October 31, 2021.
I have really struggled to write this post. No matter how many times I tried, it just didn’t feel right. I contemplated if it was because this was just too raw–maybe it was something I just shouldn’t post online–but now I know it’s because the story wasn’t complete yet.
Something my roommate, Katie, and I first bonded over when we met back in August was our biggest fear in moving here: losing our grandparents (my grandpa, Papa, and her grandma, Mamama) and not being home for it. We both had grown up extremely close to them. We both had witnessed their battles with cancer for 10+ years, along with various other health scares and complications; yet in the last few months we saw their health decline more rapidly and severely than ever before. We both said our goodbyes in August knowing that it would probably be the last time we saw them.
Losing a grandparent is heartbreaking. Losing a grandparent while living on the other side of the world, apart from all family, hurts in a completely different way than the loss itself. It’s a very unique kind of pain in which you feel alone and so extremely far removed. Three weeks ago it became a pain I understood.
It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to hear the news that my grandpa had passed away through the phone. Not being able to physically be there with my family and no way to truly “rush home” to get there was so sad and frustrating. The worst part was that I had nobody here that understood the feelings of loss and loneliness and helplessness that accompanied a situation like this. My roommates and friends were wonderful and did their best to help, but it’s just not the same when nobody else is grieving with you.
After pleading with the Israeli government, I got the permission I needed to change my visa to fly home for the funeral and shiva. The relief I felt when I hugged my family, the heaviness of saying goodbye to Papa at the funeral, the tears, laughs, and everything else we managed to squeeze in in between–it all felt right. This is what Papa would’ve wanted: for his family to be together.
Coming back to Israel felt weird. I was so happy and eager to return, but it almost felt like I left my grief back in New York. I felt guilty for letting myself pretend it wasn’t happening–or didn’t happen–but it’s hard not to ignore when nobody else around you is also going through it. There are no reminders other than when I talk to my family on the phone. This life for me here has never been tied to him.
Three short weeks later, Katie got the same heartbreaking news. When she told me, it was as if I found out about Papa all over again. It hurt in my chest so deeply I could’ve sworn I was reliving that night three weeks ago. I hurt for her because I physically felt her pain. I knew exactly what she was going through. I couldn’t believe it was also happening to her, and so soon after me.
I could make an entire blog post about all the freaky similarities between Papa and Mamama, our families, and the ways in which this all unfolded. Katie and I have spent so much time in the last few days discussing all the signs and connections, but I prefer for those to stay between us. What I choose to share on the internet is the connection I finally felt here. The peace I am beginning to feel just by talking to someone who understands, and by helping my friend through something I, too, am finding my way through.
I can’t help feeling like this is it. This is the Universe, God, the magic of Israel, Papa, and Mamama, all working together to help us find peace. To help us help each other, grieve together, and just not be alone in this.
Sitting at the kitchen table or in our room or on the beach, talking about Papa and Mamama–we grieve together. We talk, we cry, we laugh, we sit in the discomfort of grief. Most importantly, though, we went through it–and are getting through it–together.
I send my love and condolences to Katie’s family and friends who knew and loved Mamama. Katie spoke so highly of her and their memories together, and it is clear that she will be so deeply missed by all. What a wonderful legacy she leaves behind.
❤️ May Papa and Mamama’s memories forever be a blessing. ❤️