A few days ago, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, wrote a lengthy post about the end of her initial mourning period, called “shloshim”. At least six different people sent it to me, thinking it would bring me some comfort or perspective. All it did was piss me off: she’s a better writer than I am; she has a *job* to which she can return; she has more money than Croesus and doesn’t have to worry about financial stresses; and, she’s a whiner. But, what’s clear to me is that she’s pretty ignorant about Judaism, our seemingly common bond. Shloshim, is not “the completion of religious mourning for a spouse.” Shloshim is the next step in the mourning process for the next of kin, a first-degree relative like a spouse, a parent, or a sibling. It is a secondary mourning period in which certain social strictures are removed; shloshim is a time of “gentle reintegration into society,” according to Isaac Balbin.
Balbin’s characterization struck a chord within me because yesterday marked the end of our shloshim for WineGuy, according to the Jewish calendar. My aching heart will tell you differently: four weeks ago today, my soulmate left this world for the world to come. The last time I heard my beloved’s voice, saw his face, felt his touch was one month ago. Every time I looked at the clock today, I remembered another “last time”. At 8:30 a.m., it was WineGuy’s last phone call to me. At 2:30 p.m, it was our last visit to the hospital. At 5:00 p.m., it was our last kiss and last goodbye. At 6:10 p.m., it was his last breath. Every night for the last month, I have woken up in the darkest hours and wept … mostly for myself: Who will love me like WineGuy did? Who will treasure me like he did? Who will respect me and admire my intelligence and talents like he did? Unlike Sheryl Sandberg, no one rocked me to sleep when that bitch, Insomnia, raided my room. All I had was a bed that felt like an empty acre. I haven’t lived or aged thirty years in the last thirty days. I’ve gone back to the future, reliving the awful solitude and celibacy of my single days, mourning the loss of companionship, and fearing a social scene I am nowhere near ready to enter.
However, much like Sandberg, my friends, acquaintances, and even strangers have reached out to me. In the beginning, Belle, Calvin, Lena, Red and others jumped right in to run my life. They fed us, organized us, entertained us, and launched us on our journey to Washington, DC, where WineGuy was buried. They cleaned my house, organized shiva (200 visitors in two nights) and a memorial service (another 200 attendees), and set up a trust for my children. My BFFL, MB Walker called or texted me every single day to see how I was doing. Five high school friends, some of whom I haven’t seen since graduation 35 years ago, attended the funeral in DC. WineGuy’s colleagues and friends drove down from Pennsylvania, our former home, to pay their last respects. WineGuy’s best friend from high school not only spoke at the funeral and was a pallbearer, but he also wrote a personal note to each of my sons and me. Five August96 Moms drove in to DC from Maryland and Virginia to attend the funeral. Radio Mom drove Wizard and her son down to The Zone for the memorial service and recorded the service for me. Lakeland Mom drove 2.5 hours here to attend the memorial service with her daughter. Wild Thing’s friends and advisors from his BBYO youth group showed up in droves to support him; many teachers and friends from Moose’s years at The Snooty School also attended the memorial service.
Voices from the past keep surfacing, but two have really touched my heart: one was a law school friend whom I haven’t spoken with in 28 years. He’s a federal judge now, and our mutual friend in Milwaukee told the judge what happened. The judge sent me a beautiful text, and a promise to get together when he moves back to Miami. The words that resonate the most came from a college friend now living in Las Vegas. Vegas called me this afternoon and confided in me that she lost her fiancé when she was 29 years old. She explained how she got through her grief and how her friends supported her through everything.
Vegas left me with these words, “You are loved.” She’s a damn smart woman, and she’s right. My children love me. My friends love me. My family and in-laws love me. My husband loved me with all his heart. So now, I’m not going to “kick the shit out of option B,” like Sandberg, I’m going to learn to love myself a little better, a little deeper. I’m going to say “thank you” graciously for all the wonderful things people do for me and say to me. I’ll not think magically like Joan Didion, nor will I whine for what I cannot have, like Sheryl Sandberg.
I will honor my husband and myself, completing my twelve months of mourning by gingerly re-entering society and reclaiming my life one small step at a time.