Israel Memorial Day |

Over the Abyss

David Grossman
David Grossman
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Uri Grossman's grave at the military cemetery at Mount Herzl on Tuesday. 'I cannot truly fathom the fact that Uri, my son, is gone.'
Uri Grossman's grave at the military cemetery at Mount Herzl on Tuesday. 'I cannot truly fathom the fact that Uri, my son, is gone.' Credit: Emil Salman
David Grossman
David Grossman

After the first years, during which the pain is acute and terrible, come years in which the wound begins to be covered over by layers of reality and the everyday. There are things that need to be done. There’s work, there are relationships with family and friends. There are all of life’s obligations and also its joys. There’s coronavirus and there’s politics and there are – by contrast – new babies that are born to the grieving family. There are even distractions from the pain. For a few moments here and there, one seems to forget it ever happened.

Slowly, amid the endless negotiation with life, a way emerges to live with the loss.

Over our wound, above our private abyss, reality seems to spread a tenuous, flexible fabric and we, the mourners, learn how to go forward on that fabric, which is stretched above the abyss.

And we go forward on it splendidly. Heroically, you might say.

Almost all the bereaved families I know live heroically.

Uri Grossman during his military service. Credit: AP

Yes, we live our life with all our might. We fulfill all our obligations, in the family and at work and in our studies and in all the spheres of our life. Many of us help people who are in need of help, we are active and involved and creative –

But the truth is –

that there is no fabric above the abyss.

We pretend there is – but there isn’t.

All the good and important deeds we do to stay above the abyss cannot undo the abyss and the force with which it affects us.

I say “abyss” because I have no other word to describe that. The absolute void, that dead suction.

It is impossible to describe, impossible to comprehend.

David Grossman.Credit: Gonzalo Fuentes / Files / REUTER

Because in the place where death is, logic is not. Death, and especially the death of a young person, flies in the face of our familiar logic. I cannot truly fathom the fact that Uri, my son, is gone. It is simply incomprehensible. In my eyes, in the eyes of the father I was to him, in the eyes of everything I think about fatherhood and motherhood, it makes no sense.

In the most literal sense – it is unacceptable.

And even if I know the fact, the fact of his death, I do not really know it. Not in the way I know the other facts in my world. Ultimately, this fact is sealed, impervious. Its import becomes known to me for a fraction of a second, and then shatters again into shards of incomprehension.

Sometimes I think – if we dare to truly understand what happened to our loved ones, if we touch even for an instant, with all our whole being, the core of that fact; if we allow ourselves to gaze into it in a way that allows no defense against it – the abyss will swallow us in a heartbeat.

We too will be turned into not.

This is perhaps the greatest task, our life-task, of those who have experienced a loss like this: to learn how to go forward on the fabric that guards us against the fall abyssward.

And to know that there is no fabric that is guarding us.

And even so, to go forward on it

and to fall time after time,

and even so, to go forward.

And even amid the fall,

and within the abyss itself

to go.

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