I turn on the local Saturday evening news after 24 hours of being unplugged. Lead story is: “Cambridge woman killed Friday afternoon while biking in Boston.” A beloved, longtime Brookline librarian. Her photo flashes across the screen.
That’s my old friend! That’s Paula. No, it can’t be.
I stand there trying to absorb the story. Police. Accident scene. Hit by a cement truck. Friends giving tribute. Boston cyclists mourning, calling for safer intersections…
Now I’m crying.
I met Paula Sharaga when my kids were young. She was the new children’s librarian our local library. I liked her quirkiness and warmth. Paula and I were both early childhood educators, active in the Jewish community, and, of course, book lovers. We had lots to talk about. Sharing our family Rosh Hashana dinner with Paula just after the tragedy of September 11 is a special memory.
Later, Paula moved to Cambridge and took a job at the Brookline Public Library. This meant we didn’t see each other much. Our friendship, like many others, shifted to email and Facebook. And then, gradually, our contact lessened.
Strangely, just a few weeks ago, I thought of Paula for some reason. I realized it had been a long time since we chatted. I made a mental note to reach out.
I never did.
Now Paula’s Facebook page is filled with expressions of sympathy, sadness, and memories. I’m awed by the outpouring of love.
Scrolling through her page, I’m quickly updated with all she had been involved with the past years. Environmental activism. Politics, protests. Nature hikes. Cycling.
I see that she married her long-time boyfriend. I read his words of shock and disbelief. Paula’s husband is now in the After.
I know that place well.
You are thrust into that place with a simple phone call.
Now I pray that Paula’s husband is surrounded by love in the After. That the intense grief from losing his wife and her abrupt, tragic ending will not shadow the eventual light.
I hope no one will say to him: “It was G-d’s will,” or “She’s in a better place,” or “Let me know if I can do anything.” (Just do something!) I hope no one will count the months or years of his grieving and tell him “it’s time to move on”.
No one ever knows the right thing to say to someone in mourning. The Jewish custom provides a simple script: “May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion. May her memory be a blessing.”
I leave you, dear readers, with my newest essay published by Women on Writing, which seems fitting at this moment—The Geometry of Grief.