Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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I was your neighbor for many years. I was your child’s Little League coach. I was the 10th man at the minyan when there was a snowstorm and you were saying Kaddish. I was the person who handed you a clean plate when there were none at the smorgasbord at the wedding last weekend. I was the woman who let you go ahead of me at the produce store when you were only buying bananas. I was one of the women who performed the tahara for your mother of blessed memory. My spouse and I fed you and your family countless Shabbat meals in our home throughout our longstanding friendship. When your daughter got engaged, I was there to share the excitement. I was there when you needed a heavy appliance removed from your home. I was the person who cooked your family meals while you were recuperating from surgery. I said Tehillim for you every day until you announced that you were in remission. I shoveled dirt into the grave of your loved one. I tried my best to cheer you up on the phone when you were having a rough day. I invited you to that concert when I had an extra ticket. I was the dog-walker for your pet when you went away on vacation. On Yom Kippur, I tried to distract you with some words of Torah. I was your first phone call when you were stuck in traffic and your child needed to be picked up from the birthday party. I was your walking partner every Shabbat. I was a sounding board for all of your issues. When I fired up the barbecue, you knew you had a standing invitation to come by for dinner. When money was tight for you, I helped your family, quietly and without anyone knowing.

I did not die. Sadly, people change and not every marriage can retain the health and vibrancy that once was its lifeblood. Divorce is not verboten and its dramatis personae don’t wear a scarlet letter. We are victims of a confluence of factors. Our pulpit rabbis are no better at counseling members of their synagogue going through a divorce than they are at helping members who have lost a loved one way too early. Years ago, you boasted how good you and your spouse were at being switzerland when your mutual friends were going through a divorce. What happened in the interim? Have I lost so much weight since I got divorced that you do not recognize me in shul or on the street? Do you ever wonder how I am doing? Did you ever eat a Shabbat meal alone? Remember the great times our families had? I do, and that is why I am in pain every time I see you and you ignore me. That perfunctory wave you gave me after the hashkama minyan on Shabbat was exactly that: perfunctory. Did you ever wonder how hard all of this is on me, my ex-spouse and our children? We don’t want to be looked upon with pity, because pity is reserved for people who did not deserve their lot in life. What we want is some normalcy. I want the friends who were a slice of my personal heaven to take a moment and show a modicum of interest in my well-being. Divorce is not death but an amputation. When people allow friendships to perish because they are uncomfortable with the new normal in someone’s life, they add even more salt to the wounds that are raw and painful. The next time it snows, and I shovel your walkway for you, don’t just say thanks. Invite me in for that spot of tea or hot cocoa like you would have done when I was your married neighbor. Perhaps you can’t empathize, but that doesn’t excuse you from being a mensch. I got divorced; I did not die.

Name Withheld Upon Request