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Monday, March 28, 2005

Dumb Struck

In it's 19th century usage, the word dumb didn't refer to a person's mental abilities (or lack thereof), but rather it was a synonym for 'mute', or 'unable to speak'.  One of the few surviving vestiges of this sense of the word is the expression 'dumb struck', a mildly offensive phrase (to people who can't speak) meaning to be struck speechless.

I woke up this morning (sounds like the start of a blues riff, right?), and found an e-mail waiting for me from one of my NY musician friends. It said that one of my first mentors in the music business, Gene Brusiloff, had been hospitalized by a serious heart attack. 

Gene had offered a wonderful example to me of how to comport myself... what to play... what NOT to play... and basically showed me how to be a mentch.  On the occasions that I sat next to him on the bandstand, I felt as though I'd gotten a free music theory lesson.  I was never officially one of his students, but anyone who knew him could say they learned many lessons from him. 

The e-mail frightened me, as this was at least his second major heart attack (the first one forced his retirement from performing), but he was still alive.

What's the old saying? "Where there's life... there's hope."

Off I went to work with memories of the gigs we had played together... each one a rare treat I was only now appreciating.

Then while I was at work I got a call telling me that two brother's with whom I am very close had lost their younger brother during the night.  He'd tucked his kids into bed, gone to sleep next to his wife and never woken up in the morning. 

Just like that. Game over.

The rest of the day was spent in a fog of driving to Jerusalem... watching the horror show of a family burying a young man who just yesterday had no clue he had arrived at the jumping-off point.

By the time I got home I needed a few minutes to myself.

I gave the kids their hello kisses and headed downstairs to check my e-mail and do some online reading before supper.

The subject line of the first e-mail I opened knocked the wind out of me. It read: "Sad News", and was from the same friend who had written to tell me about Gene's heart attack.

With trembling hands I clicked open the e-mail and numbly read about the senseless end of yet another life.  Senseless in the sense that I was somehow not privy to G-D's master plan... and that I suddenly felt like I've been playing a game whose rules I didn't fully understand.

I don't get it.  It seems as though I had just opened a fresh sleeve of cherry Pez. All this time I've been reaching into my pocket and eating great handfuls of those sweet candies... and now I am terrified that I really have no idea how many are left!  Are there any at all left down there among the pocket lint and change?  Maybe just a few?   Why wasn't I savoring every one???

How could I have been so short-sighted and childish?!

Treppenwitz has always been a comfortable refuge for me... a creative outlet, as well as a rain bucket where many special people shower me with their wit and wisdom. It was never intended to be a psychiatrist's couch, and I have tried very hard not to use it (or you) as a tool to exorcise my demons... and I don't intend to start now.

I may take a few days off.   I'm not in a very good place right now.

I am, to use a familiar expression, 'dumb struck'

I have nothing useful or witty to say... so I'll leave you with some thoughtful words from Jordan Hirsch... another of the musician friends I left behind when I moved to Israel:

"We have entered the part of our lives where we can no longer take our immortality for granted. We can be paralyzed by fear, or emboldened by the opportunity each day brings. Your words, and the love of friends near and far, present or softly treading in the background, are words not to live by, but to seize life by."

Posted by David Bogner on March 28, 2005 | Permalink


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Miserable. Two losses on the same day.

I'm sorry.

I'll miss your writing during your absence, but you should be absent until it helps you to return.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Mar 28, 2005 11:30:32 PM

Sorry for your losses. I can only imagine how difficult it all must be to deal with.
Your Pez metaphor reminds me of this passage from Lemony Snicket's The Reptile Room:

"It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things."

Here's hoping your readjustment isn't too painful.

Posted by: Reuven | Mar 29, 2005 12:25:27 AM

Eloquent, as always. I'm very sorry for your losses.
When things become clear, the space you'll be in will be one where you'll be grateful and happy for eiher knowing these people or knowing of these people. Your life was affected. And isn't that really what it's all about? People affecting each others' lives? I think so.

Posted by: val | Mar 29, 2005 1:12:24 AM


I am so very sorry. For you. And for the families of your friends. I have no words of comfort to give you. I wish I did. But please accept my deepest sympathies and know that we're all thinking of you. And we'll be here for you if you need us and when you come back.


Take care,

Posted by: Carol | Mar 29, 2005 4:26:28 AM

How absolutely awful. I am so sorry.

My father died very suddenly when I was a teenager, from a superflu bug/ possible asthma attack (he was not asthmatic). It made me very aware that every single day is a precious gift. We never know in advance how much time we will have with people. Yet we cannot live in a paralysis of fear either. We have to make commitments based on expecting others still to be around for years to come, in order to function. We must trust G-d to help us when things change in ways we cannot understand or be prepared for. It's one of the hardest challenges He ever gives us.

I know there isn't much one can say that helps, but may G-d help and comfort you, and the families of those who were lost, at this dreadful time.

Posted by: Alice | Mar 29, 2005 12:47:30 PM

So sorry for you and your losses. I have no words to say that will make it better, but know that G-d has His master plan. He knows what is best for the world and we are not privy to see the big picture. Our lives are small pieces of a very large, complicated puzzle.

Posted by: Essie | Mar 29, 2005 6:49:14 PM

take your time.
we'll be here.

Posted by: lisa | Mar 29, 2005 7:24:51 PM

I'm sorry. take care.
hug those kids. I'll make sure I do.

Posted by: timna | Mar 29, 2005 10:33:58 PM

You convey your feelings so well; it's obvious that you're devastated. I'm so sorry...

Posted by: Lisa | Mar 30, 2005 12:13:07 AM

You convey your feelings so well; it's obvious that you're devastated. I'm so sorry...

Posted by: Lisa | Mar 30, 2005 12:19:01 AM

I'm so sorry for your losses, David.

Come back when you can.

Posted by: Rahel | Mar 30, 2005 2:17:05 AM

You will be in all of our thoughts, David.
*Hugs* from afar.

Posted by: Bayou | Mar 30, 2005 2:41:14 AM

I second that Cajun hug, David. I know where you are; I was there recently myself, albeit in a slightly different way.


Posted by: Lachlan | Mar 30, 2005 6:40:54 AM

You are all very kind... and I seem to be a bit of a drama queen.

These were not my losses (in the traditional sense), and I have no right to accept such heartfelt condolences. My problem is simply one of feeling terribly vulnerable and mortal. Any reasonable person would have had a sense of these two related feelings long since... but as with most things I seem to be a late bloomer.

Thank you again for your wishes and friendly words. I hope not to be out-of-sorts for too long.

Posted by: David | Mar 30, 2005 8:50:05 AM

I know it's been a hard year for you in this respect. I just hope that the rest of it is filled with only smachot.

And if you ever need someone just to talk to, feel free to drop me a line.

Posted by: Dave | Mar 30, 2005 9:35:53 AM

David, just because you don't feel that these losses were yours in the traditional sense doesn't mean that you don't deserve to accept heartfelt condolences. You still feel the loss of two no doubt wonderful people from this world. You sympathize for their loved ones. It impacts you emotionally. Our condolences are still there for you. Please feel okay about accepting them.

As for feeling to be a late bloomer, better you should not experience such feelings until you're well into your adult years. Because, G-d willing, no one should ever be an early bloomer in this respect. Trust me on that.

Posted by: Carol | Mar 30, 2005 10:26:45 AM

I seem to be a late bloomer

Nothing wrong with that at all. Some of us learned about these things far sooner than we wanted to. Hang in there, it will get better.

Posted by: Jack | Mar 30, 2005 5:05:02 PM

Dear David,
don't call yourself a drama queen, please. You're unhappy and have the right to be so. I'm sorry for your losses and wish I could help. Take your time but remember there are people who like to hear your voice and share your insights. Not only about the good and funny sides of the world, but also about the sad and tragic. You seem to have separated from a number of people lately. I'm truly sorry.

Posted by: Lila | Mar 31, 2005 3:20:26 PM

You are not a drama queen. We have no control over how these things hit us. Take your time.

Posted by: Tanya | Mar 31, 2005 7:34:54 PM

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