The meeting was set with the lawyers, real estate agents and sellers. The ink was ready; we just needed to sign on the dotted line, and we would set in motion the purchase of our new home.
It never happened for several reasons, but for me, mostly because of my “Afghanistan Syndrome.” The potential new house was filled with flaws, and the house that we have been living in since 1995 provides studio space for my wife’s ceramics and has a spacious garden that functions as my gym.
So, then, why were we on the verge of buying a flawed apartment and giving up on a perfect one?
Grief and trauma are the answers to that question.
We have felt Ariel’s z”l presence in our apartment since he completed his life by suicide three years ago, but we have also painfully felt his absence. We thought that the move would be the start of writing a new chapter in our lives. We will never, ever, forget Ariel z”l, but after all, I often write about the importance of “riding through,” so the move would constitute movement forward on the path of life.
The flaws in the potential new apartment were evident to me, but we were emotionally blinded because we so desperately wanted to “move,” on all levels. But the night before we were planning to sign, I turned to my wife with thoughts about the real estate agents, lawyers, sellers and friends spinning in my brain, knowing how much disappointment I was going to cause them – and her – and said, “I don’t want to do this; I don’t want to move.” My wife immediately said that she supported me, but wanted to know what was really bothering me. My response: “Afghanistan.”
Why that country popped out of my mouth, I have no idea. But it was clear to me that the pulverizing and searing pain of losing my son to suicide was not going to change by moving apartments. So, I took a deep breath and said to my wife the following: “The last few seconds of Ariel’s life will haunt me forever, no matter where I live, even if it’s in a totally foreign place like Afghanistan.” And, the flip side is true as well. The memories of the last two years of his life, when our home became his anchor and refuge, when he, after years of rebellion, rage and rejection, asked me to be his friend and have a football catch with him, or play cards with my wife and me on a Shabbat afternoon, will remain engraved deeply in my heart – no matter where I live. … even if that place is Afghanistan.
My “movement,” my decision to ride through life, is an ongoing, complex, challenging and difficult internal process – one totally independent of where I live. I was fully cognizant of the many people that I was about to disappoint on that evening before the signing of the new apartment. But I felt strongly that moving apartments to avoid pain was not a good or healthy option for me. In this instance, I knew that I had to stop riding and start feeling. And, it had to be in my home where I feel Ariel’s presence and absence, often at the exact same time. My wife, whether she really agreed or not, heard, held and hugged me and said, “We’re not moving.”
We then thought about completely renovating the existing apartment, but that too, became very complicated. Grief complicates.
Instead, a few months ago, we bought new appliances and refurbished the living room, and my wife totally reorganized the arrangement of the books and art works.
We are going through a process of renewal. We are “moving,” and we are determined to ride through life and appreciate our blessings, despite the painful loss of our son.
Just not in Afghanistan.