Still Yelling

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.

Published in: on June 22, 2006 at 7:20 am  Comments (20)  

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  1. Accept because what choice do you have? Forgive because you have to too much else to carry and unforgiveness is a terrible burden. Forget–it will never happen. My daughter was 3 weeks old when her father’s life was taken. She had two brothers, 5 & 4. That was sixteen years ago. We’re not designed to forget or to say good-bye but we are designed to be free and yelling is a good thing–so is crying. You can’t do to much of either. Father’s Day is the worst holiday in the world and I have a father that I love. And so does Maggie.

  2. Just a caution, Yell scream forgive forget as long as bitterness does not take hold

  3. Forgetting is the worst thing you can do… only in celebrating their memory can we truly honor the ones we have lost.

  4. Who could forget Elena? And why wouldn’t you yell- you lost something very special. My dad has been gone for 7 years now. When he died people kept telling me I would dream about him, and feel his presence. Nope. Nothing–not for a long while. But then one day I saw an older man with a felt hat perched on his head, leaning on his cane in just the same way my dad did. I felt simultaneously sad and thrilled that I had found a small bit of my father in a random encounter. I think when you are ready, you will be able to see and feel Elena’s spirit. But it may take awhile.

  5. Daniel,

    I totally agree with BoulevardMom…you’ll find that connection eventually but not because you long for it. It sneaks in. And I’m amazed to say that I too had an experience of seeing someone who reminded me of my Dad that made me feel connected. It was here (during a visit to Ireland) three years ago. I was on a city bus and looked idly down in my lap and the little old man sitting next to me had my father’s hands! Same strong thumbs, same nails, same stubby fingers (no surprise really, since his genes were Irish and Scottish). I desperately wanted to hold this little old man’s hand. Happily I was able to introduce myself and sneak in a handshake. And after he got off the bus of course I cried a little, but I was smiling too.

    I can’t say that you shouldn’t want to manifest that connection NOW (or at least some rationale that allows you to put the whole experience of losing her in some less painful and potentially dangerous place in your psyche). Of course you want that…and of course it’s frustrating when it doesn’t come. My advice is to try not to have pre-conceptions about how / where it will show up. The sea of grief is just something you have to float in for awhile…and lucky for you you’re able to let it leak out your eyes sometimes. There are people who are afraid to surrender themselves to the process, or who wait for a specific conception of the peace they hope to gain and thus fail to notice grace when it sneaks up on them.

    Its one of the hardest things about being a grieving sentient human. You have to hold a space without hope of it being filled, and neither fall in love with the space, nor give up on filling it. I think this blog is hugely helpful for you and the people reading you and holding such a space. Keep writing!

    Much Love,

  6. There have been a number of times in the last few months when I’ve felt the scary-strong urge to yell. One time was in April when I visited Elena’s grave; it took everything I had to keep the yelling inside me. I’m not sure which I was more afraid of: starting to yell or not knowing if I’d be able stop. Another time was more recently in my house. I didn’t quell the urge; I just yelled. I did stop eventually, but I know there’s more.

  7. You’ll never regret yelling, especially at nobody. You’re not hurting your house’s feelings by yelling in it so I say go for it!

  8. are you ok?

    just a little concerned, since it has been so long since an update..

  9. I am worried as well, are you and your family O.K.? Please let us know. We are another Skaker family.

  10. I am checking up on you too. Hope this finds that you are taking some vacations and restful recovering time.

  11. Perhaps you have decided to stop posting..I can understand that..but please know how much your writing has helped and reached hundreds of peoples hearts…I feel priviliged to have read about your daughters and your family and have shared in your tears, pain and anger not only from my own experience with unjust and untimely death;but also from your amazing abilty to communicate and articulate grief and mourning in a real and very touching way. My heart goes out to you all…and I will periodically check in to see if you have continued this tribute. If you choose not to–only you know what is best, of course– please consider publishing this beautiful journal one could reach thousands and thousands who would gain much from your eloquent and honest writing
    God Bless,
    Charlotte Neel

  12. Joining the chorus above to echo my appreciation for what you have written. I feel like I have no right to read it but I have been so I’ll just admit it. And I probably have no right to post here either, but here I am. Your writing has moved me immensely and helped me deal with my own loss. I thought of Elena and you and your family last week when I took care of a little boy with meningococcal meningitis. I deeply believe that reading your writing has made me a better doctor.

  13. Add my voice to those wondering whether there will be any more posts. This is a special blog.

  14. I also wish you and your family all the best… praying for you all.

  15. Daniel, you, Kim & Maggie have been much on my mind these last weeks. Praying for you all. The cycle of grief is a diffiuclt journey, to be sure, but I believe Elena is close to you in prayer. May God bless you and comfort you… Please write when you can…

  16. Missing your words. Prayers for all of you.

  17. Checking in to see if you’re still yelling. I yell alot too. I’ve read every word over the months and been touched deeply. While I haven’t lost a child to death, I’ve lost a child to growing up and that is a grief all too deep and personal for any mother. Most days I’m proud, some days I’m ashamed, but in all days I see her sweet 8 year old face in my mind, regardless of which face I see that day.

    “Mr. Barrie, was Sir James” might envision Elena as his Wendy, gone to NeverNeverLand to boss the Lost Boys around. Forever young, forever in charge.

    I’ll continue to keep you and your family in my prayers.

  18. Missing your posts so much. Will keep praying for you…

  19. i miss you. i miss kim. i miss maggie. i miss elena.

    somehow in reading what began as a tragedy, a terrible event that could happen to anyone and bring their loved ones to their knees, somehow i have become fond of you and your family. like the people who live in the neighborhood and you say “hi” or “good morning” to as you wave when you pass by, but you never really know them, you just see them and they become part of your life.

    you and kim and maggie and elena have become part of my life. thank you for this unexpected gift. i will always pray for you.


  20. Daniel-
    We’re still here, we still come here checking to see how you are, we are still praying for you.

    I sincerely hope that your silence means that God has given you some small measure of comfort, of peace, of ability to go on.

    You are still in our minds, our hearts, and our prayers.

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