Voids and Estates

As many of you know, I served as a caregiver for an elderly relative for a while. Nine years to be exact. I’ve written a few blogs about it and even complained a bit on Facebook. Like many caregivers, I occasionally dreamed of the days when I could be free again to travel or work to my heart’s content.

A picture of an elderly lady dressed in red.

In my mother-in-law’s final days, she needed intensive care, often pushing me past limits I had set for years. There were always things I didn’t want to do, mostly diaper changing and spoon-feeding. But when the need came, I did what’s necessary because we push our boundaries for those we love.

My mother-in-law eventually passed away as comfortably as I could make her. I was free again to do what I liked with my time. However, a void filled my life instead. I stumbled through the days after, trying to be effective and failing. I felt lost and unsure. Things needed to be done, people paid, boxes packed, but I felt at a loss to even begin.

Now a month later, the void eased back, but many tasks still lay ahead. I took on the burden of her estate. It is not the first time for me. I’ve helped other people six times in cleaning out possessions and moving forward with all the things needed in closing the final chapter on a person’s life. However, those people were friends and coworkers. Only once before did it feel so personal, so painful to filter through the intimate details of a person’s life

I began to feel irritated at her. It seemed like she had so much junk! How dare she die and leave me this mess to clean up! Of course, that thinking is wrong no matter how it feels. During the days, my time was filled with packing up donations, planning the selling of furniture, and making fair arrangements for everyone. At night, the nightmares came. Twisted dreams of doubt and guilt filled the nights until I came to hate the things left behind.

Finally, at my daughter’s suggestion, I eased back on the work, giving myself time to breathe. And grieve. The importance of my mother-in-law’s life shone through in those few possessions she kept until the end. The long gloves and vintage purses were mementos of dates and parties. The ornate pill boxes shone with memories of happy trips. The thirty-year-old furniture had filled her home. It became important to me to remember her life in dealing with her possessions. They helped me understand her more.

So I guess the moral of this blog is not to bury yourself in burdensome possessions and taint the memories of a person after they are gone. Clearing out the closets (or whole house) will always be painful. Get help from a friend or other relative. If you know of someone who had a recent loss, offer to help them when they are ready. Sometimes having mental distance is the best thing to get through those painful times. Remember that eventually the items will be gone, the estate settled, and everyone will return back to their own lives. However, your memories and love for the cherished person will live on.

Guns in Houses of Worship

Last Friday I went to a memorial and Sabbath service at my local temple, a small place that serves around 250 families, with not many being active members. To get to the sanctuary, I had to walk past a watchful police officer, all vested and armed as he eyeballed everyone who entered.

This was not the first time we’ve had police in our temple. They are commonly seen during High Holidays and other major temple events simply because those times are when the danger to Jews are at their highest.  I’m used to it then. One might even say we’ve become desensitized to the officer’s presence and what it means for our safety as a group. However this is the first time I’ve seen someone during a Friday night service. On this night, we had more people, Christians and Jews, due to the memorial service, but still it broke my heart to know we needed protection.

Here’s the kicker…

In all the times I’ve attended many Christian services in different denominations throughout Texas, I never once saw a guard at the door. Not once.

Now to be clear, I have nothing against the police officers. They are sweet fellows and I always try to bring them a plate of the after-service (Oneg) teats. Others do too. I recognize they are performing a much needed task. I dislike the fact that we need them at all. As we collectively mourned the murders of the 11 victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, it hurt to see the man there this time, guarding me from the outside anger and hatred.

Why can’t we live in peace and without fear? Because our president has stirred up a hornet’s nest of racism by failing to condemn the white supremacists and also encouraging the idea of a “white-only, white-rule” throughout his political base.

The President’s reaction

We look to our leaders in times of crisis and this is what we got. In response to the shooting in Pennsylvania, President Trump said, ““If they had some kind of protection inside the temple, maybe it could have been a very much different situation.”

More guns in houses of worship? A place that should be filled with peace and lovingkindness? The stupidity of this statement puts the president’s concern in the same thoughtless attitude of “let them eat cake” by the old empress of France before the impoverished masses rose up against her.  President Trump may have visited the families in Pittsburgh, but he is clueless and uncaring about them. His comments displays off-the-cuff, insensitive thinking rather than solemn concern about his people’s welfare. The eleven victims deserve better than a cheap soundbite.

Again, I’ve never seen a white-oriented church with security at the door. They are not under attack. Why must we pay for security and turn our temples to fortresses? Don’t Jews, Muslims, Blacks, and other minority institutions deserve the same kind of peace and security as white institutions? What happened to the whole “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” idea in the Declaration of Independence? Somehow in today’s society, that concept seems to only apply the right color and religions. Our federal leaders do nothing to defuse the growing hatred against all the “different people.”

The Cost Factor

I also want to point out that hiring security is not cheap. I don’t know the exact sum but let’s say it is $100 for a three to four hour event, 2 hours to gather and worship, 2 hours for fellowship and cleanup. If we need it every Friday and Sunday for Sunday School, that adds up to over $10,400 a year, not counting special events an holiday meetings. Mr. President, my synagogue operates on a shoe-string budget, as I imagine most churches/mosques/synagogues do. The “gun inside” idea becomes prohibitively expensive as well as morally degrading.

My Proposal

So dear friends in houses of worship across the country, I propose that if you feel you need the security to keep the racists, haters, and killers out, send your security bill to the president. If this is his best solution instead of denouncing white supremacists and racist groups, let him foot the huge freaking bill. We may be a part of some minority group, but we are all still Americans. We deserve protection, and our thoughtless president can damn well pay for it.

Seriously, folks, send the White House the bill. Address it to the president himself. Let him put his money where his mouth is. We Americans deserve better than a president that thinks guns are always the answer.