I woke up this morning at 6:35 with tears in my eyes. Usually I am awake before my iPhone starts to play the Chopin Nocturne #1 that is my alarm clock, but today, the music dragged me up from a deep, dreamless sleep. I unsteadily got out of bed, got dressed and went to shul to say Kaddish. I mostly go just for that purpose. Today, the prayers rang hollow in my ears. As if 12 men mumbling in Hebrew could have any effect on the world. As if. Terry and I prayed for Jake’s safety and protection for years, you see how much good that did. The tears ebbed and flowed with the service. We read from the Torah as we do on Mondays and Thursdays. I am a Cohen (descendent of Aaron, Moses’ brother, and the family of priests) a lineage passed down from father to son, and the Cohen gets the first aliyah, or turn to bless the portion of the Torah to be read. I stepped onto the bimah, (the platform on which stands the desk from which the Torah is read), grasped the handles of the scroll and recited the blessing before the reading with a catch in my voice, nearly breaking down. I don’t know why I am so sad today. Oh, yeah, that Jake thing.
There have been days this past five weeks that have seemed almost normal at first, days where I faced the world with a modicum of equanimity, went about my business. But I do find myself with those damn tears welling up in my eyes a few times a day. At least a few. Every day. Today, that pool of sorrow is perilously close to the surface, and I am not sure the reason. I got in my car for the short drive home, and wept again as soon as the door closed. I waited a moment to regain my composure and drove the few blocks to my house, thinking “What am I crying for?”
For whom do we weep?
Am I crying for Jake? For the wasted opportunity, for what might have been? For his unborn children? If there is truly an ‘afterlife’ there is no reason to cry for him. He is in paradise. As a Cohen himself, he is the father of all the young orphans. He has children, I have celestial grandchildren. His soul now elevated by every Kaddish we say. He is at peace, his soul cradled in the hands of G-d. If there is no such thing, then he is truly at rest in the arms of Thanatos.
Do I cry for Terry, his Mother? The one who carried him, nursed him, gave of herself at every turn to nurture him, protect him, guide him, provide him with all the opportunities to learn, experience, enjoy and grow throughout his life. For the grandchildren she was so excited about that we will never have? For the daughter that his wife would have become to her? Of course I do. She has enough tears of her own, she doesn’t need mine.
Do I cry for my Mother, Jake’s Grammy? She had a wonderful, unique relationship with him. She lives a few blocks away, and made sure to see him regularly. He even lived with her for several weeks a while back. They meditated together, they shopped, they baked, they did art and garden projects. He fixed things for her around the house as every good grandson does. She will miss him terribly.
Do I cry for Terry’s Mother, Jake’s Nanny? Jacob is named for her late husband. She lives in Florida and did not get to see him often. Yet they had a close bond. She and her family and Terry’s Dad and his family barely survived the camps of Europe, and came to America to start a new family. Now that branch of the tree, that should have, by rights, bloomed into another tree of its own, is lopped off, never to grow again.
Do I cry for all our family and dear friends and Jake’s friends who enjoyed his company, his friendship, his exuberance, each one of them having a special link with the shining star that was our son? They will no loner have his laughter to uplift them, his compassion to heal them, his confidence to inspire them. No longer have him to chronicle their lives with his photographic gifts, to enrich our lives with his wise counsel.
I cry for all of them.
I save the bitterest tears for myself. It may be selfish and self-indulgent, but empathy only goes so far, I am afraid. Yes I know our friends weep too, they feel his loss as do we, but I cry because he left such a big hole in my life. We had so many wonderful times together, Jake and I, during our frequent Boy’s Days. We would go and do something, just us two boys. Golf, target practice, lunch, catch at the park, whatever, it didn’t matter. What was important was that we were together. I had the good fortune to be able to spend a lot of time with Jake while he was growing up and forged a close and lasting bond with him. A gift many fathers don’t have a chance to receive. And he was a gift, a precious, magical gift to Terry and me. We had so many spectacularly great times as a family, traveling, eating, shopping, cooking, creating, camping, dreaming, lazing on beaches all over the world. So many years of happiness. So many challenges we strove to overcome. So much promise for the future. Those times are over, and we will never have any more. It is as if in his own book of life, after the first 24 chapters, the rest of the pages have been ripped out, leaving jagged remnants where the years should have been. We only have the pale memories, the thousands of photographs of him and by him, his art and his poetry, some journal entries.
I cry because it is the end of my line. I am the last of the Kohanim of my Father’s family. A line that stretches back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Jake was the standard-bearer for all of them. Now he has fallen and there is no one to pick up the torch. No one to whom we can bequeath our family heirlooms. No one to carry our name into posterity. Selfish? You bet.
So I cry. For all the people who will never get a chance to meet him. They will never know what they missed. For the people who did know him, he leaves heart-holes wherever he has been. For the world that could have been. He had the power to do so much, to transform people, events, lives. He brought so much light into the world during his short life, how much more light would he have shed had he lived longer?
So I cry. For all of them. For all of us. For me. Today, I am crying a lot.