My father-in-law passed away last week; he was 93 and lived a full, and most challenging life. A Holocaust survivor, he and my mother-in-law were spared by fleeing into the interior of Russia and surviving in the labor camps of Siberia and Khazakstan. His life reflected a commitment to hard work-he was a masterful tailor-simple pleasures of family and friends, and unswerving love of the Jewish people and Israel.He was the quintessential "zeide"-grandfather to his three adoring grand children and to any child who crossed his path. He shared over 70 years of devoted marriage to his wife from whom he was inseparable.
Jewish tradition ordains a week long period of mourning -Shiva in Hebrew means seven-during which the mourners remain at home and essentially receive family and friends who comfort them and take care of all every-day necessities.This week is an opportunity to live through the intense feelings associated with the death of a loved one, hopefully leading to a fuller resolution of these feelings so that normal life can be resumed.
It is also hectic and quite exhausting. We were blessed with the warmth, care and love of many friends and family members who provided food for all meals, visited and gave comfort and companionship during a time when one can experience great loneliness and a sense of abandonment.
The appearance of co-workers reflected the esteem in which my wife and her brother were held in their places of work; family members coalesced into a unit of deeper intimacy that often only an occurrence of loss can generate. Past feelings of distance and alienation were suddenly set aside ,even erased as all those concerned rose to the challenge of bringing comfort to the bereaved. Somehow death is the great teacher of life's inestimable value and worth; somehow death touches the human heart so that it may embrace the fullness and beauty of all things; somehow death connects us to the imperishable reservoirs of love and deeper understanding.
I am grateful for the shiva period that enlightened me so deeply regarding the preciousness of wife and children, and how fully blessed I really am.
May the memory of my father-in-law, Jacob Lederman, Yaakov ben Ze'ev Halevi, always be a blessing.