I was fortunate to have a model of everlasting love – the marriage of my grandparents, who spent over sixty years together. Zaide loved Bubbie, saying “She looks just as beautiful today, as she did on our wedding day.” How could that be? Because, the soul is ageless and eternal; only the body ages. When two people are connected on the soul level, their attachment is eternal; their attraction flows from the soul, which is ever youthful. I saw their love every day, and at their 50th and 60th wedding anniversary parties.
The last time I saw my grandfather, he and Bubbie had just boarded a city bus back to their neighborhood. He stood, holding on to a ceiling strap, waving. Three days later, my grandfather suffered a heart attack. The doctors were able to revive him, but not for long. In the years that followed, there was not a single conversation with Bubbie in which she didn’t mention Zaidie, each time expressing her shock at his loss. I was disturbed by Bubbie’s mono-focus, sad that she wasn't moving on, and decided to help her. I read books about death and grieving, and memorized Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of grief. Armed with this “expertise,” I diagnosed my grandmother as being stuck, cycling in the “shock stage.” How could I move her to “acceptance?” I decided to confront her in our next conversation.
As I expected, she began to say, “He was so healthy. Remember how he waved goodbye from the bus? He was standing, so I would have a place to sit.”
I chimed in, “Bubbie, it’s been four years. You need to accept that he’s gone…”
She interrupted, “And if I had my arm cut off, would you say this to me? Just accept that it’s gone?”
I was startled into silence – and sudden understanding. Losing her husband wasn’t just a loss she could work through and get over. Bubbie was missing part of herself. What did I, married for single-digit years, know of an intertwined life of over sixty years?