Grief, Kindness and a Little Bit of Mr. Rogers

“There are three ways to ultimate success:

The first way is to be kind.

The second way is to be kind.

The third way is to be kind.”

—Fred Rogers

Here’s the thing about Grief.

He can come with a sucker punch to the gut when you least expect it, leaving you pale and breathless. Or he can sit there ugly and heavy, waiting patiently with you hour by hour, minute by minute until the clock stops ticking. And either way, whether it was completely expected or not, Grief shatters and scatters you into a million pieces. And then some.

Recently our family experienced an unexpected visit from Grief. He came silent and cold in the middle of the night after my 40-year-old beautiful cousin died in his sleep, snuggled on the sofa with his favorite blanket, watching his sports channel.

Breathing. Being. There. Then gone.

Grief snuck in on a random Sunday and broke our family.

Here’s the thing about Grief.

He can leave you so devastated you don’t know how you can fill the empty hole in the pit of your stomach and in the creases of your heart. You don’t know if you have any more tears to cry or if your lungs will stop burning.

Grief plays with your mind so that you don’t know what’s worse—the tremendous ache you feel from such insurmountable loss or the pain you feel watching your most loved ones suffer the slings and arrows of such outrageous heartache. And then you realize that that’s part of Grief’s plan. Part of his twisted game. And you fall even deeper down his rabbit hole.

But here’s the thing about Grief.

Every villain has his Achilles heel, and Grief is no exception. For every kind word offered, every hug and warm embrace, every shiva visit from both far and near and phone call from all four corners of the earth, every warm meal, every “I am here for you,” every story and memory shared, every act of kindness and pure goodness, uncoils Grief’s tight grip on our hearts and slowly starts stitching us back to our new whole. Breathing new life back into our empty vacuum.

Whenever tragedy strikes, I close my eyes even for two seconds and remember the perfect words of Fred Rogers (whom I’m secretly just a little obsessed with), “When I was a young boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers; you will always find people who are helping.’”

And after the funeral I did look for the helpers. I didn’t even have to look hard; they were everywhere.

Because the Jewish community doesn’t just look for the helpers, they are the helpers.

We have learned the hard truth that Kindness is the real antidote for Grief’s poison. It is the wings of Kindness that has carried our people over mountains of pain and through lifetimes of Grief.

And it is no coincidence that every single person who eulogized my cousin at his funeral talked about the same trait that he possessed deep down to his core.

His kindness.

With his gentle giving nature, love for his parents and brother, his nieces and nephews who were his world, his friends and family, my cousin was the true epitome of real kindness.

And here’s the thing about Kindness.

It is not only our life jacket keeping us from drowning in oceans of Grief, but it is the eternal chain connecting our people and filling us with real purpose and life meaning.

עולם חסד יבנה.

The world was built on kindness.

What better quality to be our foundation than showing kindness to others in need.

I will try desperately to keep my cousin’s memory alive and burning with my beautiful memories and childhood stories. And I will continue to keep his legacy alive by following in his ever-so-large footsteps and trying my best to show kindness daily in as many ways as possible.

About the Author
Esti Rosen Snukal is a writer for the Jewish Link of New Jersey. She made Aliya with her husband and four sons on July 12, 2012 to Chashmonayim. Esti is also the adopted mom to a lone soldier from Highland Park NJ and an active volunteer at the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin.
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