This so, so hard to endure

by Jewish Report | Feb 22, 2015

“To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time”

These words were written by ELIE WIESEL in his book “Night” in the horrific context of a post-Holocaust survivor. But they ring as true for every loss of life in any context.

My family and I suffered the most dreadful loss I can imagine anyone ever having to deal with last weekend - we lost my precious 12-month-old granddaughter, Abigail Jane, in a tragic accident in which her mother drove over her.

How does one ever cope with such grief? Where does one place such a loss within one’s soul?

I awoke to several missed calls from my son and daughter-in-law (actually, she’s more like a daughter to me, and a voicemail: “Dad… call me asap, it’s bad news… Love you,” was all David said. I realised something serious was wrong. I called him immediately.

“Abi’s dead,” he said.

My brain had no way of processing these two words. It was as if I had connected with someone who had said two words in Russian. It wasn’t as if I was struck by an emotion, it was just blank. After what I assume was an uncomfortable silence for him, David asked: “Dad… are you there?”

I returned to normality. “Yes.” “Did you hear what I said?” he asked.

“No, I’m sorry,” my mind must have wandered off, I explained. “Say it again.”

“I said: Abi’s dead” came the reply. “Mindy drove over her!” This time my emotions took it in, in full Technicolor. I was speechless again, this time from every bit of my emotional being struck dumb, numb.

I’m not sure why one says the most stupid things in situations like this. It’s probably because one’s brain is trying to process and find a place for such devastating news that it is functioning half-heartedly on all its other chores. True-to-form, I asked a stupid question: “Do you want me to come over?” David said I should if I wanted to.

Abi and Dave - blog

I took this picture of Abi looking lovingly at her dad just days before we lost her

I hung up the phone, realised the absolute stupidity of the question that I had just asked. I called back within a few seconds: “I’m on my way,” I said.

How does one cope?

How does one deal with such a tragedy? I don’t mean for me, so much, but for my son, daughter, Abi’s maternal grandmother who lives with them and my darling three-year-old grandson who witnessed the event up-close. They have to get past this ghastly tragedy.

ELIE WIESEL also wrote of dealing with such tragedy. One can never put it behind you, he said, at best one can learn to cope.

So many people have rallied around them, which really helped them a lot. Many people called me and most said variations of: “I heard what happened. I don’t know what to say but I felt I needed to call.”

We are all drawing such strength from the outpouring of people who just wanted to share in our grief, and we will all be eternally grateful to them. We were also astonished at the speed with which Jewish organisational support arrived. Hatzolah, CSO, EZRA, CAP, the Chev, who had adult and child trauma councillors there within 20 minutes.

The police, fire department and other public services were also quickly on the scene.

Within a day people had set up delivering of meals on a website (which quickly filled up with names), opened an “IN MEMORY OF ABI KATZ” Facebook page, called about visiting or just dropped in, it was quite incredible, and immensely helpful.

A profound impact

This event affected everyone who heard about it quite profoundly. Everyone was emotionally struck, even people I know who don’t know David and Mindy. As someone who called me pointed out, this was a series of co-incidental events that came together in one second which irreparably changed so many lives. How does one carry such a burden of baggage with them?

Thank G-d they are both very strong people. They will find the way. They should never forget this beautiful soul who shared a year with them. She was so loved, and she gave so much love to all around her. We will all carry her in our memories, and David and his family will find the path through the guilt, the what-ifs, the if-onlys and why-didn’t-Is. They will arrive, in time, at a place where they can celebrate her life – without having to constantly carry that one, horrible second in time with them.

They will find peace from the trauma and happiness again soon enough. But it is so, so hard to endure right now.

Many years ago I read something else that ELIE WIESEL had written - I never quite understood what he meant: "Count the garden by its flowers, never by the leaves that fall,” he wrote. “Count your life with smiles, not by the tears that roll."

Now, I think, I understand exactly what he meant. But it so hard to follow, to believe him, to see the light that must await us… as it does at the end of every tunnel.

Meanwhile we must grieve, mourn and endure. May her precious soul rest in peace.

1 Comment

  1. 1 Choni 08 Mar
    Baruch Dyan Haemet.
    What can one say!


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