Twice this week, I have told Allie's story. Once briefly and once in more detail. Both times, my very sympathetic listeners tilted their heads so far that I was sure their heads were going to roll right off their necks. But that's ok. I don't mind the head tilt or the look of "holy crap!" that crosses their faces as it reminds me that it is perfectly normal to still be sad and still be mourning and to still be all over the place because our daughter was born still.
Last weekend, we went to visit my college roommate who lives outside of DC. We spent Saturday at the United States Holocaust Museum. Gary and I visit every Fall for a touristy weekend - one where we spend at least a few hours doing something "smart". I had suggested visiting this museum in the past and it always seemed kinda heavy for the time we all had together. Last weekend, though, our mood was already somber and we decided it was the right place to go. And it was.
Standing there in virtual silence, we made our way through the museum. We went at our own pace and stopped to read all that we could and take in as much as we were able. The faces of the lost staring back at me gave me chills and reminded me why I am so proud to be Jewish and so proud of my heritage. Why I wanted our daughter to be raised Jewish. Why I want any other children of mine to be raised the same way.
That visit was not my first one. I went with my mom and step-dad when it first opened 20 years ago. I often write about the "me then" and the "me now" and I was trying to picture a college-age me walking through the exhibits and how I felt. I know I was moved and I know I was touched, but it seemed different as I walked through now. 20 years later and so much joy in that time, but so much pain, too. And then I realized it. My head was tilted. Almost the whole time.
It's natural to feel sympathy for the pain of others. It's natural to want to look away and to also want to help and to yell any cry and wonder why. It's natural to wish that no one ever experiences pain like you have felt.
When I am in certain situations (like I was standing in that museum), I get a flash of what it is and was like for our friends and family when Allie died. The wanting to help. The hatred of the pain. The unfairness of it all.
Was losing our daughter anything like the death of 6 million Jews and thousands and millions of others that were different for whatever reason? Probably not. That would be pretty selfish of me to say so. Was losing our daughter as hard for me to understand as something like the Holocaust? Yes, it was. It is. My head is bobbing as I sit here and type. And I am not ashamed of that. Feel what you feel. React like you want to. Do what you must do. Just always remember. I urge you to never forget anyone that we have lost.