We made Doni's funeral at 6:30 pm so that Sahra could arrive from Detroit in time. My mother and her fiancé, as well as three dear friends from Long Beach, Tina and Uri Lemberger and Marilyn Hazan Corwin, met us at the cemetery just after the burial.
When I finally went to bed Sunday night, I realized I had been up since Shabbos morning as I didn’t sleep at all Saturday night. It was a good thing. I don’t know how I would have slept otherwise.
Shiva, the seven days of mourning, was the longest week I ever lived. Each day was so full and so long and so sad. Baruch Hashem we were inundated with visitors, friends and caring community members, but we had no quiet family time to process. Ephraim is an introvert, so just spending so much time in the company of others was a strain for him, and I felt a need to let people know who my son was. He was not known by many in the community and I didn’t want him to be remembered as that Bulow kid who killed himself. I wanted him to have a personality in their eyes.
On the second day of shiva, the third day of our sorrow, Ephraim and I both woke up dreading the day to come. As Ephraim shared his feelings with me, he said, “If Doni felt like this every day when he woke up, I can understand better why he did what he did.” I thought about that during the day. There were times, as we talked about Doni, that we told jokes and laughed. We ate food and added salt, so clearly we had flavor preferences. We hugged others and asked about their welfare, and yet, all day long we were crying inside for Doni who we loved and missed so much. I got a little insight into how one could enjoy some parts of life and yet still be in so much pain that you wish the day would be over.
Each one of us, mother, father, sisters, brothers, grandparents, is mourning in our own way. We all lost the same person, but since we all had our own relationship with him, we all lost a different part of ourselves. We can all offer hugs and love to each other for the journey, but really the journey is alone and lonely. Each one of us needs to figure out on our own how to build a new life and a new family without him.
We are working with the concept that Doni was not a 120 year gift that was cut short, but rather a 19 year gift that we truly appreciated. In his kindness, Rabbi Cahan said that he may have even been a 14 year gift that we got to keep longer because of the work we did with him.
Doni was number 6 after several kids with a variety of learning, attention, emotional and sensory issues. I thought maybe something I learned from raising them would apply to him, but alas, he was a whole new workshop. Here is what I posted the day after his death:
My darling Doni was a question mark, wrapped in an enigma, surrounded by a mystery. He kept me wondering, wishing and growing. He was a challenge and such a gift. His question mark became a period. Hashem natan, Hashem lakach. Yehi shaim Hashem mivorach.*
*G-d gave and G-d took. May G-d’s name be blessed.
Ephraim related that if, when we had five children and we were considering a sixth, Hashem would have said to us, “I’ll give you a sixth, but he’ll be mentally ill and he’ll take his own life when he is 19. Do you still want him?” We would have probably said, “No, thank you! We’ll stick with five.” But now that we had Doni, we have been so enriched. We are very thankful for his life and for what we have gained through spending those years with him. As difficult as many times were and as profoundly sad our loss and his end is, we are grateful and would not have traded the experience.