by Melanie Gruenwald
Being a mourner in this time of COVID is an interesting experience. Life transitions, in general, are being experienced differently, in general.
My dad passed away in Florida on August 25th. My brother and I were able to be with him in his final weeks, because of the flexibility of working remotely. We buried him in Denver, with a graveside service, with just our family physically present, and live-streamed the service to the world. Our shiva minyan (prayer services) were held on ZOOM. Through the gift of technology, we were able to also connect with lifelong friends who might not have been physically present, had we been geographically limited. I participate with daily morning prayer services where I can recite kaddish, the mourner’s prayer, also on ZOOM. The connections there are also deep and I am grateful to the organizers and stalwart attendees, for making this ritual possible. It was actually a relief to mourn my dad somewhat privately. Our relationship was somewhat complicated, the last few weeks of his life were a physical and emotional whirlwind, and I was not energetically in the mood to be around many people.
And yet, I feel incredibly supported and in the community on this journey. I am connected by invisible threads.
I am currently listening to the book This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation by Rabbi Alan Lew (z”l).
R. Buckminster Fuller was asked by his students to name the most important figure of the 20th century. Sigmund Freud, he answered without a moment’s hesitation. They were shocked…. Why Freud, and why not Einstein…?
Fuller explained himself. Sigmund Freud, he said, was the one who had introduced the single great idea upon which all the significant developments of the 20th century had rested: The invisible is more important than the visible.
You would never have had Einstein if Freud hadn’t convinced the world of this first. You would never have had nuclear physics…
His idea was a very Jewish one: The invisible is more important than the visible.
From the beginning of time, humans had seen the world as a play of competing forces, which they had personified as gods… Judaism came to say, that beneath this appearance of conflict, multiplicity, and caprice, there was oneness, a singularity, all-powerful and endlessly compassionate, endlessly just.
In the visible world, we live out our routine and sometimes messy lives. We have jobs, families, and houses. Our lives seem quite ordinary and undramatic.
It is only beneath the surface of this world that the real and unseen drama of our lives is unfolding. Only there, that the walls of the house crumble and fall, that the horn sounds 100 times, that the gate between heaven and earth opens, and the great books of life and death open as well.
We are all connected by this invisible word and these invisible threads.
We are connected through relationship, story, history, and her story.
We are connected through technology, even when we cannot gather in person.
We are connected through our individual narratives, our communal narrative, and our human narrative.
We are connected in our recognition that we are all interconnected, and our energy emanates from the same source of primordial light.
At this time, while we are celebrating the transition of summer to fall, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, and all of the related moons, harvests, and energy shifts. It is this time, that I am reminded once again, we are all connected.
We are going through the cycles of the year with life- and, with any circle (R. Lew notes), as we go around the circumference, we are both moving away from and closer to the starting point once again.
Through grief, growth, and community transition- we must reach out to one another, and show up in the ways we can, to help manifest our connections, in the year to come.
Now is the time to reach out to people and renew ourselves and our relationships. Wishing you a sweet, happy, healthy, and blessed new year. Wishing you a year of connections- both seen and unseen.