One of Richard Rohr's most memorable statments, to me, is "If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it."
"If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.
Recently, I received an email from a writer-cousin whose daughter died many years ago, after being hit by a drunk driver (I've mentioned B.J. here before). Her daughter, Ruth's, accident and subsequent death from injuries occurred in February. Being Jewish, B.J. and her family have grieved according to their individuality, and according to their religious customs. She recently wrote a poem about this. Since I lean heavily toward the Catholic faith, her poem and her words about it were illuminating to me on many levels: as a mother, a mother in grief, many years after Ruth's passing, and in the way that her Jewish understanding and spirituality is interwoven with her feelings. I asked her permission to publish it here, and she has granted it.May all who grieve receive the light and power of Love, to transform their pain, rather than transmit it.
With the brilliance of a comet
Ruth streaked through our lives
for fourteen years
minus one week,
gone now two weeks short of
twice the length of her
“With a mighty hand,
with an outstretched arm,”
God blasted Egypt with plagues,
one for each finger, says the Hagaddah,
times five for God’s great hand at the Sea,
times four for the fury, rage, trouble
and messengers of evil that accompanied
each pestilence. Ten plagues became fifty,
fifty became two hundred.
One lifetime became
two lifetimes of loss.
Where was God’s protective hand
when the driver wrapped his
ten inebriated fingers
around the wheel that steered into
Ruth and her friends,
splitting our lives,
rending our spirits?
We read the story of
Keriyat hayam, how
God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm
tore nature in two and
split the sea.
Two lifetimes ago
we tore our garments
to match our broken hearts.
is written with permanent ink
on the fragile parchment of our souls.
The rabbis tell us that to save
one life is to save the world.
Where were God’s outstretched hands,
with ten fingers, or fifty, or two hundred,
to steer the car and save the world
that Sabbath eve two weeks short of
twenty-eight years ago?
Couldn’t God spare even one finger
to stay that evil man’s free will?
Two lifetimes ago
times all the lives
ripped and shredded and torn in two
by careless, drunken fingers.
We piece together our
fury and despair,
our darkened dreams,
to create a new life,
stitched with love for Ruth,
going on for Ruth,
instead of Ruth,
whose single lifetime
ended two lifetimes ago.
An infinity of lifetimes ago.
B.J. Yudelson is a retired writer for not-for-profit agencies and an active volunteer in Rochester’s Jewish community. Her favorite role is that of “Grandma” to her nine grandchildren.
Reprinted from the spring 2010 edition of Jewish Action, the magazine of the Orthodox Union.