The threadbare shawl (Missing Sara and Barbara)

September 16th, 2011 § 7 comments

September 16 is the anniversary of the death of two women I loved: my paternal grandmother, Sara, and my mother-in-law, Barbara.

Bubbe (Yiddish for “grandmother”) ┬ádied in her 80s, many years ago, after her health had begun to fail. She lived in Israel, and I did not have the opportunity to see her one last time before her death. In stark contrast, Barbara died only weeks after I last saw her, laughed with her, attended a family wedding with her. We had no earthly idea she would be killed in a car crash, of course, no time to prepare ourselves for hearing the words that rocked our world.

It was Open House at my children’s elementary school that night, and when the phone rang I didn’t recognize the voice. It was my husband’s voice, strained, hiccuping, sobbing. I didn’t understand at first; I couldn’t process what he was saying. In the same way I quizzically furrowed my brow when I sat in the basement of my daughter’s school in New York City and the principal announced on that first day as our preschoolers were upstairs, “A plane has hit the World Trade Center,” I again heard information and my brain responded with Does Not Compute.

Anticipatory grief is real. A diagnosis, a doctor’s report, an assignment to hospice– all are ways others try to prepare us for the death of our loved one. With each step, with each caution, with each added conversation we start to get our minds used to the idea that it may be the end. Like a threadbare shawl we continue to wrap ourselves in, each time we are comforted less and less by others’ words of reassurance.

When a death is sudden and unexpected, there is so much to get used to, so much to process. It is a task to make sense of the death, to integrate it into our consciousness. We must unbreak habits. I remember so clearly when my uncle Alan died, I still continued to pick up the phone again and again to share a piece of news. I had to keep reminding myself, “You can’t call him anymore.”

There are so many talks I have missed with these women. There are so many things I’ve wanted to show them, share with them. However, I am so lucky to have had them in my life for as long as I did.

















§ 7 Responses to The threadbare shawl (Missing Sara and Barbara)"

  • Shari says:

    Thinking of you today.

  • Lisa Michaels says:

    I didn’t get to know Barb very well, although hearing stories from Kathy I think we would have gotten along very well. I would have truely loved for to have met Tegan. I think she would have had a wonderful time getting to know her and seeing Bryan as a dad. Today will be a hard day for the family.

  • I’m sorry for your losses. It sometimes surprises me how the feeling of loss continues and the reminders keep coming. Losses are a life time thing aren’t they? Our perspective on them just keeps evolving.

  • joannefirth says:

    “Threadbare shall” is a perfect way to describe impending grief, the only kind I have known. I can not imagine your shock when you recieved that phone call. The love you have for those you lost is shared so honestly. I hope you find comfort knowing that your words comfort others. Lovely tribute.

  • Erika Robuck says:

    Thank you for sharing these women with us. You do them honor by keeping their memories alive. xo

  • Yes, you are so lucky to have had the love, support, and friendship of two wonderful people. And you honor their memory beautifully with this post.

  • Pamela Carlson says:

    It seems we’re always learning to live in the world without those dear ones who are gone. Hugs to you.

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