Here are a few of the hardest things about sitting shiva, or my perspective of my husband’s shiva, at least. Again, in no particular order, unless I order it that way.
- When you’re sitting shiva alone without other family members, then it’s really hard to eat, since there’s no one else who you can tag-team visitors with. Of course, people are very understanding that you need to eat, but since they just got there…so I had to be the meany and announce often that ISHI hadn’t eaten. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. On multiple days.
- People don’t think. If a door is closed and another one is open, go through the open door. Do people really use their front doors? We don’t, except for Pesach at the sedarim, when we open that door for Eliyahu. Mostly we don’t use the front door because we don’t want people dragging the mud through the house, even though we do have a little vestibule (Yes, T, we could use it; I know). But then, where do you put the coats and all? Moreover, we don’t shovel the walkway up to that door. Wouldn’t you know that people still shlepp up to that door, even when there is snow on the ground (i.e. shnorrer alert)? So of course, ironically, when we ended up opening that door for a while when the weather was nice one day, people still used the other door. So bottom line, look. Pay attention.
- I won’t start up about the difficulty of the rabbi bit; it comes with the territory. It was bizarre for all these people to show up here, like for a shiur, people who don’t make Torah a regular part of their lives past listening to the weekly drashah, if they do show up on time and/or are listening, and here he couldn’t teach. But he could teach by example.
- People who brought cooked food, even though I requested none. ISHI can’t eat so many things that it’s just not worth explaining to people. Here’s an example of that reasoning.
“I brought you some applesauce, even though I know you said no food. There’s no sugar or anything in it.”
“Um, thanks, but ISHI doesn’t eat apples. Maybe one of the kids will want it.”
Or maybe not.
On the other hand, people did bring lots of uncooked food which has been great. And the fresh apples have been greatly appreciated by my stomach, in particular.
I know. People want to do something. Suggestion? Just show up. And listen.
- Having to close my door for privacy, but having no privacy. Having the door open all the time. But the following is a story that occurred on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, after I could close and lock my outside door. ISHI and I had come home from lunch at my sister’s. The kids would follow later, on their own. Since it looked like impending rain, and since I was working off a major sleep deficit (when am I not?), I decided not to go to Tashlich. D#1 comes home with her youngest, but the two big ones had gone to Tashlich with their father. You know what happens next–the sky opens up with such force that we’re thinking it’s another hurricane. After running around to close all the windows and mop up the wet mess, I get around to opening the side door, just so that they can come right in, since we’re sure they’ve been caught in the rain and they’re soaking wet…
Sure enough, the door opens and we hear a voice call out, “Hello?” But it’s not one of the kids, or our SIL, or ISHI, but a friend. A sopping wet friend. He had been learning at another shul in town and left in what he thought would be enough time to get to our shul for Minchah. But as he already had passed our house and was down the street, he realized he would get sick if he didn’t get out of the rain and out of the clothes. Fast. He thought about where he could get clothes that would reasonably fit him and so he came right in. Yes, he and ISHI are about the same size, so I found him somewhat appropriate clothing (although I don’t think he ever wore Lands’ End before–the man is a very classy dresser). I even sprung for 2 plastic bags for him to put in his shoes, since I couldn’t begin to find substitutions in the dark…And of course, a rain poncho. Always have extra ones for guests, I say. Ironies abound, and that’s what keeps us humble.
- Maybe the hardest one of all, without any ranting but maybe it should be: not being able to hug my husband. I know that when my mother died, I really didn’t want to be touched. I was really pulling away from everyone, except for the kiddies. They were true comfort. But here, I felt that I was being punished, even though I wasn’t in mourning. And if the week is about comforting the mourner, and I know that would have comforted him, can’t the halakhah take that into account? Or is it too much about straight categorization and no gradation?