Reuben Mitrani's Journal
Written Mar 11, 2013 5:16pm by donna orbach
I know that it has been some time since I have written and posted on this site. Rest assured, I have continued to journal. Some of my entries just seemed too painful and honest (even for me!) to post. Please check back in the next day or two though....
I have continued to honor my own pace and way of grieving. I cannot do otherwise.
Reuben's 21st birthday is Wednesday.
I have been absorbed in REMembering Reuben. All the time and in all ways. I do battle with myself daily as I struggle to define what Reuben's legacy will be and how to do good in his name. I want to nurture the qualities that made Reuben such a Reuben and give other people the opportunities to grow and explore and develop. I want his life to ripple and ripple .
How do we really answer the question, "How long is a lifetime?" ?
One of the ways we are answering that question is by starting the REMember Foundation to continue Reuben's impact on his world. Plans are underway across the country for REMemberfests to support the Foundation. We invite you to remain a part of Reuben's legacy and stay updated on events in his memory, please follow the link below.
We are filled with love and gratitude for all of you who are REMembering.
Donna, Albert, and Adam
Written Jan 8, 2013 6:52am by donna orbachDear All,I have been somewhat hesitant to post again. I have observed an interesting contradiction at play among my friends (and I suppose I count all of you who read these posts and care among my friends). You were all agog and filled with wonder at my strength and honesty during the immediacy of Reuben's hospitalization and the horror of his death. You wept with me and praised me for my ability to articulate the unbearable. But then it seemed that some time went on and my posts began to fill some of you with dread and fear; you worry about me. Is Donna ever going to be okay again?Much to my dismay, I seem to possess an indomitable spirit. I cannot stop being me no matter how hard I try. I am just in terrible terrible pain and I wear it with the same force and power as I have every other emotion in my life, with a fierce and raw honesty.As for okay, I am not even sure what that means.So, if I continue to write and you continue to read, please try not to judge. And I would even caution you against worrying about me. Through my words, I am inviting you to glimpse a world of one mother's grief.And perhaps a love story. Because I still love that boy like mad and I miss him like crazy.The following post was written on December 24th, the morning of my niece Ellie's Bat Mitzvah atop Masada, although it has nothing to do with that day; our first family life cycle event without Reuben. Some other day I'll try to find the words to describe the mingling of joy and sadness and pride and rage and what the pure love of family feels like.December, 24th, 2012
Mothering my newborn grief is very similar to my days as a first time mom. I couldn't bear to be apart from Reuben. I was a stay at home mom. Appreciative of every moment of his becoming. Nursing endlessly. Up all night, watching his little hands curl around my finger. Loving the feel of his palm on my skin as he reassured himself that I was still there. Just marveling at this changing growing being.
I remember the first time I left Reuben for more than a few moments. I ached. My breasts leaked with longing. I needed to get back to him desperately.
Now, again, I need to be with Reuben. Instead of my breasts leaking, my head starts to fill with explosive pressure. I have to get back to him. I am not looking to be distracted from the pain, the grief or the REMembering. I cannot read a book or watch a movie. Not because I am unable to concentrate or feel guilty, but because I do not want to be away from Reuben for that long. I begin to panic. Interestingly enough, I was never the panicky type once I left my babies. I was never the one to call the babysitters for reassurance that all was okay; that was Albert. Always Albert with the question, “Shouldn't we call the babysitter?” I always answered that I had no need to but he was welcome to call if he needed to. I was sure they were fine.
Until my cell phone vibrated and I saw an unknown Swiss phone number. I felt an odd panic upon answering the phone. And then a women's voice, her emotion barely contained through the device, reaching across a continent and an ocean, her voice squeezing my heart with her strained english, “You must come quick. Reuben is bad. Very bad. Come right now. Reuben is very bad.”
I had no warning. I did not feel my son's pain. I had no odd sense that something was amiss. I thought that was the strength of the umbilical cord, even severed I thought I would know when my children were in trouble. My logical mind understands and forgives me for not knowing, but my mother's heart cannot forgive or accept that I was not there to hold my son and offer at least the comfort of my skin against his palm. How could I not have felt his anguish and fear across the world? How could I not know ?
When I write what it is to lose a son, I write only from my own perspective, although there is some universal element to grief. I don't know what any one else's grief looks like. I only know my own. Life does not make sense. And it never will again. It is hard to care about long term goals; almost impossible to believe that what we plan to do matters. I am having a hard time convincing myself to think about the future. Not only does it stretch out before me as an interminable time until I may or may not be with Reuben again, it just doesn't seem to matter. All confidence that life can be all that I hope for my children is gone. So many times I have implored my children to work harder, take more pride, take more interest and read more books. I promised them that their futures were only as limited as their imaginations and their willingness to work toward their dreams. I really used to believe that almost anything was possible with the right sort of commitment. ( Except the major sports superstar thing, which both of my boys seemed inclined to dream of. Oh yeah, and singing. We're sort of tone deaf in our house. But other than that, if they used their brains to unlock their dreams and were willing to work really hard, I was sure they could succeed.) Haha.
So, do I live more in the moment now? Perhaps. I rarely ask myself to ignore what I am thinking and feeling and just move on. I sit with and roll my thoughts and feelings over in my mind. I speak them. I do not run. I allow joyous moments and memories to flood me. I rarely stop myself from crying.
Ah, tears. Now there is an interesting observation: I never realized how many different ways there were of crying and how differently tears developed and dropped ; there are the eyes that fill and slowly slide out tears; there are the stormy rageful tears that cause your nose to run and your head to hurt; there are the tears that course down your cheeks with waterfall force ; there is howling when no tears come at all. And they come unbidden. Just sitting having coffee and talking about the weather and suddenly there is Reuben and there are tears. I wonder if it is those rare occasions when I don't allow myself to cry that I feel like I will explode and the panic takes hold and I want to hide under a desk or a table or curl into a fetal position in the corner. I do talk myself back from those moments. Or I ask for help. Help does come. Not from God, because those of you that have read these posts know that I am not a believer, but from the godliness that people possess.
People have been so kind. Friends, strangers, relatives. People care. Their willingness and desire to help us continue living is remarkable. And it continues. People want to offer comfort. They want to believe that their actions comfort us. Or at least they hope that something does bring comfort. For me, your random and intentional acts of kindness keep me attached to the living. They simply make it easier to go about with the daily tasks of existing in this world. They take the edge off and stop me from cracking. The cooked meals, the texts from Giant, the flowers planted, the house cleaned, the dogs walked, a simple TOY (Thinking Of You acronym) email or text or card or voicemail (still not so good at answering the phone) is life sustaining. Because just like the rest of our lives, but more so, it is sometimes the simple tasks that are the proverbial straw. I am endlessly and wordlessly appreciative.
Today marks three months since Reuben died. I cannot stop thinking in terms of the first year of a child's life. It is all so familiar in a decidedly reversed sort of way. As he lay in the hospital bed, his body being kept alive by machines, I went back to being the protective mother of a newborn. Counting his fingers and toes, marveling at this beautiful being who came from me but was not me. Someone, something else was doing everything to make sure that he stayed alive. He was totally dependent. I observed his intake and his output, cognizant of every change. I listened to him breathe. Watched his chest rise and fall. And touched him as much I could. I wanted to scoop him up and hold him. I wanted to nurse him back to health. He still looked perfect to me. He was a beautiful marvel. A miraculous being and I couldn't get enough of him.
As it turned out, I will never get enough of Reuben.
And then it was Reuben at one week dead and two weeks dead and three weeks dead. And raw early grief is a lot like the sleepless dazed weeks of infancy. You marvel at your ability to even shower. Everything is slow motion hard. You don't realize that morning has gone and is suddenly evening and it felt like forever and time wasn't moving but then it was moving too fast because it was that many more days since you had last touched your child. You were losing the feel of his skin. You couldn't feel him anymore. Time was passing and you wanted to still feel his skin but it had turned into more of an essence and it was unbearable that you were never going to touch him again. It was like missing the kicking, rolling fetus. Remember when you walked around with your hand always upon your stomach, attached from the inside and outside, always touching and feeling a physical presence and then suddenly they were alive and separate and it took me such a long time to stop touching my abdomen to feel him kicking. There were phantom internal movements when I would forget for a moment that Reuben was no longer in me, but asleep next to me.
And now he is gone forever. How am I ever going to feel him again?
Before you know it, you stop counting in weeks and suddenly Reuben is dead for one month. He is one month dead. But then he is five and six and seven weeks dead. Suddenly it is two months and then we lose the weeks and he is two and a half and three months dead. And all the time I have been nursing my grief. Hoping that it will become a healthy grief. Trying to figure out who I am now. Just like new motherhood. Where do I begin? How do I reclaim my own life? Do I even have a life of my own anymore or am I only this now, the bereaved mother?
But I am not just the bereaved mother because I have Adam and so I am still an active mom. But see how I define myself? I am a Mother. To Reuben's friends, I was Mrs. Reuben. Am I still Mrs. Reuben?
a more complete picture
Written Dec 5, 2012 8:23am by donna orbachDear All,I am feeling awkward about my last posting. It does not accurately portray the full spectrum of our grieving.Sometimes we laugh. We upgraded our cable just to get Comedy Central so that we could laugh at least one hour a day with The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert. Reuben was addicted. Many of our conversations included a reference to something seen or heard on The Daily Show. Reuben followed the news pretty closely during the primaries and through the conventions. He stayed up late in Switzerland hoping to see parts of the Democratic Convention live. On September 9th he messaged me "I'm watching The Daily Show. What does it say that it's one of the best places to get actual information about the election/policy? Stewart is completely honest with the news and just throws in comments to highlight the ridiculousness. When will he become a respected source of news? Because right now it's still too easy to write him off in a commentary sphere."So, I watch Jon Stewart religiously. Or as religiously as I do anything.The other day Adam and I went into a Starbucks. (In North Carolina - I still can't bring myself to go to public places in Harrisburg.) When the cashier cheerfully said, "Have a great day" it was the first time that the comment didn't sound like someone had just assaulted me. It literally stopped me in my tracks to observe myself not feeling so raw that the very air was hurting me. I was okay for the moment. And I realized that I am doing all that I can do right now. My life is still this moment and then the next. I don't know how things will fall on me or if they will knock me over. I am certain that I can get back up even when I wish I could stay down though. Perhaps that is what all of you see as strength.I am quicker to have an internal angry reaction to people than I used to. I do not want to be told anything about this process. It is mine. Platitudes have never annoyed me more. Please do not tell me that time has a way of healing or that I should go back to work or meditate or get out more. Do not tell me what you think will be good for me. I actually never liked being told what to do, but now it is all that I can do to smile back at you and remember that you are well intentioned and compassionate. I know people don't know what to say and that they care. Really truly and honestly, I get it. You all want me to get better and to be okay again. You can not fix this. Pain makes everyone uncomfortable. I'm okay to sit with mine though.So, there is laughter and there are tears. Mostly I am with Reuben in my heart and mind and that is where I want to be. Sometimes it makes me unbearably sad and sometimes I smile with the remembering. I sort through pictures of my complicated soulful silly boy and I REMember.A few weeks ago, we were given a gift that I want to share with all of you. Reuben had texted Albert on September 10th that he intended to start a blog. It was one of those small things that added to our grief - another piece of Reuben that would never be realized.My father, in his grief, often googles Reuben. It is comforting to him to see the proof that Reuben existed and was loved and was as remarkable as he always thought he was! One night, he stumbled upon Reuben's blog. He had started it. He posted his first blog on September 10th.Just a little stream of consciousness on Independence for ya… •September 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment
This afternoon, I returned to my room in Nyon, Switzerland and took off my grey suit jacket and slung it over a chair. I then slipped off my shoes – first the left and then the right, like always – and slipped them into the closet. Next, I unbuttoned my shirt – from bottom to top, just for fun – and hung it in its proper place. I slid my belt out of its loops and tossed it over the hanger next to my shirt. Finally I came to my grey suit pants. Oh those pesky pants.
In my final months of High School I wrote a piece for the school paper titled “Grey Pants.” In the piece I explored my nervousness towards heading forth into the world on my own. My grey pants lay unfolded on the floor and I was frozen, unable to return them to their rightful crisply folded state. The inability to accomplish such a simple household task was representative of my own apprehension and fear of life on my own. Until this point in my life I could simply yell out “MOM!!!” and the task would find itself complete. But no longer. I would now have to begin the process of becoming an independent adult. Fuck.
Some two and a half years later, I take the same finely creased pants and feel along the legs. Laying the seems flat upon one another I slide the pants onto their hanger and place the jacket onto the hanger and return the suit to the closet.
I guess I made it.
Tomorrow I won’t be wearing my suit, but I will be heading into Geneva on my own yet again. I’ll probably do it the next day too. And the next, and the one after that. Studying abroad is an incredible experience, and with each passing day, one that has made me realize just how much I treasure being able to navigate the world on my own.
Independence is a hell of a drug. When I walk around a foreign city on my own, communicating through crappy French and reluctant English, I feel so alive. When I walk into the Migros to buy bread, wine and cheese, I might as well be heading to the dealer to get another fix. Sprawling out by the side of the Lake with a picnic and new friends is the highest of highs. Or rather, more accurately, it is the most empowering of highs. As we lounge, talking about anything from politics to porn, I feel like I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. It’s like I’m Bradley Cooper on Limitless pills.
But just like the Limitless pill, the high will wear off. My new friends will head for their homes and I will be left in a strange place all alone. Independence will turn to loneliness before too long and suddenly being by myself won’t seem so romantic.
But for now, I’m just happy to be an independent human being.
- Reuben Eli