It’s been a terrible time for bereavements; three this week and a number of other members still tending raw wounds. In the time I’ve spent with grieving families my mind has been drawn, on each occasion, to an extraordinary line in the classic Rabbinic work, Kohelet Rabba. ‘A person is born with a their fist clenched as if to say “the whole world is mine,” and they die with their hands open as if to say, “I take away nothing from this world.”’
Death is foul, loss is painful. But there is something redemptive in the incredible stories I’ve heard this week of people who lived the lives they wished to live, grabbing the opportunities that came their way with a strong clenched fist. And who, as old age, infirmity and death have approached, have opened their fist and let life go – on their own terms. It takes grace and a peculiar kind of strength to open fists so used to clenching and taking. It’s a blessing not given to all. But for those who have managed to demonstrate such might at such a dark time I can only have admiration.
May the memories of Gertrude Flinder, Valerie Bearman and Susan Strauss be a blessing.