Thursday, April 17, 2014

Passover: More than Four Questions

I asked Noah if he would make his aunt’s delicious macaroons for our Passover seder last year, and he agreed. A few days later, he was dead. Instead of 10 people at our house for a celebratory meal, we had 100 people for a memorial service after his funeral. Instead of the four traditional questions of the seder, we have endless questions that will never be answered. 

Why did a plague of darkness descend on our son?

What do we tell the child who is too fearful and ashamed to speak his pain?

Why didn’t the angel of death pass over our house?

Why is this year different from all other years?

Will this once-precious holiday always be tainted for our family?

We couldn’t face hosting Passover so soon after Noah's first death anniversary and were lucky to be invited to a friend’s house. Despite both feeling teary that morning, my husband and I were able to enjoy the evening. But it’s hard not to lose myself in the salt water and horseradish on the Passover table, symbols of bitter tears and slavery. It’s easy to forget the boiled eggs, symbolizing hope and rebirth, and the sweet haroset (fruit-nut spread) that are also part of the ritual. We are meant to meld the symbols together in a traditional sandwich of matzoh, haroset, and horseradish just before the meal. 

As I remember Noah’s love for Passover and other family gatherings, can I give myself permission to let the sweet outweigh the bitter?

In contemporary interpretations of Passover, Jews are encouraged to ponder our personal mitzrayim (Egypt, narrow place, oppression) and envision a way to cross over to freedom. Like our ancestors, we are invited to decide what we need to leave behind and what to take with us on the journey. 

Any loss can throw us into a dark pit, but how much murkier the path out when beset with the complicated grief of suicide loss. How much more constricting the sorrow when full of guilt and anger at ourselves and our loved one.

How long had Noah suffered in that narrow, constricted place in his mind?

How ready am I to leave behind self-blame for being a bad mother, helpless to save my child?

How can I carry with me the image of my son strong, healthy, and alive?

When will I be freed from the need to be above all a mourner, with deep grieving the center of my days?


  1. Your words and writing are powerful, beautiful and oh, so sad. My deepest condolences to you on this terrible loss. I have been following your blog and appreciate how you articulate your pain, grief and grappling.
    Nancy (A friend of Jane & Yudie).

  2. Thank you, Nancy, for reaching out and for reading the blog. I hope you are not suffering under the weight of a terrible loss of your own; if you are, I wish you courage and comfort.
    Grappling indeed! Isn't that what rock climbers do as they try to get a handhold to hoist themselves up? Feels like it to me!