Today my family got together to attend my grandfather's unveiling. He passed away somewhat suddenly last year right before the holiday of Sukkot from a stroke which he had on Yom Kippur (following a stroke he'd had on Rosh Hashana). His death struck us all, not only because of its shocking tragedy, but its timing as well, and the many little things which surrounded it. (At one point on Yom Kippur, my mother was praying to Hashem just to let him live long enough for her to see him and say goodbye before he went. We found out after Yom Kippur that it was right around this time that he woke up and indicated that he wanted the volume on the TV turned up. My mother left to see him in Florida the next day and left a few days later to come home. He died just after she boarded her plane home.) Make what you will of all of it amongst yourselves, but for our family it was very big.
But this post isn't really about my grandfather, wonderful man though he was. This is actually about everyone else who attended the unveiling today. As we stood outside in the hot sun, viewing the headstone proclaiming my grandfather a beloved husband and father and foot-stone which let us know that he "passed this way," I was watching the people around me. My mother and grandmother, tearing up as the Rabbi described my grandfather as an ethical and honest man, my father holding an umbrella over their heads to shade them, and the dozen or so people standing respectfully and reflecting on their memories of Stanley Dashieff. What struck me, though, was when the rabbi began to recite Psalm 23. I'm familiar with the Hebrew recitation because it is commonly sung at the third meal on Shabbat, so I recited that one together with the Rabbi. But when he began the English recitation, I was a bit taken off guard that every one of the family and friends standing by the grave seemed to know every word by heart. It occurred to me that, since this is commonly recited at funerals, the people standing there must have attended many of them. That was when I realized I was surrounded by grief.
Every person there had, at some time or another, experienced loss, either directly or indirectly. Most of them were over the age of 50, and many had lost spouses or close friends. I've thought often over the past year of pursuing a specialization in grief counseling, and have researched it enough to know that grief can exist wherever there is loss of any kind; material, spiritual, or relational. Everyone is bound to experience grief in some form, if they live long enough. Somehow, though, it had never occurred to me that every person in my life had experienced grief. It was still something I've always seen as happening to "others," never to my friends or family. But there it was, staring me in the face as a dozen or so voices recited by wrote, "Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil." (That's the only part that I know by heart).
As usual, I have no big message to add to this. Just sharing an experience I had. I know how much you need to hear about my daily experiences. That's why you were all so upset over my leaving Facebook. And for all that "grief" over my leaving, very few of you have actually taken advantage of this little appeasement I've offered you. Don't look a gift blog in the mouth, my friends. :)