013~ A fluid, interactive Vs. solid one- directional memory (Part 3)
Updated: Aug 19
As I mentioned in my earlier post, my visit to the Yad Vashem memorial "replica" provoked a moment of realization. The discovery of the Rapoport duplication of the Warsaw monument opened up a new realm of bias, and I decided to return and take a picture to compare it with the original one in Poland.
I can understand Yad Vashem's position, their mission, their challenges, and goals. I also understand their need to preserve, and above all, their need to protect their message. Surely, they must frequently face attacks from anti-Semites and encounters with skeptical masses and naysayers.
Here's a personal moment I experienced when I stood in front of this immaculate sculpture. It was at that moment when my thoughts finally aligned.
I lost a dear friend nearly 20 years ago. He was like a brother to me, and more. I will never fully recover from it. It's like a hole in my soul, an empty space from which echoes do not return. Fortunately, I have echoes from many other places, indicating that I am okay. :-)
At the age of 32, he left us all alone. We knew he was suffering - it was a time of questions, and truths were reshaping. It was a time for flexible thinking, and for someone who said, "Well, this is who I am"... unfortunately, he broke, leaving us all shattered.
One of the most beautiful (to be honest, I can't think of others) Jewish traditions is called "Shiva." It entails 7 days of an open house, with photographs on the tables, where people come and go, sharing their memories, hearing stories, and paying their respects to the remaining family who must eventually move on. I was 32 and had never experienced such a tradition, but I received a great tip from my elderly neighbor across the hall in Jerusalem at the time.
She said, "Don't sit down. Always look around to see what you can do to help. You'll be helping others, but it will also help you. Bring chairs, fold chairs, wash dishes, collect dishes, throw out old food, bring fresh food, check on the bereaved parents, bring them water, check on the siblings, and make sure they don't delve too deep into sad memories. Just keep yourself occupied."
So, I followed her advice.
7 long, exhausting days. The worst. I would arrive in the morning, crying my way back home at night. But these days would eventually end, and we would each go our separate ways.
You see, I hardly ever saw his family before the Shiva. It had been 10 years since I left Haifa, and during that time, I traveled with him around the world, covering quite some distances. Now, suddenly, I found myself meeting up with his siblings, without him—the glue that connected us.
After 30 days, we gathered again at the graveyard to unveil the tombstone. It brought intense emotions all over again, but I understood the significance. From the cemetery to their home, where I would help, support, carry water, check for fresh food, and look out for the siblings. I did whatever I could to assist—and it helped me too.
I imagine that at this point you're thinking, "This isn't funny," and maybe you're right... maybe "funny" isn't the right word. But it's the first one that comes to mind when thinking about the next time we meet, a year later.
A year goes by, and we meet again for the annual commemoration at the graveyard, and then we all go to a restaurant. They haven't seen me for a whole year, and I haven't seen much of them, maybe one brother once or twice. They love Neta and want to hear more about our creative endeavors. They all seem much better, and I physically experience this get-together as if it's the 9th day since Hagai died, when, in reality, it has been a year.
A year later, we meet again. They have had two years to process the death. In this familiar yet unfamiliar scenario, I am once again all alone, and the pain feels as fresh as if only 10 days have passed since he died. While they are sharing photographs of healthy adventures they experienced during the past year, I was not there to replace the painful memory with new, fresh memories. I was stuck in day 10, while they were showing photos of a ski vacation, laughing, and doing their best to move on.
Suddenly, I look around and notice that I am the saddest face walking around, bursting into tears, and they come up to me to comfort me...
That was crazy but powerful enough for me to connect the two examples into one powerful insight:
To process a memory, and even more so, a traumatic memory, one needs to engage with it, interact, and create new memories! This, in my eyes, is vital and is the lesson I take from both my own experience and those two sculptures, one in Warsaw and one in Jerusalem.