Faith and validation

Yesterday Mo and I had lunch with one of my favorite JNF donors (JNF - Jewish National Fund - the organization I work - read all about it!).  After lunch, she took us to meet with her rabbi.  You see, I've been SEARCHING for answers and meaning and guidance all over the place.  I figured it was time to start looking within my own faith.  My donors' rabbi is a pretty well-known and well respected man.  People really love him - I figured it would be a good place to start.  So, we caravanned out to Pacific Palisades to his synagogue and met in his office. 

I think it was an important meeting for me and it will probably take a few days to absorb it all.  We covered a lot of topics in a short amount of time.  I told him I was in crisis - that the loss of Max has been for me a loss of faith - in god, in humanity!  "How could it not be?", was his response.  I told him that I have seen healers, and grief counselors, and more mediums than I even care to admit.  "Know of any good ones?", he asked- about the mediums.  Apparently, he has seen a few himself (WHAT?????!!!!  Awesome!) I told him that I am angry and hurt and that people say stupid things.  "People are assholes". he replied.  I think I like this rabbi.

What I really wanted to know was the bottom line with regard to the Jewish idea of life after death.  He assured me that within all streams of Judiasm, there is a strong belief in "Olam Haba" (the world to come).  As he spoke, it came flooding back to me.  How did I forget about this teaching?  It just isn't the emphasis of modern Judaism - but it is there, and there is a lot written about it (now to buy every book on the subject).  We spoke about his personal beliefs and he told me that he KNOWS there is life after this physical one.  How did he know? - I asked.  Like, REALLY, how does he know?  He knows because of his faith in Jewish teachings.  He knows because he has had experiences with mediums and people having deathbed visions, and encounters with those who've had near death experiences, and because he has had unexplainable experiences and because he has read countless books by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and others that describe a connection with life after death that we have a habit of explaining away.  He believes for all of the reasons that I am looking to believe.  Sounds like we've read many of the same books.  He said he "KNOWS" - I want to use that word one day too.

"You lost your son less than two years ago", he explained, "it has been a minute."  And it's true.....I feel like Max was here in my arms yesterday!  I told him that recently someone close to me said that I should be "done" with anger.  He assured me that my rage is normal and that it would be stranger if I were not angry.  He said that sometimes he thinks insensitive people are placed in our lives when we are in crisis so that we have a place to focus our anger.  I thought that was funny (funny because it's true....).  Through the years he has worked with many bereaved parents and something we all have in common is that people underestimate the depths of our grief.  "It is the worst kind of loss there is", he said over and over.  His best friend lost her only child more than ten years ago.  Today, her whole life is devoted to helping other parents in grief.  There is even a support group that meets monthly in his office.

I asked him if he believed there was meaning in Max's death.  "What kind of meaning do you think there would be?", he asked me.  I explained that people always tell me things like, "God only gives us what we can handle" and "Max died so that you could become a more compassionate person" and "His death was so that you could fulfill a greater purpose".  It is A LOT of pressure.  My son died!!!! - I sure as hell hope it wasn't because my character was so flawed that I needed it to happen for some reason.  I already WAS a good person.  I was a better person before he died than I am now!  My entire adult life has been devoted to causes greater than myself.  Where is the meaning?  He said he doesn't feel that these things happen for a purpose.  He thinks that the human body is frail and that accidents happen - people die in car accidents, or their lives are taken by bad people, or their bodies simply fail.  There can be meaning only in the lives of survivors and it is up to us what kind of meaning we give it.  I couldn't agree more.  It's all too much pressure when I am just trying to get through each day with as much joy and purpose as possible.  Most days my purpose is just to make Mo smile and to make Teddy dinner.  That just has to be enough for now.

It was a validating meeting.  I felt heard and understood.  He was kind and wise and spoke a familiar language that resonated with me.  Faith is important.  I see how it helps others in my situation and I have been longing for a connection to faith to help me in mine.  I am circling back....listening for a familiar language....looking for the connections that can help me live with this loss....and for those who validate what we are going through - the good, the bad, the ugly.  


jessica said...

It sounds like an incredible meeting. It would have been an incredible and validating conversation if he was not a Rabbi but it's even more awesome because he is. I'm so glad that you felt heard and understood and that your soul felt tended to. I hope you can carry his words and your own feelings of Olam Haba through the next few days and that maybe, just maybe, they will help these days pass a little bit gentler. I'm thinking of Maxie and Mo and sending you all my love.

Taryn said...

What a timely encounter! I'm so glad you found someone with wisdom enough to begin to understand your profound loss, and relentless search for meaning. Been thinking about baby Maxie and Mo all week. This is such a tender time! My heart has been touched by you and your family. Sending gentle thoughts, and prayers your way.

Sarah P. said...

Love this post. Sounds like an amazing man and a great meeting. I am so glad to know that you found him and can benefit from his wisdom and kindness. Thinking of you during this very hard time.

Rose said...

I was in tears reading this post, Abby. I am so glad that you met with this Rabbi and that his empathy and understanding were so profound. Thinking of you, Ted Maxie and Mo and sending love.

Jayden's Mommy said...

I love this post, the situation that we are In and what we experience is so often underestimated the depth of our grief and the actual pain that we constantly carry. The past few weeks have been so hard and painful but I do still have the faith and we will see our boys again one day in the future. In the world to come where everything will be as God originally intended. As the Rabbi said I don't believe there is a purpose for what we have experience; every bereaved parent I spoken to was a good parent a good human. We are surviving this nightmare and our children are helping us that's what matters. A loving God wouldn't make us go through this. I have taken the past 10 days to focus my anger somewhere else. its not easy but possible. I been thinking about you. Sending many hugs and o my God Mo is just beautiful he is definitely sunshine. Love Kira