Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Make Room For Chapter 2:

A good friend, a widower, told me once that the main bones of contention in chapter 2 are children and money. In case you wonder about the meaning of  “chapter 2," in Hebrew it is the title of the meaningful relationship which occurs if or when “chapter 1,” in which people get married and have children, ends.

Many people are lucky and have only one chapter in their life, but others, due to unfortunate circumstances such as death or divorce, are left on their own. Some of them choose to turn a new page

My husband and I met when I was 19 and he was 22, and were married for 32 years. We had planned to be together for at least another 30 years, but as the Yiddish expression wisely states: “man plans and God laughs”: at 52 I was all of a sudden a widow.

 It took time to come to term with that new label,  I even dreaded going to the Interior ministry to change my marital status on my identity card from “married” to a “widow.”

Being a researcher at heart one way to relate to my new reality was to investigate widowhood. I met different widows and widowers and talked to them about their feelings and about the crucial first year of bereavement. It was an attempt to make sense of the loss and perhaps to ease the pain by studying it .

It  also felt comfortable to surround myself with people like me, and gradually I found many new friends who were widowed. We easily connect;  it is almost as though we have our own secret  language. One of the new friends is my partner whom I met a year and a half after I became a widow. He told me that losing his wife after 30 years, he just knew that his partner For “chapter 2” would be a widow.

Yet as the name suggests, unlike the significant chapter 1, its successive is somewhat secondary. While the first chapter sets the action and the tone for the whole book, chapter 2 works best when it develops the themes of the first. If it doesn't it could confuse and irritate the reader, and may even lead to disbelief. John Fowles tried to play with readers' expectations in the two endings of The Magus and lost their trust.

Reality is not that different from literature and as chapter 2  tries to be independent and assumes a life of its own it often creates feelings of suspicion and even ill-will among children and other family members. And, as my friend suggested, sometimes this mistrust manifests itself in issues related to money. Thus like a skilled author, members of chapter 2 find themselves trying to give power and significance to their allotted chapter all the while keeping in mind promises and assumptions which were set in chapter 1.

This is not an easy task, in books and in real life.

But for me chapter 2 is more than just having a meaningful relationship, it is the name of the new life which has emerged from the ashes. Obviously this phase is characterized by many challenges, but it also offers unexpected rewards and joful moments. One of them happened not so long ago, in my home when a group of us sat together to a New Year dinner. Out of 11 guests 7 were widowed. We were not gloomy, quite the contrary, we were a group of people whose loss enabled  us to create new meaningful relationships. We felt happy and close, almost like a family-- the family of Chapter 2.

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