A Visit to the Cafe
On Sunday morning, March 12, 2023, the seventh Sunday since my beloved Yumi, the love of my life, took his last soft breath and crossed over to the next dimension, I decided to visit the Bluestone Lane Café.
I chose this café because it is where I used to come to work when my precious Yumi was in this world, and I needed a space to focus and concentrate. And then I would go back home with a sense of accomplishment to join my beloved and rejoice in the blessing of our togetherness.
As soon as I entered the crowded café, I experienced a blessed “grief burst,” which I feel again and again as I am forming my new creative life journey. Across from me sat a beautiful young couple with a little girl, and so much love was flowing between them. It deepened my “grief burst.”
Elizabeth Gilbert describes “grief bursts” well. In an interview for the TED Interviews podcast, she says:
“Grief … happens upon you, it’s bigger than you. There is a humility that you have to step into, where you surrender to being moved through the landscape of grief by grief itself. And it has its own time frame, it has its own itinerary with you, it has its own power over you, and it will come when it comes. And when it comes, it’s a bow-down. It’s a carve-out. And it comes when it wants to, and it carves you out — it comes in the middle of the night, comes in the middle of the day, comes in the middle of a meeting, comes in the middle of a meal. It arrives — it’s this tremendously forceful arrival, and it cannot be resisted without you suffering more. The posture that you take is you hit your knees in absolute humility, and you let it rock you until it is done with you.”
In his book Understanding Grief, Alan Wolfelt makes the distinction between Grief and Mourning. Grief is the multitude of emotions in the new inner landscape after loss. Mourning is all the rituals we follow and create to fully express every emotion that arrives. And so I made the decision to dedicate this part of my journey to fully mourn and welcome all the “grief bursts” in the posture that Elizabeth Gilbert describes: “The posture that you take is you hit your knees in absolute humility, and you let it rock you until it is done with you.”
Allowing Myself Space
I have allowed myself to not be on email responding to the many, many messages I am receiving from around the world. I have needed to just take them in and let them nourish me, without a sense of needing to do anything else. In one such message friends have written: “We know Yumi’s love will always be with you, coded so deeply in your cells. His love will carry you as you navigate the next phase of the journey.” And I say: “YES! Yumi’s deep and soulful love is indeed coded in every cell of my being!” I feel his presence viscerally. I hold his hand at night when I go to sleep. And I hold his hand in the morning when I start my day. I sit in his grey chair feeling his powerful embrace. I like to say: “We were only married for 57 years!” And I am grateful for every split second of our rich journey.
Being Inspired and Listening for the Invitations
A Rumi quote from his poem, Send the Chaperones Away, is inspiring my steps: “Inside me a hundred beings are putting their fingers to their lips and they are saying, ‘That’s enough for now. Shhhhh.’ Silence is an ocean. Speech is a river. When the ocean is searching for you, don’t walk to the language-river. Listen to the ocean, and bring your talky business to an end.”
Indeed, the ocean has been looking for me. And I have been listening. I trust that I will know when it is time to walk to the language-river. And today, in this crowded, noisy café, I am somehow walking in the language-river with all of you.
Everything I live right now is a “first.” Our sons Avi and Yigal, and my daughter-in-love Sharon and my daughter-in-awe Rachel, are being amazingly supportive of me, as they themselves grieve the splendid Yumi. I am in radical gratitude.
I have not yet welcomed a Shabbat in our nest. I am listening for the invitation to that “first.” And that is the theme of my new creative life journey: “I am listening for the invitation.”
A poem showed up one day called Losing Him. I don’t know whose it is, but it goes like this:
is not only
losing a lover
it is losing
a way of life
though it is hard to believe right now
a new way of life is waiting
to be found.
And where will the inspiration come from for the new way of life that is waiting to be found? I am listening deeply to every experience that is coming my way.
In the café, the little family across from me has left. And in their place sits a young couple in love, holding hands and looking deep in each other’s eyes. How nourishing their presence is to me. With tears in my eyes I walk towards them. “Can I tell you something important?” I ask. They nod yes, a bit confused. And I say: “Seven weeks ago my beloved husband passed. We were only married for 57 years. I am seeing the two of you loving each other so deeply, and it invites a great big grief burst.” And here I am with this young couple, crying deeply. Because as Elizabeth Gilbert says: “And when it comes it’s a bow-down. It’s a carve-out. And it comes when it wants to.”
On February 24, 2023, our son Yigal and I were in synagogue. It was an important day in our mourning ritual. It marked one month, in Hebrew Shloshim, since my big love Yumi took his last soft breath. The Kaddish prayer is being said daily by a spouse for a month, and daily by a child for one year.
There we stood in front of the congregation at the end of prayer just to say a few words about Yumi to mark the end of the month. And as I stood there next to our son on his birthday, a tremendously forceful “grief burst” arrived just as I was about to say a few words. And all I could do was keep sobbing, and in between sobs I said: “Today is Yigal’s birthday. I am holding gladness and sadness together.”
On February 26, 2023, we came together, family and friends, to honor the Shloshim and celebrate Yumi’s remarkable life journey.
My Internal Landscape
People ask me: “Are you working?” My answer is “Not yet! I will know when I have Free Attention.” Free Attention is a useful concept that Yumi and I learned in Re-Evaluation Co-counseling. It asks of us to be aware of the quality of the attention we can pay. When there is a lot going on in our internal landscape, we have very little Free Attention. Our internal landscape is asking for our attention.
Right now my internal landscape is asking for my attention so that in the middle of my day, in the middle of my night, in the middle of a meal, in the middle of an exercise class, in the middle of prayer, I can welcome the “grief bursts” fully.
I am busy learning how to hold Yumi’s hand in a whole new way. I nestle my slippers into his as I always did … Grief Burst! I take Yumi’s soft grey slippers and bring them to my cheeks … Grief Burst! I walk on Corcoran Street where we so often walked together, and my body goes into the position of pushing Yumi’s wheelchair … Grief Burst! I enter the Jewish Community Center where we did so many joyful activities … Grief Burst!
A New Relationship With My Beloved Yumi
I feel like I am creating a new relationship with my beloved Yumi, and in a different way he continues to be with me as I tell him everything just as I always did.
I am writing today with radical gratitude for the world community that surrounds me. It was Yumi’s idea that we travel the world and teach in all the languages that we both speak. And so thanks to Yumi, we landed in 39 countries and we taught in 4 languages. As I receive deeply loving messages and splendid pictures of the two of us from our community around the world, I say: “Thank you my precious Yumi for your courageous vision, your creative energy, your noble soul. And thank you for your generosity of spirit that allows me now to take this sacred time.”
This is a picture of the Christmas cactus which blooms once a year at the end of December. And now suddenly it bloomed again at the beginning of March as we welcomed the lunar month Adar from the Jewish calendar. It is said in the Talmud that “when the month of Adar enters, we increase in joy.” I think my beloved Yumi is assisting me in increasing my joy with these miraculous blossoms.