Death. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Like when you reach for the phone before stopping yourself with a pause, and a note not to do that again. It’s so unexpectedly forever.
Seems that I should have realized that two years ago when we lowered her into the ground, so small in her shroud. So reduced already, somehow compacted for her trip a world beyond us. Beyond our daily reach.
What’s the worst part? That it gets easier for all of us to live our lives without her. Everyday. I hate that.
I’m not as raw as I was when the phone rang at 5 a.m., Michael, her husband, on the other end with the news I didn’t want to hear. I’m not as cut to the quick as I was in those first few weeks when I just couldn’t believe it had happened. What had happened. How it had all fallen apart, just like I knew it one day could and would, that spring of 2015.
You know, I don’t like remembering September 11th by way of television and video footage. Ira worked down the block from the towers in Lower Manhattan, and we lived just a hop, skip, and a jump from the Brooklyn Bridge. The images of the towers falling is indelibly imprinted on my psyche. The smell of the burning stuff — let’s just call it that — lingers in my olfactory senses, as it lingered, well into November that fall. Footage? It’s just too overwhelming.
But when it comes to my sister Sarah, and that final period, those last six weeks of May, I’d go back in a heartbeat. So I could just see her, be with her, smell her, laugh with her, drink coffee with her, and push away the looming future without her.
I’m astounded at what living we’ve done without her — three weddings, three grandchildren — one would have been her first — family gatherings, celebrations, and birthday parties. Beers I’ve drunk without her. Ice cream I’ve enjoyed without her.
Life that I’ve enjoyed without her.
It’s easier, and yet, it’s so much harder. Harder as she becomes frozen in time, smiling (always smiling unless it was a hospital shot, when she’d put on a particular grimace for a photo I’d only share on our family WhatsApp group). There are no new pictures to find, on those days I troll my phone’s photo library, hoping to spot something new.
There are no more phone calls — she liked the phone much more than I did — and would call me most mornings, on my way to work crossing Derech Hevron, and say, “Where am I finding you?” And I’d tell her, and we’d have a nice yap as I walked down the street.
There are no more conversations — about everything. Nothing was off limits to Sarah. She was intensely interested and opinionated in..everything. You always told her what was on your mind, and listened as she responded.
Navigating family stuff is more complex without her diplomatic skills and take-charge style. The gap of her place in the family unit is a palpable one which nobody wants to fill. We work around it. Sort of.
One day at a time.
Remembering her is an honor I hold dear, that we all hold dear. Especially when I feel her presence or hear her voice in my head — we sound somewhat similar vocally — and always when I’m on the way to her home in Rosh Ha’ayin, passing her, buried down the block from her house.
She whispers hello. I whisper hello back.
May her life, her memory, her laughter, her personhood, find a way to linger and bless us with her presence always.
Sarah Hannah Goldberg. February 26, 1958 – May 18, 2015