My good friend Donald’s mother died three days ago and although Bernice was ninety-two years old, her sudden death was unexpected and Donald feels both shocked and saddened. All of us who knew Bernice and were touched by her gracious elder-hood were also saddened by the news. When I heard from Donald about her passing, I said the response phrase I learned from my family when I was young: May your memory of her continue to be a blessing to you.
And, I just this morning read the article by my friend Jay Michaelson in The Forward, a newspaper I get on line, that today is the 20th anniversary of the death of two young friends of his in a bus bombing in Jerusalem. Matt and Sarah were students, studying and working for peace. Jay describes reading a newly published anthology of their essays, “Love Finer Than Wine,” and said he found their kindness and intelligence was “almost too much to bear.”
He describes the tremendous rage and despair he felt for some time after Matt and Sarah’s death and how, ultimately, he realized that the rage “clouded my better judgment and made me the kind of person I was supposed to be against.” And, he adds, that although the hurt remains, “I refused to dishonor the memory of my friends by becoming as lesser person.”
My friend Eve’s message, also in this morning’s email, is a reflection on all the losses of people dear to her in life: her maternal grandparents, her father who died when she was a young woman, her mother, and the recent death of her beloved husband. Her reminiscence sounds both appreciative and sad. She says, “With so many loved ones gone, I feel like the wind could whistle through the holes in my heart and make its own plaintive music.”
Perhaps appreciative sadness is the blessing that nurtures our own kindness as a response.