By Barry Leshowitz
In a pair of Shabbat messages, a dear family friend, Mat Kozinets and I, share our feelings about the passing of my wife, Phyllis.
Aug 23, 2019
I am so thankful to receive your Shabbat messages: Words can’t describe my feelings.
Which brings me to a facet of my grieving that I haven’t shared with you as yet. On Monday, I decided to give away Phyllis’s personal effects beginning with her clothing. My children let me know they did not want any of Phyllis’s personal items and would find it too painful to help me in removing her clothing from our home.
I understand their feelings but insisted that my daughter, Risa, go through the closets and drawers with me, if only cursorily. I thought it would be a good bonding experience with her father. She indeed found the experience painful. I could only hope someday she would value this time spent with her dad and mom. (I wonder if this “removal” experience has been incorporated into an end-of-life religious ritual.)
I can’t quite capture my feelings as I went through her clothing in preparation for giving it all to our long-time housecleaning folks. So many memories, so many moments, so much of our lives passed through my consciousness as I viewed each item. The experience was both a look back on our lives and an opportunity to begin to gather myself for what lies ahead. Our memories embodied in her possessions say so much as to who we were. Is it reasonable to expect that they point me in the direction of what I might expect going forward? There is no doubt that I will be blessed by Phyllis’s eternal presence.
Life is filled with fits and starts. I find myself now simultaneously lurching forward and pausing. The process is mysterious, but I feel I will be fine.
As always, thanks for listening.
In deepest friendship, Shabbat Shalom.
Aug 30, 2019
Shabbat Shalom! Your message below is beautifully written. The questions you ask and the emotions you express are amazing.
I am inspired by your idea that there should be a religious ritual for the sorting and removing of personal items following end-of-life.
One ritual comes to mind – the mikveh. Immersion in a mikveh serves the purpose of marking transitions in our lives, e.g. when we’ve experienced trauma and want to move on, or experienced a big change in our lives.
There is a fluidity to what you are doing, similar to a mikveh, it seems to me. Moving items out of one’s house and donating them is very fluid on an energetic level – a clearing of old attachments, past experiences, etc.
This type of clearing is healthy, I think. Our relationships with loved ones change when they die. Their journey has now shifted. We can still keep in touch with them, but we no longer cling to them or depend on them as we once did.
We are forced to see them as independent spirits with a will and a journey all their own.
We are co-equal spirits with them now, rather than “family members” who depend on them each day. We learn a new way of relating to them – through prayer and quiet moments and good wishes for peace and soul fulfillment.
Phyllis was such a remarkable woman. Souls like hers don’t simply disappear when they exit earth. Her destiny is now unfolding at a higher level (this is what Kabbalah says).
I am thinking of you and send you much love!