Friday, July 15, 2011

A Double Standard

You may have read about the horrific murder of Leiby Kletzky, an 8 year old child living in an Orthodox Jewish community. His murderer is another member of that same community.

Of course, everyone agrees that his murderer must be mentally ill. Leiby's death came about because of mental illness. Thousands of people showed up to bury Leiby, and thousands more have shown their support for his family by writing letters and giving tzedakah (charity) in his name.

The murder of an 8 year old boy is nothing less than shocking, traumatic, and horrible. I don't mean at all to minimize this fact by what I am about to say. But hundreds of people in Orthodox Jewish communities die every year of mental illness. By suicide. Why is there such a media circus around this young boy, but still a dark shroud of silence around suicide in the Orthodox Jewish community?

Both the death of Leiby and the death of my brother came about because of mental illness. But the reactions are polar opposites. People who have never even met Leiby are writing letters in his memory and to his family. Someone set up a gmail account where you can email letters of comfort to the family. Why can't the extended Orthodox Jewish community rally support around families who have lost loved ones to suicide in the same way they have for Leiby's family?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Yahrtzeit & Unveiling

This past weekend, I attended the wedding of my fiance's cousin. It was a beautiful wedding, but afterward it made me incredibly sad that my brother will be glaringly absent from mine.

Sunday night began my brother's yahrtzeit (Hebrew anniversary of death). I went to shul (synagogue) to say the Mourner's Kaddish, a special prayer recited in memoriam of a loved one who has died. It was harder than I thought. We drove up to my parents' house and lit a memorial candle.

A tradition has developed among American Jews to officially "unveil" a headstone. We held the unveiling for my brother's headstone yesterday. Baninu v'achinu ha'yakar. Our precious son and brother. That's what his headstone says. It felt so surreal to be sitting there reading my brother's name on a block of marble. A few of my brothers close friends attended, and his best friend said a few beautiful and heartfelt words about what he missed most about my brother being here with us.

I spent the weekend thinking about time, and how I didn't get enough of it with my brother. How much time we all waste on stupid little things, instead of on the important things, and that you never know how precious time is until it's gone.

I miss him so much.