Thursday, December 27, 2012

Closure? No!

A few days ago in shul, I was speaking to a man who recently started saying kaddish for his father. In the course of the conversation, the word "closure" came up. This word often comes up when tragic or traumatic events are referred to. I was never too comfortable with it, I think because it implies that a chapter in one's life can be "closed," like when you finish reading a book. The book is closed and you never need to reopen it. The event is over and you "move on."

If closure means "erasing" or "forgetting," then I am completely at odds with it. It doesn't imply integrating the experience into one's life, which is how I feel about the experience of mourning. My official period of mourning is over, but unofficial mourning continues and always will. I miss my mother and think about her as much as I ever did since she died. When I made Latkes for Chanuka using her recipe, I thought about her. My niece is getting married next month, and I would have had endless conversations with her about arrangements and dress and the dynamics of the occasion. And how my children are doing. And my wife. And me. And so on and so on.

There is no closure, there is only living with loss and the memories and the lessons taught and the "what would my mother have said."

I agree again with Leon Wieseltier, whose words on "closure," more eloquent than mine, I'd like to quote:
What is happening to me now is nothing like what Americans call 'closure.' What a ludicrous notion of emotional efficiency. Americans really believe that the past is past. They do not care to know that the past soaks the present like the light of a distant star. Things that are over do not end. They come inside us, and seek sanctuary in subjectivity. And there they live on, in the consciousness of individuals and communities. . . . Closure is an ideal of forgetfulness. It is a denial of finality, insofar as finality is never final. Nothing happens once and for all. It all visits, it all returns" (Kaddish, p. 576).

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