The local paper did a feature on Maury Feren last week. He's been working with produce for seventy years and sharing his tips on radio and television and in newspapers for as long as I can remember. The man spends his days looking at, smelling, and feeling fruit and vegetables looking for the best that nature has to offer. To me there is nothing more spiritual than that. Someone who takes the time to study and notice these things that we pop into our mouth absent mindedly.
But, as a woman I knew long ago used to say, that says nothing of his relationship with God. To her, religion was not so much about the world around her but about her and her God. In the newspaper article it is clear that both are important to Feren. He attends synagogue daily.
His wife died around the same time as Elena. She had Alzheimer's at the end and he spent much of his time with her. He attends services each day to give thanks and because "it gives me a chance to feel close to her spirit."
I've been trying to do that. Not at services. Not at synagogue. Not in a formal setting. I've been trying to focus on my reasons to be thankful and I've been trying to get close to Elena's spirit. I've been hoping that the hole I feel in my heart is just my way of carving out a space to carry her with me forever.
It still feels pretty empty.
Feren was a concentration camp liberator. At the end of the second world war he was one of those who arrived at the camps to find neat piles of rotting corpses. In Benjamin Gleisser's article about a food man in the food section of the paper he talks about what this does to a man. He quotes Feran as saying:
"The idea of believing in God troubles anyone who has seen the Holocaust [..] I like what Elie Weisel said. He yelled at God for 40 years; 10 years ago, he was tired of yelling and said 'I'm going to accept you, but I won't forgive you.'"
I'm still yelling. Not at God. Not at anyone in particular. Maybe that's the problem. There's no one to walk up to and say, "who's in charge here?" There's no one to inform that I've got a complaint.
There's an Eleanor Roosevelt quoted response to a request that she just "forgive and forget". She says that she can forgive but she can never forget.
Accept. Forgive. Forget.
Sigh. I'm still yelling.