family poems & stories

Must Be Found Again in a New Whole

I’m back at my home now in California and I’ve been feeling very tired since my return. I think it is a combination of a few things:

  • Jet lag and not sleeping enough this past week
  • A little bug I picked up on the plane
  • Travelers emotional exhaustion

It’s the last item on the list that I want to explore here because it lurks under the surface and could easily swim around there, fin occasionally just breaking through, chomping away at my energy without my truly realizing what is happening. This journey that I have been on for the past nearly 3 months has been one which has affected me more deeply than I think I have realized. I started wondering about this recently because in the past couple of days, 3 different people have told me about how powerfully my recent writings here have affected them. One told me he was “overwhelmed” by all the stuff around my family and history and that was why he hadn’t been writing me much. I also received an email from a friend of mine who was just catching up on my blog. She said that after reading my posts on Babi Yar that she needed to “lie down for 3 hours because of the pain that flooded my (her) body“. And then last night I called a good friend who told me that he read some of my writings near the beginning of my trip but that it was a too heavy at times for him so he backed off. I realized in receiving these messages that in a way it seems as if this journey was more difficult for them than it was for me.

For many years, it has been clear to me that the best way to move past something emotionally difficult is actually to go through it rather than skirting around it. On this trip, I think I went through it, at least at times, first with letting go of my mother’s ashes, and secondly with returning to the ancestral home of my grandfather and his family and learning much more about the history there including the atrocities against the Jews which has been happening there for hundreds or thousands of years. I know the grief around returning my mother’s ashes to her first husband’s grave was very real and came through me powerfully, but I don’t know if I ever really internalized the losses of my grandfather’s plight, and of “my people” there in general. Actually I think they may have been internalized, but not necessarily metabolized.

I read a poem yesterday by David Whyte called “What I Must Tell Myself” which moved me. This section of the poem brought tears to my eyes. Even though they weren’t very specific tears, the fact that it touched me deeply is another pointer for me that there is a raw grief nerve vulnerably dangling near to my heart.

When one thing dies all things
die together, and must live again
in a different way,
when one thing
is missing everything is missing,
and must be found again
in a new whole

This poem contains a very powerful concept which resonates with me as it relates to my recent journey. The death of the Jews and the loss of my family homeland is a death, and “when one thing dies, all things die together.” In other words, it is also a death for me, yet I/we “must live again in a different way. “ My family, my people, and my history is missing in a large way, and “when one thing is missing, everything is missing,” and that which is missing “must be found again in a new whole.” I think that is what I am trying to do – find the missing parts, the losses, and piece them together “in a different way,” “ in a new whole,” integrating them in a more completely digested form. The point of all this is that this exhaustion I’ve been feeling is at least in part here to allow me the time and space to integrate what I’ve seen, heard, and felt to make sense of it, and perhaps even make peace with it, to bring a new level of healing to an otherwise yet festering family and personal wound.

Time to nap.

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