Man Plans And God Laughs: Renovation And Mourning

After our two daughters had left home, my husband and I decided to downsize– to move from our  house in the suburbs to a smaller one in town. It was going to be a happy move, an opportunity to be centrally located while still having a house with a garden.

In a green neighborhood just outside Tel Aviv, we found the perfect house. It was an old semi-detached that needed a lot of work: in Israeli terms “old” means about 60 year old. We were thrilled, we knew that this was the place where we would spend many happy years together, and in February we signed the contract.

However, as the Yiddish proverb goes “man plans and God laughs,” a week after we committed ourselves to buying the house, my husband was diagnosed with stage 4  lung cancer. Still we worked on the plans for the  new house together, it was our light in an otherwise very dark period. Originally we planned two studies, and  I remember my heart sinking when he told me one day “I don’t believe that you will need that second study.” I didn’t want to hear it.

On my husband’s last day in July he was busy saying goodbye to friends and family. He also signed the final papers for the sale of our house in the suburbs to make sure that my move to the new house would go smoothly.

Taking possession of the new house occurred on the day when I got up from the Shiva, and two days later we started the renovation. I was grateful for this project, it forced me to be sharp and stay focused in order to take the necessary decisions and make the right choices. I was very fortunate because the architect and the builder, who were aware of my plight, were kind and generous. They took special care of me and we worked together in perfect harmony.

I have not seen renovation mentioned as a prescribed medicine for mourning. But for me, (although I was still angry with Him for laughing at our plans) it was “God sent.” It is almost a cliche, as the word “renovation” has within it the root “renewal.” Indeed as we demolished and built new walls, gradually turning a building site into  a home, I realized that my shattered life was also taking a new form. It gave me new hope for the future.

I still had a long way to go, but this was the beginning of my recovery.  In less than three months, at the end of October eleven years ago, I moved into my new house. I  insisted on staying there alone at night. Waking up in the morning, boxes everywhere,  my first thought was: this is where my new life begins. And so it was.

About the Author
I have a PhD in English literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I usually write about issues concerning women, literature, culture and society. I lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994). I am widow and in March 2016 started a support/growth Facebook group for widows: "Widows Move O.," In October 2017 I started a Facebook group for Older and Experienced Feminists. I am also an active member of Women Wage Peace and believe that women can succeed where men have failed.
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