“We went beyond where we should have gone”
Jack Johnson

Love and Pain


My grandmother finally parted with her body on Tuesday the 20th of January 2014. She suffered a lot, not just in her last years, but over the course of her life … is it alright to say too much? She was a fighter, a strong woman … and in the end that strength worked against her. It coincided with her fear of dying and kept her fiercely attached to a withering body.

I don’t have access to childhood memories (I am not a very good rememberer at all). I was her first grandchild and she was with me a lot during my early years … when my parents were still getting started in their own adult lives and had me too. I don’t remember that. I do remember that in my teen years, she brought it up … a lot … too much. At one point I got the impression that she (and my grandfather) were doing some kind of accounting … that their investment in my early life was supposed to pay off in my mature life. That accounting turned me off. It also came during a time of intense and painful awakening … and so I distanced myself. I did not want to be in an accounting relationship.

I was never a “good grandson” … I was never a “good anything”. I was raw. Later, with time and distance, I also became present and honest. Later, direct. She loved me, she loved my eyes. She didn’t know how to say it … she always said, with a cynical twist that “she hated me so much”.

I saw her only a few times in recent years, she lived in Israel, I in Romania. My parents often spoke of her deteriorating clarity, though that was not my impression when I communicated with her. She became more distant, conversations were shorter, there was less outwards moving interest … but I did not feel less clarity. I felt her present, I felt her joking … I felt her fear … I felt her pain.

A few months ago, during a Skype conversation, I asked her how she felt. The only answers she had to give were about her physical condition. Feeling, as in what is in your heart, was not part of her story and expression. The last time I saw her was ~10 months ago. As her situation continued to deteriorate my parents asked /suggested that I come and see her. Whenever I held that question inside the answer was no. I am not keen on traveling, I am not keen on traveling to Israel … but mostly I felt connected to my grandmother. I was with her, she was with me. Whenever I passed air through the Shakuhachi it was with her, for her … a vibration I sent out to the cosmos as a bookmark … so that we may find each other again. I felt that going to Israel would have narrowed that experience down to a limited physical interaction.

She was a powerful spirit. Though she could not speak her heart, in the 24 hours that came before she left her body her spirit traveled the planet and touched her kin. She visited my older sister in the night. She asked Andreea to light a candle. She removed, from my younger sister’s neck, a necklace she gave her that my sister never takes off. She summoned her son, my father’s brother (my father is a more mind-centered person and like his father, his brother is a more heart-centered person and like his mother) to a short “unplanned” visit to her bedside, during which is when she exhaled for the last time, with him at her side.

The evening before (or possible the evening before that) I felt compelled to listen to music in Hebrew … specifically to this song:

Empires Fade Slowly

A child sits in the living room doing his history homework
He doesn’t hear the doorbell ringing
While Athens invades Troy
Father arrives holding a box of cookies and a newspaper

Mother whispers secrets in father’s ear
A child picks up fragments of the conversation
Alexander the Great has conquered half the continent
Father says that half of the salary has gone

And in the pages of time that has passed
People end abruptly
Empires fade slowly

Everything will be OK Father assures
Mother responds with a smile
A soldier of the empire has arrived at the edge of the continent
A child dreams of battles that have been and battles that have yet to come

And in the pages of time that has passed
People end abruptly
Empires fade slowly

It’s a song that has always touched me yet this time tears started pouring … leaving me drained and settled. The next day Annelieke and I were outside cutting wood and my phone rang. My phone rarely rings. It was from Israel, it was my grandmother’s home phone. I knew it wasn’t her. My father was on the other end of the line already supported by the technicalities of dying,  police had just walked into the apartment so he was brief, he said to me “grandmother isn’t suffering anymore”.

In a time where I feel found inside and lost in the world, my grandmother’s passing is making me feel a little bit lost inside and a little bit found in the world. All I could / can think of when connecting with my grandmother since then is Andreea and Ma’ayan.

This entry was posted in Expanding, inside, Israel, Romania, Shakuhachi. You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

One Comment

  1. Revital
    Posted December 25, 2015 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    Fascinating how two siblings who grew up together can experience and translate the same song so similarly and yet differently:
    A child sits in the living room doing his history homework;
    He doesn’t hear the doorbell ring.
    Arriving at the same time that Athens invades Troy,
    his father enters with a box of cookies and a newspaper.

    Mother whispers secrets to his to father’s ear;
    The child hears fragments of the conversation.
    By now Alexander the Great has conquered half the continent;
    His father says half of his salary is gone.

    And in the pages of time that is past,
    people end in a single moment.
    Empires fall,
    fall slowly.

    Everything will turn out ok his father placates,
    His mother, now, responds with a smile.
    A soldier of the empire reaches the far end of the continent,
    the child falls asleep, dreaming of battles that were and will be.

    And in the pages of time that is past,
    people end in a single moment.
    Empires fall,
    fall slowly.

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