A friend of mine from high school named Judy died today. She was 60 years old. I just feel very sad…and kind of confused. Judy was not the first person I know to pass away and I was by no means a very close or intimate friend of hers, but I got to see her at a 40th high school reunion and she was as sweet and kind hearted as I remembered her back in 1971. It’s not easy to process something as final and as inevitable as a death. There is still a kind of mental denial and social taboo about it like, “wait, that’s impossible..she’s my age” and “no, that’s not possible, she’s my Facebook friend and I saw she just had her 60th birthday!” I feel tears inside my eyes but my head is having trouble grasping this kind of raw emotion and new reality. Judy Levey Stein passed away. I almost feel like I have to slow down, repeat it and let my mind catch up to my feelings.
Sure, I know as a guy that’s easy for me to say about pregnancy and giving birth, but still, wasn’t it worth it in the end? Actually another friend from high school’s son and daughter in law just had a baby, making my fun-crazy friend Bennett a first time Grandpa. Life and death. Quite a concept. More to the point and less to the labor pains, we are so used to demonizing our raw emotions and deadening our anxiety and pain with drugs, drink, and addictive cultural distractions, ie. Honey Boo Boo, the internet, Facebook, videogames, etc. , that when we do feel bad, anxious, frightened, nervous, sad, “down” or just not right, many of us are conditioned to reach for another Klonopin, the Prozac, the Xanax, the Welbutrin, or the WebMD app on our iPhone for more symptom information…. rather than slowing down and asking ourselves what our inner self is trying to communicate. In this case I’m just sad for Judy and her family and very happy for Bennett, Justin and his family. That doesnt make me crazy or bipolar, just full of different kinds of feelings.
I dont think I need to “up” my Lexapro or start on a new mood stabilizer. Instead I want to simply allow myself to be happy for Bennett and his family, sad about Judy, thankful for life and good health, and honor all my seemingly disparate feelings. I also want to do one or two things to express and commemorate the loss of two very sweet and decent human beings, like lighting a candle, saying a prayer (Mourners Kaddish) and taking out the few dusty Polaroid pictures I have of my biological father from the bottom of my overcrowded sock drawer. I miss my father, Lawrence Hiken. I miss my ex-wife Rona Hertz Mazer. Judy, you were a good person and had a wonderful and genuine smile. Bennett, Tammy, Justin, and Crissy, a sacred blessing, a sip of wine, and as the Fiddler on the Roof shouted to the stars and heavens above when he wasn’t too busy kvetching,
” L’Chaim, To Life!”