Today, I was walking down the hectic Brooklyn streets that I live in, and from a distance, I saw a woman walking towards me, with a baseball cap and a loose shirt and it all happened in a flash –
I thought “oh, that’s Hindi.”
And in the next millisecond, I realized that was impossible because Hindi passed away a year ago. It was just a stranger, someone who on closer inspection didn’t actually look anything like her.
But the entire moment, that only lasted less than a second, kicked me in the stomach.
It was a moment in which I wondered how often that happens to Hindi’s best friends, to her husband, and her siblings and parents, to her kids.
How often do they hear her footsteps, her voice, see the flash of her hair, only to have to relive the loss all over again?
I’m not going to lie. I’m not going to pretend that I knew Hindi well. I didn’t.
We didn’t cross paths much, we were ten years apart, I lived in New Hampshire until she got married. We never had the opportunity to share more than a few Shabbat meals and family gatherings.
And as a result, I didn’t lose her presence in my life. I didn’t lose her wise counsel because I never sought it. I didn’t lose her humor because I didn’t laugh with her all too often.
What I lost, and what I now sit with for the rest of my days, is simply potential. All the could have been’s. The wonder why.
There are some people in the world who you don’t have much in common with, and therefore, you don’t necessarily need to befriend them, whether or not they’re related to you. It’s not possible to be close to everyone in your world.
But there are people like Hindi, whom I admired, yet held myself back from. I was intimidated. She was accomplished. She had triplets and a Ph.D. for heaven’s sake. She was a powerhouse. She was blunt and she was honest.
I enjoyed her company when I shared it, but I never thought we would be close because she was so much more than I imagined I was.
She was so much, and now she’s gone.
When I think about it, all I want to do is stop thinking about it. I don’t want the hurt to settle in because when it does, it really hurts. When I think about my aunt, or my cousins, the ones who have this enormous gaping hole in the middle of their living room, a hole that doesn’t allow for you to not fall in, it’s hard to breathe when I think about that kind of pain.
It makes me want to grab everyone I love and put them all in a box and never let them leave and just keep them alive forever and ever so I can just look at them when I want to.
And then I remember that that’s not what life is. And life is lived intertwined with loss.
And that absolutely sucks, and it’s absolutely unfair.
The honest truth is that losing Hindi made me think about a lot of things in life. It made me think about the fact that there are people right now in the world that are still around that I should try harder with.
So I did, but so many of those situations brought me to dead ends, and I realized that the solution to loss was not to just throw around love. It wasn’t going to help to befriend people I don’t have much in common with just because I regretted not being closer with someone I should have invested in a relationship with.
Perhaps a more appropriate response is to strengthen my bonds with the people that I already have in my circle. To be more genuine when I’m too afraid to be. To be blunter when I’m being too careful. To work harder when I’m too tired. To truly be there for the people that count on me most.
Or perhaps nothing. Perhaps there is nothing one can do when there is a loss this large, perhaps all one can do is cry in the shower at the horrific unfairness of it all, and let it crack your heart wide open.
I was recently asked by someone how I reconcile my religious lifestyle with all the horrible things that happen in the world. How do I believe in a G-d that doesn’t stop the pain?
My answer was simple:
The pain is going to be there no matter what, whether I believe in G-d or not. Believing all of it is random and pointless is a death wish – I’d crumble if I thought that. By believing there is a G-d, I am saying that I don’t know what the meaning behind anything is, but I do believe there is meaning. And that belief alone keeps me afloat.
So, yes, I believe there is meaning in everything.
But I refuse to even search for what that meaning might be because there is no answer my earthly mind could comprehend. So I sit, and I cry, and then I try.
I cry, because this world is a scary place to call home.
I try because I want each of my days to count. I try because none of us know how much time we have. I try because I want to be the best version of myself for the people in my life for as long as I get to be here.
I try because Hindi did, and if I’ve learned anything from her, it’s to do more than anyone expects you can.