Life, the Universe and Everything

[From yesterday, 10th Elul, 5779]

Today, right now, there are so many other things I should be doing, I am doing. Laundry, dishes, getting ready for work (now that we have water – don’t ask). But I pause to write to you once more for two reasons, Gilad, (number one, and of course…) because it has been exactly two years since you left us, since you took your light from this world.

As I do these tasks, my mind is in a million places: thinking about what I have to get done before work in an hour or so, that after work I will probably join your family at your kever, that in just a few evenings from now I will go to shul for my mother’s yahrzeit, followed the next morning by the bris for my best friend since childhood’s first grandchild. I also heard that a person who was very close to you has a wedding to go to tonight so she will not be able to be there for you and your family…all these thoughts go in circles, as I think of the circle that life is. It is not one simple beginning and ending for any of us, but spreading ripples like a stone thrown into a still lake; the circles spread outward not individually but mingle, bumping into each other, overlapping.

L’tzaari (to my sorrow) I did not know you so well as an adult, only having taught you for one year when you were in 8th grade (it  seems like only a short time ago-where have the years gone?), but I had the pleasure to see you (along with other former students) later on as you grew up in town, then when you were in uniform, looking so grown up and proud, your smile always lighting up my day if we got the chance to say hello and catch up briefly. I did not know your struggles or your pain, or your reasons for finally giving up. When your mother shared at your levaya (funeral) that you had done this, that it was not an accident or a terrorist, I was actually shocked, for you had hidden it so well. I know, I am sure, that those of your family and friends who knew what you were going through tried their best to be there for you, to help you, and are not to blame, even though their efforts did not succeed. As much as we want to, it is hard to accept that there are those people who we love but cannot help; we can only do the best we can.

I think that your mother shared this very personal information publicly with the same hope that I have now, that by letting people know that even someone like you, who seemed so happy on the outside, held such deep pain about certain things in the world. I hope that this knowledge will help others who are struggling, so they will be aware that many people struggle and need help, so they will know how much those who love them want to help, and  that those who love them would never want this to be the outcome and would do anything to help- and that no one should feel the need to put an end to their own life.

Life goes in circles, with many ups and downs. Along the way we touch and affect so many, and occasionally we may not even know it. Sometimes we experience major difficulties and suddenly see how many people there are who will help even those they don’t know. Sometimes even minor yet ongoing issues will get us down, but seeing so many wonderful people reaching out (like my amazing community offering to help me and others with the recent communal mess, and people who constantly help others with various much more serious problems) will turn one’s outlook around. Many times, we don’t even know a person is struggling, but our greeting or a small heartfelt compliment makes their day, makes a difference to them. It isn’t easy to be positive when things are hard, when we feel frustrated or sad or overwhelmed; it is something I am working on all the time- looking for the good rather than focusing on the bad.

[Added after last night]

Sometimes it is so hard to see the good, though, like in your loss, in other tragedies. I don’t know why it had to happen, why you had to go through what you did. At your kever your mother said she believes that there is value in believing. She shared that you prayed so hard the night before you took your own life, as if you were looking for an answer you couldn’t find. Maybe you received your answer; we don’t know. Maybe you are where you were meant to be, and we were all meant to be graced with your presence for only a short time; it is not for me to say. Even so, I still believe there is meaning, there is a pattern—we just can’t see it. I  know that there is so much good we can see, but also so much pain for ourselves and others, that maybe the best way to be part of the good is to help others by lessening their pain, bringing more light into the world like you did with your smile, even with your mischief like your grandmother mentioned to me, and your caring for others like you demonstrated in your brief film career and in real life. I feel grateful to be able to see your family move on, as hard as that certainly is, carrying your memory with them as they continue their lives and yet generously sharing new pieces of you as they are discovered, opening their home so others who continue to miss you can join in their bittersweet gathering.

Your life and loss brings to mind the following two-fold wish for people everywhere: May our lives have a positive effect on the world, and may we know that there are people who want to help us when we need it.

L’iluy nishmat Gilad Amichai z”l

(Published with permission)

About the Author
Mori Sokal is a TWELVE year veteran of Aliyah, mother of three wonderful children (with her wonderful husband) and is an English teacher in both elementary and high school in the Gush Etzion-Jerusalem area. She has a Masters’ degree in teaching, and has published articles in Building Blocks, the Jewish Press magazine.
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