Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I have shed so many tears in the last year, I have no more left. So many regrets, so many fears and so much misery that I dread waking up in the morning or going to sleep at night. I have become the poster person for ‘the walking dead,’ and yet I walk, I breath and pass from one day to the next. I am nothing more than a visage of a human being, no resemblance to the vibrant, self-assured and somewhat arrogant person I once was. I care for nothing and no one. I want nothing more than to cease to exist, yet death is the one thing I fear most because then I will have to account for all the pain and hurt I caused others. What began with my mother’s passing thirteen months ago, which set off a deep introspection and self-analysis, I began to understand what a despicable person I had become, how blinded I was to my own grandiose, cold and callous persona to my elderly mother, siblings and family. But now it is too late to make amends. My mother has passed away, my siblings have turned their backs on me and my friends – the ones I chose as friends because they served my needs – they too have disappeared. Alone and left to my own observations as I went over my life and actions, I had the realization that there wasn’t a place in Gehenom hot enough for me and here’s why.
I was the youngest of six children so I was the spoiled and pampered one. I could well understand the resentment of my older siblings when I got new things while they had to settle for hand-me-downs because we were far from wealthy. My older siblings grew up playing with their friends’ games and toys while I got new ones and they had one or two Shabbos garments while I had lovely dresses and three different pairs of shoes. My brothers and sisters took to calling me “Josephina with the multi-colored clothes,’ and I’m sure I caused their jealousy to grow worse as I got older and went on class trips they never got to go on. I may have even taken pleasure in seeing their chagrin when I pranced around in a new dress or showed off a new doll. I went to collage, they went to work when they graduated high school. I got a trip to Israel. They got married in simple weddings, while I married into money and had a lavish wedding and led a lavish life. I began to see myself as better and far more accomplished than my family and slowly began to distance myself from my parents and my siblings. I had high-powered friends, attended glamorous parties that often included royalty and political personalities. I viewed my family as a liability to my station and not long after I married, I moved away from my insignificant family.
The years passed in a whirlwind of international travel, political dinners and social ladder climbing, there was simply no time for children as they were not part of our master plan. There was no time to attend bar mitzvahs or weddings of nieces and nephews I barely knew, there was no time for my parents who were getting older and needy, and the only calls I got from my brothers and sisters was the occasional one asking for money to help them out which after awhile went unanswered, this didn’t fit into our master plan. When my father passed away ten years ago, we were in France attending meetings. I couldn’t make it to the funeral and had to sit shiva in a hotel room. And time passed with hardly any connection to my family, but I simply was too busy to notice. My beloved husband took sick three years ago and passed away soon after, and I didn’t bother to inform my family. I had all I could do to keep our own interests going and it took all my time and the help of accountants and lawyers to sort out the bills and the monies with which to pay them. I was also so bitterly surprised to find that we were deeply in debt and that I would have to go back to working full time and even sell off most of our properties to covered the debt.
I was saddened by my misfortune and tired from doing the work of two people and I suddenly felt very alone and vulnerable. It was then that it occurred to me that I couldn’t recall the last time I had spoken to my mother and an overwhelming desire to hear her voice overtook me. So I dialed my mothers number anxiously waiting to hear her soothing, comforting voice, but no one answered the phone. In fact, I got an automated message stating the number had been disconnected. I quickly dialed my eldest sister’s number and when she answered the phone and heard my voice, it was deathly quiet on her end of the line. I repeated the question of where I could get in touch with Mama. She informed me that our mother was in the hospital and that she didn’t have long for this world. She also said that maybe it would be better if I didn’t come since she didn’t recognize anyone close to her anymore so she certainly wouldn’t know who I was. But I told her I was coming regardless and of course she would know her youngest child, her pampered princess!
I flew in from Florida the next morning and went directly to the hospital. Upon entering the room, which was filled to capacity with black-hated men of various ages and modestly dressed women, all praying and weeping, I was told my mother had just passed away not ten minutes ago. In shock, I barreled my way to her bedside and stared down at the aged remains of the woman who had once held me to her heart, sang to me and dressed me in the loveliest clothes, and didn’t recognize her. When did she become so old and frail? Why did no one bother to call me and tell me? Who were all these people surrounding her when all she wanted was me? And then I saw an older woman and recognized her as my eldest sister, who said she was surprised to see I had torn myself away from all my important work, friends and obligations to attend our mother’s funeral, as the Chevra Kedisha took her body to the funeral home. I heard the hardness in her voice but did not, as yet, understand it. I asked if I could stay with her as everyone would be sitting shiva in her house, and her reply startled me. She asked me if it wouldn’t be beneath me to sit with the family I had cast away and mourn a mother I had not seen in years? And this is when the first tears I had not shed in over twenty-eight years began to well up in my eyes and the bitter taste of guilt and regret so new and ever so subtle began to evidence itself.
All through the levaya and shiva, I saw the closeness of my other siblings with each other, while I sat alone amongst them as if I was a stranger. And that was exactly what I was, through my own making and by my own choice. Nieces and nephews and their children circled around their parents and offered comfort to each other. I had no one. At least my mother was surrounded by the pure and simple love they had for each other that all the money and the power in the world could not provide me. So I flew back to my mansion in Florida, to the vast marbled floors that echoed with my footsteps and my manicured lawns and empty rooms. And here is where I wallowed in my grief at my selfish foolishness at what I had given up to attain this cold and empty splendor. It is here that my guilt consumes me, I pray for death but I am terrified to die. I cried myself dry and now I don’t even have the tears to shed and release. The phone doesn’t ring, the door bell is silent and the only people who enter my dark and lonely world are the housekeeper and the gardeners. I am not asking you for advice, Mrs. Bluth, I am willing to suffer my own punishment for all the sins I have committed and the punishment that I must pay for them.
Thank you for listening and may you continue to lighten the hearts of the many who turn to you and ask your help.
I am truly sorry for your great loss, not just that of your mother of recent passing, but for the loss of entire segment of your life, your family. It is said that hindsight is 20/20, I think you now know this to be true. Your ambitions have blinded you into fazing out the most important aspects of your life, your family and the simchos and milestones you have sold for the ’20 pieces of silver.’ Was it worth it? I think not. But mourning the losses in life will take an additional toll that is far worse than the natural mourning for a loved one with whom you had a life well lived and that is why the huge burden of guilt, regret and fear of the prospect of an empty life and death is so overpowering.
There is no way to turn the clock backwards and redo what has been done. Too much has been lost in the pursuit of what you thought was happiness. Then again, you did not want my advice nor did you ask for solace and perhaps even a way to enrich what remains of your life, because you can, it will just take a great endeavor on your part to make it happen and sincerely work towards mending your relationship with your siblings and their extended families. Money is a cold thing, it cannot buy you genuine love and devotion, those things at your juncture will have to be earned. You could make life easier for those most needy in your family and I’m sure they will appreciate it. Be the first to break the ice and visit your siblings or have them come and visit you and bring fresh life into your marbled mansion, I’m sure, after time, things will reverse themselves and you can develop a new and warmer relationship with them in the coming months. But you will have to be the one to start that ball rolling.
As to the guilt of neglecting your mother and father, it would be a beautiful thing to donate a Sefer Torah or contribute to building a mikvah or religious institution ‘L’zecher nishmosom.’ I believe this too will show your siblings that you are truly and genuinely regretful of the rift and that you want to do whatever it takes to come home again albeit in a different and meaningful way. I truly feel if you did that your parents’ neshomos will have an aliyah and they will be at peace that all their children are together as one family. It is what every parent wants for their children.
As for wishing to die, well, that’s not in our control. As long as there is life and breath in our lungs, we are obligated to use the gift Hashem has given us to the very best of our ability and seemingly, you are better able than most to do this. So get out of your ivory tower and get to work! There is so much good you can achieve with the blessings Hashem has given you, so many people you can help and so many great things yet to be done to honor your parents’ neshomos. Please drop me a line soon and let me know how you’re doing… and what you’re doing.