Five long years waiting for the freedom of letting go
This is the painfully true story of “Mrs. Katz” (names and some details changed).
Mrs. Katz has two daughters: Miri, 32, with four children, and Yocheved, who at age 29 was still waiting for her bashert.
It was five long years since Miri and her mother last spoke.
It started when Miri was sick and asked her mother to come babysit. Mrs. Katz, who was usually available, had had a hard day and was in no condition to deal with her adorable but admittedly rather-a-handful grandkids. In modern jargon they say “she ran out of emotional bandwidth.” But Miri couldn’t accept that.
How could her mother let her down when she needed her? How could she be so selfish?
Miri was very upset and said something to the effect that her mother was there for her “only when it suited her.” These words cut Mrs. Katz, and she was incensed. How could Miri say this? After everything she did for her, too. Such ingratitude! Such chutzpah! And to her own mother! Where was kibbud eim?
If both mother and daughter wouldn’t have uttered another word and simply got off the phone …. But Mrs. Katz really lashed out.
Perhaps no one more than parents and their children know how to say words that will poke through a chink in the armor of the other like poisoned arrows and enter the heart, causing great pain. Acidly Mrs. Katz reciprocated by reminding Miri of an incident from her past that was the epitome of egotism – an episode of selfishness that Miri was deeply (and rightfully, to be honest) ashamed of.
Miri was shamed and wounded to the core. She shouted that Yocheved had always been Mrs. Katz’s favorite and it “killed” Mrs. Katz that it was Miri who was married while Yocheved was still alone.
The conversation ended with Miri crying and screaming that she never, ever wanted to see or even speak to her mother again, and Mrs. Katz, bleeding emotionally and blinded with rage and pain, retorting, “Fine! Don’t even come to my levayah.”
And that was that.
What ensued were five long years of disconnect. Mrs. Katz missed her grandchildren sadly, and the kids couldn’t understand for the life of them where Bubby suddenly disappeared to. No one talked about it, but everyone was increasingly miserable.
Both Mrs. Katz and her daughter developed mechanisms to keep their true feelings in check, but a shadow hovered over everything in their lives. No simchah was complete. No normal conversation with the other one also in the room could be held with either of them. Family members tried to mediate, but to no avail. Their joy of living was sapped; they became increasingly miserable and eventually even their health suffered.
All the while Yocheved remained unmarried. Time slipping through her fingers left her in despair.
This last Yom Kippur, Mrs. Katz couldn’t take it anymore. She decided to swallow her pride, pick up the phone, and call Miri to wish her ah gut gebentched year.
“Hello?” said Miri.
There was a stunned silence. Neither really knew what to say.
Mrs. Katz started “I…I wanted to wish you…” but couldn’t finish her sentence as tears were chocking her. When she shakily asked Miri how she was, her daughter exclaimed, “Oh, Mommy…” and broke down.
She told her mother how miserable she had been. How sorry she was, how she regretted every single word she had said. Her mother was crying, lamenting the time they both lost and the damage they had caused their own families. They talked for an hour straight, catching up.
And three weeks later Yocheved became a kallah!
Not all feuds are dramatic, perhaps, but people hardly ever realize the heavy price they pay for holding on to a grudge. Dinim – heavenly indictments and decrees – are only too real, and nothing brings them down to earth more readily than a machlokes! Strife makes people sick, both in body and in spirit. It makes their lives solitary and bitter, and damages them and everyone around them.
Conversely, nothing undoesdinim (harsh decrees) like vatranus – looking away from a real or imagined wrong.
So if you feel as if your life hit a snag and instead of growth you experience atrophy and unhappiness, think back. Are you holding onto a grudge and refusing to let go “on principle”?
You can do yourself – and the klal – no greater chessed than humbling yourself and letting it go.
Suddenly you’ll feel optimistic again, ready to go forward.
You’ll start to live!