It Took Me Over Two Years To Write This Post – Part 4 “The Aftermath”

The story is true (some details omitted for privacy)the names are fake.

Content Warning: Suicide

***

Part 1Part 2, Part 3

A few days later, I came over with shepherd’s pie, only now it was just for “Ezra”.  Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to bring it over until 8:30 PM and it turned out it was the first meal Ezra had eaten all day.  I felt bad about that.

I gave him back the copy of your house key you had given me.  Ezra offered me some of your things.  Books. Bags. Hats. Clothes. Even lightly used wedding presents from your wedding to him. (I protested; he said he didn’t want them.)

I realized I still had the black party dress you had loaned me years ago, saying you wanted me to give it back to you after you lost weight.  Your weight tended to fluctuate a lot because of all the medications you were taking. I had forgotten to give the dress back.  I guessed it was mine now.

Your black party dress, which I had forgotten to give back to you. (This is a stock photo – the dress doesn’t really look like this.) I guessed it was mine now. Photo by Lina Kivaka from Pexels

It was weird taking your things.  It felt uncomfortable to want and to take your things, and it felt uncomfortable to not want your things and to leave them behind.  The whole time I was in your house, it was a struggle not to cry.  Conversation with Ezra was awkward and awful.  I felt terrible for Ezra, but I couldn’t wait to leave, and I felt horrible about that.

***

Later, we found out your family didn’t want people taking your things yet; they wanted to go through your belongings first.  I didn’t offer anything back though.  I didn’t have the will to return your belongings after the whole experience of taking them in the first place.

Besides, I rationalized, I hadn’t taken anything of real or sentimental value, like jewelry or photos or anything like that.  Really just a book no one else would be interested in, and clothes in styles and sizes unlikely to fit your other female friends/relatives. Also, random shit – a package of cookies you liked that Ezra didn’t care for, an open box of pantyliners to spare Ezra the embarrassment of having to ask another woman. That sort of thing.

***

It’s interesting to see how different mutual friends cope with grief in different ways. After your suicide, “Miriam” posted a PSA* on Facebook about depression, mental health, suicide awareness, alluding to your decades long struggle with clinical depression. “Eliora” found solace in Torah learning – organizing Torah learning in your memory. I didn’t really find solace in either, to be honest, but it was a nice thought.

***

I tried to look out for Ezra.  He was having some health problems himself and at one point, he was sending updates on his own health to all your friends through your email address.  It killed me every time I got an email from “you” knowing that you were dead, but I couldn’t really ask him to do otherwise. 

The dead do not send emails. Image by Darkmoon_Art from Pixabay

I picked up groceries for him a couple times, but after a while, I stopped remembering to reach out. I still feel bad about that.

***

Your death was still pretty fresh at Yom Kippur that year.  Husband (who dislikes everything about Yom Kippur, is particularly bad at fasting all day, and who usually spends Yom Kippur sleeping or reading at home) showed up for the afternoon services, making the gap in the schedule that I used to spend at your house feel less empty. It was quite sweet of him, actually.

After Yom Kippur ended, I was standing in line for the communal pot luck break fast buffet with another congregant.

Congregant: You heard about Joyce? So sad…

JYP: *nods in agreement/sympathy*

Congregant: Did you know her?

JYP: I’m wearing her dress right now.

It was that black party dress with a white sweater over it.  White sweater because it’s traditional to wear white on Yom Kippur and also because the top of the dress didn’t really fit me at all (you were considerably more well-endowed).  I should probably get it tailored.

Conceptually, my Yom Kippur outfit looked something like this, only without the sunglasses and the pose. Photo by Konstantin Mishchenko from Pexels

The congregant looked surprised.  I guess no one expects people with a 20+ year age gap to be friends.

***

*I’ll do a Miriam-style PSA here and mention that September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

***

Part 5, Part 6

38 comments

    • It is sad.
      So this was going to be 6 parts, with part 6 finally not being so sad and having more closure. I’m struggling with Part 5. It’s more sadness and regret, and some extremely uncomfortable things for me to write. Part of me is tempted to not bother publishing what would be Part 5 since it’s more sadness and to skip to “Part 6/The end”. Haven’t decided.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Part of the reason this is so long (it was to be 6 parts, but I’m debating about cutting one of them) is that I really didn’t want this to be a distanced summation. I really wanted to capture the feelings at each stage, from getting the news at the wedding, to taking her stuff, to the sense of closure in Part 6 (Which may become Part 5 if I cut out existing Part 5, which has excessive sadness and regret – still debating), vs. just a “this happened, it was really sad, get help if you feel suicidal” summary.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. So raw. I can only guess how hard it must have been, talking to Ezra so soon after losing her. And taking/not taking her things. And the emails from her address. 😢😢😢Are you in touch with Ezra? I hope he’s okay. A sort of neighbour lost her husband recently. I barely know her but it took all my courage to take her some flowers, a card and a carton of home laid eggs. I think it’s sooo much harder when you are so deeply emotionally affected yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I’ve fallen out of contact with Ezra and I feel really bad about it. Like I picked up groceries for him a few times, including once or twice during the pandemic, but I just stopped thinking to reach out. One of the congregations we were part of gave him a group holiday gift that year, which I also contributed to. I could reach out. It feels awkward, but I could. I probably should.
      It is hard to reach out to someone who is grieving if you don’t know them well. What you did for your neighbor is really sweet and thoughtful.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well it sounds like you haven’t totally lost contact, if you bought groceries during the pandemic. You’re grieving too. It’s definitely not an easy position, especially in if you don’t know him well. I made myself do that for the neighbour. The Mum’s at the kids’ new school have been amazing since they heard I have cancer. They cook for me, send me sweet messages, send me organic herbal tea… and they hardly know me. It felt like a kindness I should learn to imitate. I have always been so conscious of people’s privacy and also of my own awkwardness and fear. So I made the card and then took the dog straight over (the dog is how I met this neighbour) before I could talk myself out of it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I mean, I went grocery shopping for him early in the pandemic – think April 2020, not you know, the continued pandemic of 2021. Truthfully, I don’t even know if he is still living in the area. I guess there is only one way to find out, which is by reaching out.
          That is really sweet about the kindness you’ve received from the other moms. How are you feeling?
          The dog is such a great companion for moments like this. If the neighbor is appreciative, you take credit for the idea, and if it’s awkward or uncomfortable, you can say it was your dog’s idea! 😉

          Liked by 1 person

        • 🤣🤣. She was appreciative. She has been kind too like the Mums. I feel I should reach out again. It must be so lonely to lose a partner of fifty years. We’re in Lockdown at the moment and, due to chemo, I don’t do any shopping. So gifts must be from the home. We had an egg shortage. 🤣🤣. Best excuse ever. I had my last chemo today. Quite a milestone. Very much an anti climax. Radiation next. Such a strange lumpy journey.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Especially kind of you to give your neighbor eggs when it’s harder for you to go out and get more provisions.
          I was talking to a work colleague in Victoria and the lockdown situation sounded quite difficult. She said they’re on 250 non-consecutive days of lockdown and that there are riots/protests all the time. A rough situation.
          Congrats on your last chemo! Wishing you good health and strength!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. My heart goes out to you on this powerful journey through the raw emotions of grief and loss. I have experienced a great deal of grief and loss in my life. Wearing Joyce’s clothes honored your connection. My Orthodox friends were told they were not allowed to sit Shiva for their son after he committed suicide. They did it anyway and those of us that loved him and them more than the “Law” showed up. 💔

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing. I am so sorry to hear about your friends’ experience after their son’s suicide. That is such an insensitive response from the Rabbi. My own friend Joyce was not Orthodox, her family was, but they didn’t appear to have any halachic issues with sitting Shiva for her. I am glad in your friends’ case that they did what they needed to do.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It was a horrible and heartbreaking response, but thankfully they did what felt right for them. I was so relieved to see that a houseful of people showed up from all Jewish walks of life and that his very frum family extended themselves warmly to his near and dear friends from the Keshet community.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is nice that the different communities of his life were able to come together to mourn and celebrate his life. I suppose that in the face of death and tragedy, we realize how petty these distinctions are. It would be good if we could come together before tragedy.

          Liked by 1 person

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