On September 11, 2001, I lived not far from the World Trade Towers and heard the first plane fly overhead and hit the first tower. I ran downstairs and onto the street and watched along with many of my neighbors as the tower ignited. In fact, though, I could not watch it at all.
I ran upstairs to call my mother in Evanston, who I knew watched morning tv every day. I rang her up and told her I was okay. She had not yet turned on the tv and did as we spoke but could not really believe that this had happened, that a plane had flown into the tower and as we spoke, the other tower was hit.
As the day progressed, I lost phone contact and yet, surprisingly, two other important people in my life were able to get through to me–my loving uncle, Jerry Greenberg, and my long-time therapist, Betty W. Sih.
With the death of my mother this morning, the three of them are all now gone.
My uncle died first, on January 27, 2014. Betty died this past Mother’s Day. My mother died early this morning.
All of them were of the same generation, born to a struggle that none of us has ever experienced. Each of them tried to find meaning in life in ways that helped them deal with all the uncertainty and despair they faced. For me, they represented three different ways of viewing life, some of which made sense and some of which were discarded.
During the many days and weeks that followed the fall of the towers, I kept wondering about the causes of evil in the world. Like a question that would find no answer, it haunted me. The only one I asked who did try to help me with that question, was my uncle. Though at the end of a few calls, he threw up his hands in despair and asked me not to worry about it.
Yet, this nagging question led me to thinking about religion again in ways I had not considered for years. Having been raised a Jew, I tried to return to a synagogue for help. This proved fruitless as the talk of Israel and her needs was unsettling to me. I knew then what I know now–Israel is a racist society that allows for no opposition to its belief in its own mission to exist.
Looking back, it comes as no surprise to me now that I met and married Suzanne Pyrch. Suzanne led me to St. Luke in the Fields and there I learned that one can pray about love and guidance and not focus on the hate and anger all around us. This was a necessary lesson and it has been a difficult one to learn. Yet, with Suzanne’s love and guidance, I found my spiritual path and a person to be married to who has made a home with me in this world.
Today, I mourn the loss of my mother, my uncle and my therapist. They have died in quick succession. All three of them suffered a loss of cognitive functioning toward the end of their lives. But I do believe that where they are now, they are at peace and aware of things far more important than the day of the week or who is currently president.
I am grateful for this path I am on and honor their memories now by staying true to it with prayers and love. May the three rest in peace.