Talking to the Dead and the Living

There are two kinds of death. One gives you closure, but it usually prolongs the suffering of the dying party. The other snatches him or her out of their mortal existence, stripping you of your soul and leaving a void in its place.

Like Arthur Rook in Kate Racculia’s This Must Be the Place, you’ll follow any clues as to what the dead’s will could have been — if they failed to leave behind any official directive. Or in my case, you’ll go on a quest to find answers where there seem to be none.

Candace was like a second mother and a guardian angel to me. She was always there to console me, to uplift my spirits. She loved me to pieces even when I screwed up.

I couldn’t imagine life without her.

We talked every week for a long time. Then she said she had some back pain and would be away for a couple weeks until she recovered.

Two weeks later, I received an email from her accountant. “Candace passed away in peace a couple of days ago in a hospice. Her cancer returned and was spreading throughout her body.”

Other than her back pain, I didn’t even know she was ill.

At that moment, I, Lilac Shoshani, shaman in the making, who claimed to see those who cross to the other side, was blinded by the shock of Candace’s passing, and nothing and no one could console me.

“I want to reach out to her daughter,” I wrote to her accountant (the executioner of her will).

“Her daughter was killed in an accident last year,” was her response.

I was guilt-ridden. I asked Candace often how her daughter was doing, being the only living relative she had.

“She is doing well, honey,” Candace always replied. I think she really believed her daughter was doing well wherever she was.

Still, I couldn’t find peace. Why was Candace taken from me? Why didn’t she tell me about her daughter’s accident? Why didn’t she tell me she was so ill? And why didn’t she say goodbye?

Then I ran into a mutual acquaintance, who said, “We [Orthodox Jews] believe that if you keep asking why, God will take you to the other side to show you.”

I don’t appreciate using religion to scare people, but I stopped asking why immediately and instead decided to be more loving, kind, and spiritual, as Candace was.

In her memory.

But that didn’t prepare me for the news I was going to receive on an especially humid day in August 2015. Having a short vacation, I powered my cell phone only in the evening. That’s when I saw numerous messages saying, It’s urgent. Call me. Sarah’s husband.

Sarah was my best friend. I met her in my search for enlightenment right after my mandatory and prisonlike two years in the army. We bonded immediately. She was older than me and a single mom. She got married later on.

I loved her teenage daughter.

“Finally,” Sarah’s husband said when I called. “Why didn’t you call until now?”

As I was giving him a detailed answer, I suddenly stopped. “Wait,” I said. “You said in your messages it was urgent. What happened?”

“Your friend is gone,” he said.

“What?”

“She is dead. It was her heart. We just came back from her funeral.”

“Noooo…” My heart was shattered, and I felt terrible I wasn’t there for Sarah’s daughter at the funeral.

Two weeks ago, Nechama (meaning comfort), my and Sarah’s best friend, passed away abruptly.

Nechama suffered from a mental illness and helped many psychiatric patients rehabilitate. The memoir she’d written was published under an alias: her family was ashamed of her illness. 🙁

Sarah’s daughter was devastated. Nechama was like a second mother to her. We went to Nechama’s funeral together, holding hands like sisters.

Ruti, Necahma’s sister, was so moved when she saw us, she burst into tears.

“May I read the eulogy I wrote?” I asked.

“I’d love that,” Ruti replied.

Nechama deserved to have a huge funeral with many words of praise spoken in her memory.

She was a star.

And so was Sarah.

And so was Candace.

But there were very few people at Nechama’s funeral, and only Ruti and I spoke up.

I told those in attendance Nechama literally lit up the entire world. Then I thanked her for helping me and asked her forgiveness for not being there as I should have toward the end—not knowing it was the end.

Then I quoted Rumi: “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” And I said I hoped we’d find a way to turn the wound, which was created by her abrupt passing, into light.

In her memory.

A couple days later, I called Ruti. “From now on, I belong to you,” I announced.

Ruti is a very rational person, but anyway, I said (hoping I seemed down to earth enough to pull this off), “I always say I get a glimpse of those who cross to the other side. Yesterday, I saw Sarah and Nechama, carefree and ecstatically happy together.”

Ruti laughed, so I continued. “Of course, I gave them a piece of my mind. While they are having the time of their afterlives/between lives over there, we are going through hell over here.” Ruti laughed again.

And it was her laughter that made the distance between the two worlds disappear.

***

If you want to fall in love with life again, read Kate Racculia’s absolutely delightful and brilliantly written novel This Must Be the Place: https://www.amazon.com/This-Must-Be-Place-Novel/dp/0312571666

8 thoughts on “Talking to the Dead and the Living

  1. jay

    Such a moving story, about such strong bonds, that only special persons blessed with kindness and honesty can forge with each other.
    I applaud your emotion and the depth of your friendship. Your unique gifts allow you to see the happy state your dear friends are in and that is divine, Lilac.
    What you say is true, laughter builds bridges of love. And I’m positive your friends look down from the heavens and smile at you…

    1. Lilac Shoshani Post author

      Thank you so much for your encouraging and heartfelt words, Jay. I was truly blessed with outstanding friends that I love so much—wherever they are. April 16 (tomorrow) is the day Candace passed. Her passing has been the hardest for me to digest.
      Still. 🙁

      1. jay

        I wish Candace – Such a beautiful name, peace and happiness in that special place that she is. What’s more, she lives in your heart and what could make her happier? If she could read what you have written, the depth of your emotion, she would smile and bless you, and she does too, I’m sure, Lilac.

        1. Lilac Shoshani Post author

          Thanks again for all your kind and encouraging words, Jay. And you are right. Candace does live in my heart.

          Death can’t stop love. It just can’t. 🙂

  2. Donna Everhart

    Ah, Lilac. Again, your words held me spellbound, and as I read, I had this distinct thought, I wonder about the life Lilac has led? You dropped hints above about your journey, which are like little bread crumbs leading the reader along a path of intrigue!

    Aside from that, how profoundly sad about your friend. And how mysterious/odd/sad/confusing and a whole host of other words I’m sure can’t begin to describe the emotions you felt at losing Candace. When you believe you are so close to someone, and something like this happens, it makes you wonder…did I know them? Really KNOW them? All the questions this must have created aside from the heartbreak.

    The quote you provide is similar – very similar – to one of my favorites.

    “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Leonard Cohen

    I left this quote on the wall of a small bookstore in Wake Forest, NC (Page 158 Books), where writers are to share their favorites.

    I wish you peace on this special day.

    1. Lilac Shoshani Post author

      What an honor to keep you spellbound, Donna! 🙂 You are very perceptive and brilliant, as always. No wonder you’re such an excellent writer. I did have to wonder if I really knew Candace at all. Really KNEW her.

      I had quite an unusual life journey, with some unexpected turns, which I should write more about. The best parts (aside from being privileged enough to help others) have to do with writing and meeting exceptionally special people like you.

      As for Leonard Cohen’s quote, it is so similar! I’m not surprised both of us are drawn to the same message. I find it amazing you put it on the wall of a bookstore where writers share their favorite quotes.

      Maybe one day I’ll get to visit the same store and share Rumi’s quote there as well. At least I’ll get to visit you… 😉

      I love how connected we are! Thank you so much for being such a good friend. It means the world to me.

  3. Carolynnwith2Ns

    Oh Lilac, how sad it is that after the passing of someone we love, so many unanswered questions swim in our thoughts. It has happened to me. It left me asking why as well until I realized how lucky I was to have such a special person in my life, even if the face they showed was not the one I assumed it to be.
    To borrow a quote from a dear friend’s grandfather, who passed on Easter morning, “Life is like licking honey from a thorn.”
    You are in my thoughts Lilac. Stay strong.

    1. Lilac Shoshani Post author

      Carolynn, you are a wonderful friend! <3 You can't imagine how much I appreciate your support. Somehow, I'm not surprised you went through a similar experience; we have a special bond. And I'm sorry to hear your friend lost her grandfather on Easter—RIP. I think I'll borrow his BRILLIANT quote as well.

      You are also in my thoughts, my dear.

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