minute that goes by where he doesn’t think of her. Their lives were completely entwined. How can he forget her? The concern we all have is: how can he live without her?

I went to Toronto expecting to confront the death of my mother more deeply; I encountered instead my father's remarkable dedication to life. At 83 years old, living with colitis and a host of other more minor challenges, my father, a prominent endocrinologist who also works in nuclear medicine, still treks to the hospital early every morning where he puts in a half day of work. And this week his life is about to take two more sharp turns – he is moving out of the spacious condominium he and my mother lived in for the last 20 years, and the small hospital, at which he spent the majority of his career, is closing down and being amalgamated into a brand new, state-of-the-art, humungous medical facility that is opening this week.

My father is simultaneously experiencing three of the greatest stressors in life – death of a family member, moving, and change of job.

Most people at this point in their lives would just retire. My father is in the midst of packing up his home and his office, moving into a new office at the new hospital where he hopes to learn how to master the sophisticated computerized machinery.

My father is simultaneously experiencing three of the greatest stressors in life – death of a family member, moving, and change of job, and yes he’s feeling some stress (who wouldn’t!?), but he is plowing on and all in all doing great, embracing life and not slowing down.

And he never complains. Really. Never.

I am very grateful to my siblings in Toronto who have been tremendous support for my father and picking all the slack.

The next time I'll see him will be at the annual Aish Conference in Stamford, Ct, in December. He relishes the stimulating classes and keynote lectures.

I thought my trip to Toronto would be enveloped by death; instead it was infused with life.

October 19, 2015

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Anonymous, October 23, 2015 11:00 AM

A full calendar does not mean a full life

Kudos to your father in being able to outwardly deal with the unfortunate death of your mother. The death of a spouse leaves scars, unimaginable to others, as "others" continue on with their lives. Loneliness, a lack of intimate sharing, the loss of one's best friend - the pain is a constant even with bandaids.

(7) Mike, October 23, 2015 10:18 AM

very inspiring article

very inspiring article

(6) Maureen Katz, October 22, 2015 2:01 PM

You have infused me with energy and happiness dear Nechemia

Thank you so much for your wonderful reflections on your Dad and Mom z"l. My deepest condolences and yet she will live on forever. Today is second anniversary of my beloved Jeff's funeral and he is with me always. May you be forever enriched and blessed by your parents here and in the olam habah. Sincerely Maureen Katz

(5) Phyllis Hecht, October 22, 2015 10:16 AM

Nechemia, I enjoyed so much the article about your mom-A"L-. It was a loss that I never knew her. You Dad seems like an incredible human being- עמו"ש. Clearly' the amazing work you do is a reflection on them. Kol Hakavod. Chazak viamatz. May the stabbing pain of loss turn into the Nechema of beuatiful memories. bsorot tovot,
Phyllis Hecht

(4) marnie, October 22, 2015 6:06 AM

So moving ... so critical

First, my deepest condolences to you Rabbi, and your family. Now I see where you get your pluck:) How wonderful for your dad to embrace the future with such courage and optimism. It's a mitzvah that your mother would delight in knowing.

And you have delighted the rest of us, but more, provided yet again a highly spiritual nudge, and reassurance for those of us who are "getting on a bit" -- and have faced/will face great loss.

Shalom with love,

Marnie

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