Death is Weird. Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet

Death is Weird. Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet

Death is weird. At least as weird as life, anyway.

What can you say when a brother or a brother-in-law dies?

Someone younger than you. Full of exuberant love. A carpe-diem, take-charge-of-life kind of guy. A recovering addict, who spent a decade healing his family. But whose body didn’t heal. And, just when he had a great job, marriage, and infant grandchild, his body shut down suddenly.

I guess you say, “Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet.” That’s a Jewish teaching. Literally, the phrase means, “blessed is God, the true judge.” But to me it means, “I sure as heck don’t understand. Is there justice? God only knows!” So to speak.

Death is weird. That’s what my cousin Karin said at the funeral. She knows. A decade ago, her precious teenage daughter died in a freak accident.

But the rest of the world carries on. You can’t blame them. They have to earn a living. Feed babies. Pave roads. Fix broken traffic signals. Keep life going, that’s the mandate.

And so you — I mean I — try. I’ll concentrate and accomplish. It feels really good for 15 minutes. And then it doesn’t make sense anymore. But you — I mean I — try anyway.

See the photo of Lee? I call it a “soul print.” I imagine each of us has a few mental images of our true essence. This would be one of Lee’s. He loved the outdoors: camping, fishing, and boating. Back before we moved far away, when our kids and his were young, we took extended family vacations. Camping in the mountains. Swimming in the river. Building sand castles on the beach. Lee owned a restaurant back then. He bought extravagant amounts of food and led us all in cooking huge meals. Once, near South Carolina’s fleet of shrimp trawlers, he tried to teach me to de-vein shrimp. I had never even touched a shrimp before. Or since.

But I digress. Wasn’t I just philosophizing about death? How odd it is that life goes on? When death, really, is all around us?

Last week I was at the — dare I admit it — nail salon near my home. They have a TV screen showing Netflix films. Romantic comedies, mostly. But, that day, we watched Miracles from Heaven (2017). It’s a cheesy movie about a terminally ill girl. The first 100 minutes focus on the girl’s anxious mother. Scene after scene shows her terrible parenting skills. Because of her own stress, she can’t support her daughter. 100 minutes. We get it. But in the last ten minutes, the girl has a near death experience and wakes up healed. Mom is surprised but happy. Yet she has learned nothing about life, death, or parenting.

This is a terrible movie. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 41% rating. But, that day, aesthetics didn’t matter. A woman seated next to me was crying. “I hope the girl doesn’t die.” Another woman stood behind me. Her nails were finished but she could not stop watching. She too was crying. “I don’t know what I would do if I were that Mom,” she said.

Of course, I understood. These women love and lose, too. They, too, are shocked by freak accidents and untimely deaths. So, they need to think about this. They need to feel about it. But they rarely get a chance. Because the rest of the world carries on. So, they cried at a bad movie.

So what? Why should I be an art snob? Sometimes death is like a bad movie. Where there’s no logic to the main character’s life arc. They die before their story develops. And their family’s reactions are badly written. Because who, really, does understand what has happened?

Death is weird. Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet.

  1. I feel your pain. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The act of writing itself can help one process your loss and feelings. There is no answer- only to value each day & love a lot! G-d bless❤️

    1. Myra, thank you so much. Writing is helping. But it opens a lot up, too! Thanks for your kind comments. – Laura

  2. Laura,
    Thanks for your interesting analysis.
    Helps us to figure out Why traditional
    Statements at times of loss make sense and prove helpful Or why tradional
    Responses might bring us confusion
    Or anger. In Boston area, discussion
    Groups to help us clear our thoughts in
    As many areas as possible, or to learn more. About death In our traditions are
    Available from many sources.

    1. Marthajoy, thank you so much for these comments. I appreciate you saying that each situation is different and traditional formulas sometimes don’t fit them. Yes, talking with others having related experiences is so helpful. Thanks again. – Laura

  3. There’s a story I read, about a rabbi’s experience with “untimely death”. I’ll tell it in his voice.

    I was in the hospital, and the young son of someone I knew slightly had just died. He was deep in grief, and was asking everyone who came by:

    . . . “Why did my son have to die?”

    He asked me, and I thought for a moment, and gave the only answer that made sense to me:

    . . . “I don’t know.”

    A few months later, he started to show up at my shul. After about a year, he became a member. I asked him why he chose my shul, instead of some other one.

    . . . “After my son died, and I was asking “Why did this have to happen?”,
    . . . you were the only person who gave me an honest answer.”

    I think the advice:

    . . . “Do not comfort the mourners, while their dead lie before them” (Pirke Avot ?)

    is probably good advice.

    The Buddhist equivalent — “Bring me three mustard seeds from a house which hasn’t seen death” — also allows for time to paper-over the wound.

    Scant comfort, I know.

    . Charles

  4. Or perhaps for the righteous, death is the end of the separation of the Creator from his creation. From Amos, “when Adam betrayed My covenant”… betrayal is based on deceit and when the full course has run produces grief, pain and separation. David said, speaking of the Righteous One “As for me, I will behold your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with beholding your likeness.”. Then there only will be truth, what is right (righteousness) and wisdom. There will be no unanswered questions but for us that wait, there are eternal questions and incomplete answers.

  5. Death, it’s inevitable but oh my goodness we’re never ready for the death of anyone else, we can prepare for our own hopefully but another person, it hurts. Hurts in ways that as people we struggle to deal with, it’s the price of love, the price of life.
    I personally have learned volumes from my own experiences of death in my life and shared experiences and emotions with others in this.
    The tangible exchanged to the spiritual body. Words appear so inadequate at explaining death. My personal experience is an evolution of spiritual depths honed by exquisite pain, followed by sticking myself back together because life just carries on as it must because life is living, everything is the same but different, and so life goes on.

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