Every morning I brush my teeth, brew coffee, turn on the computer, check my email and click on the Breast Cancer site to make a free donation to make mammograms available for those who cannot afford them. It is a tiny gesture in solidarity with the women I know (and all the ones I don’t) who have battled this disease. Usually, I do this more-or-less thoughtlessly.
But this past week, my morning ritual became an act of mourning. Last Sunday night, I paid a condolence call to the family of a 57-year-old woman who succumbed to breast cancer.
As my husband and I drove to the house, I knew it was going to be a very sad shiva service (shiva, which means seven, refers to the week of mourning observed by Jews – a time of reflection, sadness, remembrance, and communal support.)
Joyce was a long-time member of my synagogue, and while I didn’t know her very well, we had many mutual friends who were deeply saddened by her loss. Even closer to home, my daughter, Emilia, was friends with Joyce’s two girls growing up, and she had called me to talk about her memories of Joyce and of being in her home.
It was an untimely death, which inevitably holds up a fairly frightening mirror to a 58-year old like me. But I was touched and even gladdened as I looked around the very full room and saw so many young faces – friends and relatives there to comfort Joyce’s daughters, who are both in their 20s. Had Emilia been in town, she would have been there, too.
I’ve been to many shiva gatherings over the years, nearly all for older if not elderly parents – including my father. Those who gathered for condolence, in solidarity and community, were all of my generation or older.
And now our kids are adults: beautiful, compassionate, and wise enough to know how important it is to show up for one another. And that is what makes human life possible.
The season is changing. Sad as I am for Joyce’s death and her family’s grief, I honor the gifts she gave and left behind. Including this lesson to me.
Here is the website: http://www.thebreastcancersite.com
You know what to do.