Monday, August 31, 2015

Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet

Silence is often the best thing to say. Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert

Disease enter by the mouth, misfortunes come from it. — Chinese proverb
Babi passed away a number of months ago. She was almost 100. She did not linger in the hospital; the final illness was quick. 

Quite frankly, in terms of how to go, it can't get much better than that. And yet, and yet, at the levaya and during shiva, I was flabbergasted at the insane amount of stupid comments that were given voice. 

What, I thought in terror, do people say when the situation is even more painful, when a loved one was taken too soon, too suddenly, too shockingly? What damage does an awkward mouth wreak? 

As I shared tales of idiotic utterances with those who have also mourned a loss, they eagerly commiserated, having been stunned by the blow of careless words. 

I would say, in this day and age, our greatest trial is shutting up. We huddle within our own minds, seeking only to balm our own agony, desperate to hear validation even from those who are consumed with their own suffering. 

I type this as a fellow transgressor. 

One day, while walking, I observed a squirrel attempting to cross the road. Animals, I have noticed to my amusement, never grasped the concept of simply glancing to their left or right before venturing forth; they take a few heartening breaths and lunge forward, focused only on getting to the other side, not realizing that they can get themselves or someone else killed—just look first!
I was struck then, as the squirrel frenziedly backed up after a failed attempt, eyes glued on the desirable curb so close, and yet so far, how often we and me behave just so. We don blinders, thinking of a goal, and ignoring all collateral damage.

Menacheim avel. Our stomachs squirm at the task, but we bravely march through the door into the hushed confines of a sad home. Even though the avel is supposed to speak first, rendering the visitor mute, mayhap the silence grates too much, the emotions frighten too much, too close, too threatening. 

We let our own desire to drive away the awkwardness override the task at hand, and we open our mouths. I need to feel better, never mind why I'm here in the first place. 

This goes beyond the shiva house. We meet others every day, and we repeatedly, hurtfully, mindlessly, inflict wounds.
Why did I say that? I reproach myself, merely at the times when I am aware of my flub; there are plenty of mistakes spoken that I did not recognize as such. 

THINK. We must THINK before we speak, over and over and over. Zeidy rarely spoke, because he wanted to avoid being an executioner. Very often the best choice is to be quiet, and regret nothing.     


Daniel Saunders said...

Chaim aruchim to you and your family.

People say and do really stupid things at shivas. Meaningless platitudes like, "At least he's at rest now." I don't know why - maybe they're scared of the confrontation with death? Or just don't know what to say? (Which is why the mourner is supposed to speak first.) I remember when my Mum and my uncle were sitting shiva, the 'comforter' who just would not take the hint to leave, even though my Dad wanted to give the avelim something to eat before people began to arrive for Ma'ariv.

Also, I'm sure you've read The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy which suggests that human beings talk all the time because otherwise their brains start working...

Princess Lea said...

That segment in "Hitchhiker" is pure divinity. It gets no better than that.