Yesterday, I went to pay a condolence call on my old friend, Yehudah Glick. His wife died last week. According to Yehuda, the strain of his near assassination by an Arab terrorist, the murder of two close friends and neighbors, and the death of a close friend after a long illness had been too much for her. She suffered debilitating PTSD until she had a stroke from which she never recovered.
I knew Yafi; we were neighbors many years ago, our children great 4 year-old friends.
Someone recently told me that we ordinarily live our lives encased in a protective flak-jacket of reasonable denial. Yes, the world may be a dangerous place, but the thought that any moment may actually be our last is not often entertained in a serious way. We send our children out to play, we drive on highways, walk in the rain — the risks tamped down in our own thoughts.
Yet what happens when a wife witnesses her beloved husband shot at point-blank range; hears the screams of a neighbor as she is stabbed to death while keeping the attacker from reaching her children; watches a family attempt to reorganize itself after their father is killed and mother disabled in a drive-by shooting. This is what Yafi lived through. And like others who have seen too much, whose protective layer of implausibility has been removed, she suffered from exposure. She was too open to the real to fully function in this world.
Trauma can leave us like burn victims whose skin is gone, lacking the basic defenses against contamination. The risk of infection too great to imagine, we can become helpless to keep the pain from crushing us under its weight. We can feel trapped in the horrid loneliness of suffering.
Taking leave of Yehuda’s home, I paused as a grey-haired matron was helped down the steps to the street by a middle-aged woman. The elder sighed, embarrassed that she needed help, “Ahh…the world is made for the young.” “No,” the younger of the pair answered, “it is made to allow us to help one another. I’m sure that there are many things that you know, that I still haven’t learned, that you can do, that I can’t.” The older woman smiled. And astounded by the touching beauty of the moment, in the midst of so much sadness, so did I.