I’m on a plane heading back from my 15-year-old nephew’s funeral. He died a day shy of his 16th birthday.
I am one of those fortunate individuals who never experienced the death of an immediate family member. I sadly anticipated the passing of my grandmothers in their 90’s, but never imagined that it would be my beloved nephew who would leave us, being robbed of a whole life ahead of him.
Life is full of human suffering and could be so profoundly unfair.
I experienced a day of such heartbreak and gut-wrenching pain from my brother and the rest of his family. When I first greeted and hugged him at the airport, the feeling of compassion and helplessness flooded and overwhelmed me. I knew there was nothing I can say or do to alleviate or dissipate such profound grief.
My brother’s bitter tears and welling sobs ebbed and flowed throughout the day. He recounted how his team was broken up, that he would never see what his son would have developed and evolved into, and didn’t know how he would live on, even though he knew he needed to for his other sons.
He questioned why this happened, and what he did to deserve such a punishment. Hearing all of this broke me.
Burying his son was beyond agonizing to witness. Children are never supposed to die before their parents. Never ever.
There was no preparation. An unfortunate accident cost him his life and the shock of his unexpected and senseless death was impossible to process.
I felt my heart being torn into pieces as they lay the dirt. His younger son wailed his name and asked if he would be okay. He feared that he was further being inflicted pain upon. My brother groveled to his knees and could barely stand because the pain was unbearable. I excruciatingly bared witness to this all.
I feared the flight home because of my brother understandably wanting to remain with his son in Israel. Parents never want to leave their children. Our innate instinct is to be with them and protect them, no matter what.
He brought his son’s passport with him and kept peering and sobbing as he looked at it. He let out an anguished moan as the passport agent called out his son’s name. He didn’t realize that he mistakenly handed it to her. Another arrow through my heart.
As anticipated, he resisted leaving. He said he couldn’t leave him, and that children should remain with their parents. He needed to go but didn’t want to. The anguish was palpable.
I yearned to relieve even just a minuscule amount of his pain. He suffered enough, and more than anyone should, ever. I was worried about how much more he could take.
I just wanted the pain to subside, for them all, and noticed that for me as well. I wasn’t sure how much I could truly take.
I frequently write about mindfulness and being in the present moment. Today was a true test of my willingness to be with all the feelings that arose, staying in the here and now, and connected and in my relationships.
I sit here as I process it all and feel an array of feelings. I also notice how my mind and body just want to cut off and numb out, because it feels too overwhelming and agonizing. I want to be genuine with my feelings for my brother, my sweet nephew, and for myself. We all deserve the kindness.
I appreciate how some family relationships are being repaired through this sorrow but wish it wouldn’t have taken this. It’s ironic how often through death, that we are reminded how to live.
I wonder if my nephew was such a blessing that even in his untimely death, he brought people together.
He was eulogized as being a person who exemplified pure joy. He was always seeing things positively and was someone who looked for and found the goodness in people. He set that example for all of us and put in context what we can all strive for. He profoundly reminded us of that.
My sadness keeps overtaking me. I’ll be with it openly and compassionately.
May Sammy’s memory be a blessing, and and may my brother and his family have the needed support and strength to cope with all the pain and grief.
Blog published in Psych Central.