I’ve been working on an idea for a while about the nature of death, but I can’t seem to find a valuable conclusion, so for now, I’ll go to the bright side, or at least the silver. Maybe as my hair gets more silver, I can more easily find the silver linings in our recent loss.
And maybe I just need to embed myself in those linings that I can find, just for a while.
A woman who had lost her mother just two weeks before my sister died just told me something she thought I’d appreciate. I saw her this afternoon at our synagogue right before prayer service, where both of us would be reciting the Kaddish in memory of our loved ones. Her daughter and her husband FINALLY told her that her hair looks awful, she told me with a huge smile. She had remembered that I had told her about the mourner’s dilemma with haircuts; that one should not cut one’s hair for the first thirty days, unless someone mentions that it would be good for mankind if that person does get groomed. Perhaps I had mentioned to her my father’s story when he was in that first thirty days after losing his father, of how a beggar pulled his hand away when he saw my father approaching, and that’s when he sought advice from his rabbi who agreed it was time for a shave.
She kept asking her daughter and husband–“Tell me the truth–how does my hair look?” And they, of course, thinking that she needed some ego boosting, answered her sweetly–“You look great!” She pestered them a number of times and saw that she wasn’t getting anywhere with this method.
So how did she get her husband to tell her the truth? She said it straight–“This is not ‘Does this dress make me look fat’ time. Do I need a haircut?”
“Well, now that you mention it, your hair is beginning to look a bit straggly.”
So, there it is. There is time for compliments and there are times for honesty.
And there is always the need for humor to get us through all of those times, honestly.