Dear Shlomi zt”l,
There is nothing to say, but everything to say, so I’ll say some things and I won’t say others.
Every time I close my eyes, I don’t see you as 20. I see you as I met you, 4 years old, on the floor playing. You, Gami and Moishy made fun of me over the years how loud I was, but maybe that’s why we have such strong memories. They are loud memories.
All those years when I was in high school, when I practically lived in your house and spent hundreds of meals at your Shabbat table, it was more or less the five of us (with the others floating in and out). It was Bayla, me and “the three boys”. Your dad was still finishing his masters, doing clinical work, and working full time, and rabbi-ing, and saving the world… and your mom (as you know I affectionately call her mommy Mindy) did night shifts and slept in the day and was also saving the world with her incredible cooking and organizing holiday and shabbat meals with hundreds of guests over the years. Ya, your parents were around, but how many evenings did we spend together figuring out what to make for dinner and how many nights did Bayla and I try to get you guys to bed? And your books!!! Man, you couldn’t put those dramatically insane adventurous fantasy books down. But eventually, you fell asleep. Because you were a child. And you still are in my eyes.
There are too many memories to count because they are not one-time memories. They are just life. Living. Just days, weeks, months, years….
I watched you grow up, ten years younger than Bayla and I, I watched your journey from Passaic to Ohio to Florida, then back to NJ and then your final decision to join the army. “Of course” was my first thought when I heard you were following (most) of your brothers footsteps.
When you came to my house last summer, you needed a shower but Bayla was in the working shower. I told you, “Over there is the other shower I have, but it doesn’t work”. Like Baruch alluded to yesterday, you simply went in my other bathroom, fixed the shower that never had worked, took a shower, came out and looked at me smiling with the words: “It’s now working fine!” Then you took my boys and threw them in the air and gave them “guy-rough-throwing- around” fun (something I can’t do and they badly needed). Shlomi, you were so awesome with kids.
I keep looking at my pictures. All of us in Maine camping. All of us in the first apartment in Passaic. Then all of us in Van Houten. Then all of us in your current house. All of us at the family weddings. And I keep looking at all your older siblings, whom I love deeply and profoundly like brothers and sisters (each and every one of them), but I don’t think they understand you were my little brother. My real little brother that I never had. They weren’t in the house those years, or if they were, they were in and out and I was there way more than they were! You called me your big sister as I called you my little brother, and I hope your older siblings understand that.
Gami said losing you was like a part of his heart being ripped out. Gami. Oy Gami. Gami was a part of you and you were a part of him, literally like twins. Shlomi, just like you always looked out for him in this world, I know you are going to watch out for him in the next world. He needs you still, don’t let go of him. I don’t get this pain on the level that Gami does, but I get some of it. I feel as I’m walking around the house with everyone, any second you’re going to turn around a corner and pop out and this whole thing, we’ll find out, was a terrible nightmare.
But it’s real Shlomi. Your smile is forever etched on my heart and soul. If I had to sum you up, it’s “Sever Panim Yafot”….you ALWAYS were smiling. I am not trying to find something nice to say so therefore I’m saying this. You LIGIT, always had a smile on your face. I close my eyes, I just see you smiling.
I loved you, and still love you, and seeing your parents, siblings, family and friends and community and Israel and Am Yisrael in this pain is the worst pain I have ever felt–and you know as well as I do, I have been through pain. When I found out you were plucked from this world so suddenly, a friend at work literally needed to give me a sedative pill to help me breath. I couldn’t breath. It just couldn’t be. It just can’t be. But it is.
I asked Hashem a million times in the last three days—”What the hell is wrong with you G-d?” Shlomi, you worked your whole life to be an adult; as the youngest of nine biological siblings and a few extra siblings too, you finally made it. We all went out for drinks last summer at the Mirror Bar and I looked at you and thought: “Wow, he finally made it to adulthood.” You would have been the best husband and father anyone could ever ask for. I can’t understand Hashem. But that’s the point I guess. Accepting we don’t understand and we are not meant to understand. The faith I need to have right now is a faith that is fabricated from bits and pieces of my education, life experiences and my upbringing. I guess I can’t choose to believe in the goodness of G-d when things are smooth, and not believe when things aren’t. I know I believe what I believe through and through, even through all this horrific pain I’m feeling along with everyone, but watching your body being put into the ground…it shook my faith. To the core.
I know you are in the highest highest place, right next to Hashem, being embraced by G-d. I know your grandfathers, the Baal Shem Tov Hakadosh, the Chernoble Rebbe, the Twersky Tzadikim, past Skver Rebbe’s, your 3 grandparents that already passed, your uncle Paul, all those that have ever loved you that are in the next world…are there to greet you. I don’t get it, but I know you are in the Olam Ha’amet. You see clearly all the confusion and fog we are in. So be our advocate Shlomi. You lived on this land, breathed our air, ate our food, lived life as a human with feelings… and you know the pain we are suffering as a nation. Stampede the heavens, explain to G-d that this can not go on. That an end to our suffering must come. Right now. Please, demand it Shlomi. You can fix anything, so please fix the heavens to make sure the Geulah comes.
I am so deeply proud of you Shlomi. For serving your country, for giving up so much in order to be a Chayal, for being brave, for always wanting to learn new things (Hebrew, for example), for being the most awesomest brother, son and uncle ever, for your contagious smile and your giving nature, for your endless love for your family and for being an example of how important “family” really is. Thank you Shlomi for forcing me (all of us) to reinstate and renew our faith in G-d; the One who knows all, understands all and does only good. Whatever that means.
But here on earth, you will be so missed Shlomi. So so missed.
I love you,
Your big “sister”,
PS. I promise to make Bayla do more art. You were right — it does make her happy!
Thank you David Curwin, for inspiring me to write this.