Digging Through Garbage
Right before Shabbos, we receive a brochure from Ariel's Yeshiva. The pictures of the young men in the Beis Midrash are hypnotic: the boys in their dark pants and crisp white shirts, and their posture so familiar. I lean in and squint. Is that Ariel in the background? No, no, of course not. I turn pages, read each article. How come, I irrationally wonder, there's nothing about Ariel in the brochure? There should be a headline that reads: Ariel Avrech Is Sorely Missed. Is he already forgotten? I am hurt and angry. Ariel spent four years in the yeshiva and it's as if he was never there. He loved his yeshiva with the kind of love that Shlomo describes in Shir HaShirim. How can they go on without him as if nothing has happened?
Am I crazy?
What am I doing?
Do I expect everyone to grieve the way I do? Do I really expect his yeshiva, his Rebbeim, and his friends, to dwell on Ariel's absence with the same intensity that I do? Hadn't they supported, revered, prayed for him, and reached out to us, calling, flooding us with letters and tributes?
I exist in a world somewhere between supremely rational thought and utter looniness. When people ask me how I'm doing, I resent it. When people neglect to ask how I'm doing, I resent it. Some days I think it would be better for me to stay in my house, avoid all human interaction. It's too draining. A friend called and asked how I was.
"Some days I'm okay, some days I'm not so okay." I respond. "If your read my blog, you'll get a better idea of what's going on in my life."
"I don't want to read your blog," my friend responds testily. "I'm your friend, your blog is for strangers."
That's the end of that conversation. Gosh, I feel like I've committed a sin, suggesting that my friend actually read Seraphic Secret. One of the reasons I write Seraphic Secret is because it's simply too draining to explain how I feel. And besides,I don't know how I feel or what I feel until I write it down. This journal is not just for strangers. It's for me and Karen, foremost, and then everybody else.
Several times this past week friends have been offended by my suggestion that they read this page. But the truth is, the strangers who read and write to me probably know me better than the friends who refuse to be readers. My friend Surie Lazar intimately knows the convulsions of my heart. My Hasidic friend W, dutifully reminds me to maintain strict standards of tznius in my writing; I'm afraid I disappoint all too often. Yes, a whole new circle of friends, many grieving parents, have stepped into our lives and filled the awful vacuum that Ariel's death has created.
The other day, Karen cleaned up and organized Ariel's room. There are hundreds of Torah tapes in Ariel's library. There are boxes of micro-cassettes: Ariel taped his gemara shiurim so he could review them. There are dozens of tapes made by his friends of classes that Ariel was too sick to attend. Karen and I have decided to donate some of the tapes to a library in Lakewood dedicated to the memory of his friend Shia Twersky z"l who died tragically in a car accident. We know that Ariel would like to share his Torah with others. After organizing his drawers and dropping off the tapes, Karen broke down and cried. Between sobs she explained, "I just realized why I could do it; it was a maternal act, and that was the basis of our relationship, it was a way that I could do the caretaking that I would do normally. I felt that by letting his belongings accumulate dust and just pile up on his desk, I was neglecting my son."
Karen has a gift for organization. I have a gift for flight. While Karen was busy in Ariel's room I was locked away in my office making believe that I was not aware of what Karen was doing.
"Do you really want his room to stay exactly the same as the day he died, wouldn't that be disrespectful?" she asked me.
"No," I lied.
When I dumped the garbage from my office into the big garbage can at the curb, I noticed several micro tapes in the can. Karen has thrown away some of the tapes from Ariel's room. I reach in and grab them. I stuff them into my pockets, look around to make sure that no neighbors are watching,then scurry back to my office and hide the tapes in the bottom drawer of my desk. All the time, a little voice in my head is saying: Robert, this is really not normal.Karen has disappeared some of Ariel's tapes, but she has not told me because she knows how hurt I would be. But a few minutes later, I feel like a fool. I take the tapes and gently put them back in the garbage. Karen must have thrown them away for a reason. I have learned to trust my wife's instincts. If she believes that there's no reason to keep these tapes, well, I'll trust her. My wife is rarely wrong about the important things in our life.
And besides, I do not want to dig through garbage cans for the rest of my life.