children, funeral, grief, parenting, Stella

In Good Company

Prior to Stella’s funeral we spoke to a psychologist and good friend about our boys. We wanted to know who should come to the funeral, who should stay home and how to help our boys through this terrible time. We decided that our two oldest boys should come with us to the ceremony which would take place in our yishuv, but that no one would join us at the cemetery. We would send the boys home with a friend (and another psychologist) who would watch over them while we were at the cemetery.

I’ve always thought of my oldest as being stoic and of my second as being sensitive and more emotional.  But a funeral is a great equalizer, transforming everyone into puddles of tears. And so were my boys. And as we left the funeral and got ready to head to the cemetery, Yehuda (my second) was adamant that he was coming with us. No pushing or prodding from either myself or his older brother would budge him. I looked to my friend, the psychologist, for confirmation that this was alright, and was given the go ahead. And so, Matan went home and Yehuda continued on with us to the cemetery.
I watched Yehuda closely at the cemetery and had a few of my friends take responsibility for him when I needed to be with the Frankl children and comfort them. When it was all over and we were back at home, Yehuda had a few comments to make.  He remarked about all of the yishuv members who lingered after paying their respects to Stella in order to pay their respects to other yishuv members who had died. They gathered by the middle aged man who just didn’t wake up one morning, by the 4 year old boy who had an accident, by the 17 year old who went out for a run and was cut down with a heart condition, by the other young mother who died of cancer and more.
And then he said,“I think I saw Chanan’s grave, Mommy.”
I think every parent wishes to shield their children from death and from cemeteries for as long as life will allow. And we’ve done so with our children up until now. But at some point, pain finds us all and we must be a part of this part of life, just as we are of so many others.
And so there I stood, having just buried my best friend, with my 11 year old telling me that he saw his childhood friend’s grave for the first time.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” I said to Yehuda. “Just like Chanan was.”

At the end of shiva (the 7 day mourning period), the family returns to the cemetery. So, last Wednesday, the Frankls returned to Stella, accompanied by their closest friends. And we said some prayers, cried and reflected. When we finished with the ceremony at the grave, everyone started to disperse. Matan moved away from the cemetery and Josh lingered at Stella’s grave long after everyone else left. But it was Yehuda that I was watching.
He turned around and headed directly for Chanan’s grave. In the last 7 plus years since Chanan died, we have reflected and talked about him often, but we’ve never felt that it was appropriate to bring Yehuda to the cemetery with us. But now, he was here. And he was drawn to his young friend who left us all far, far too soon.
I went to join Yehuda, and there we stood, Chanan’s father, Yehuda and me. And I hoped that Chanan’s father didn’t mind having Yehuda standing there; that it wasn’t too painful to see the juxtaposition of what might have been with what became reality. And I hoped that Yehuda was strong enough to handle the moment.
And we stood and reflected and prayed, and then walked back to our cars with thoughts of Stella, of Chanan and of so many others from our yishuv floating in our memories.
Stella, you are in good company. And I am sure that you’re already cooking up meals for your new Neve Daniel community and looking over the children who have joined you from this community to your new community in Olam Habah (the world to come). May you find as much friendship and beauty there as you did here, and may you continue to be a shining light of chesed and comfort to those who have passed. You will certainly continue to be one for us, here on Earth.   

Stella at Matan’s bar mitzvah; Photo by Kinamon Ron

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