Within a week, I went to two funerals and four shiva calls, one of my two guinea pigs died, Queen Elizabeth died, and it was the twenty-first anniversary of 9/11. There are some individuals who may look at this week and conclude that there is nothing but the dead and dying back in my little town. But I try to learn something from each experience.
Each incident deserves an article by itself. However, I will briefly address each one. At one of the funerals, cell phones went off ten times during the ceremony. It once happened to me but at least I had an excuse. It was the first funeral right after my father’s that I went to. The deceased was a judge who died relatively young and had worked at the court the same time as my father. I was so tense about the situation that I accidently turned my ringer on instead of off. In contrast, I doubt any of the ten people were in the same position. Also, why do people not check their phones after the first time a cell phone goes off? What made it even worse was that one of the mourner’s pet peeves is phones that go off in shul. The problem of phones going off is one that does not divide the orthodox community. All segments are offenders. In contrast, were those who had to go through the trauma of losing a parent and yet considered the needs of others. They sat shiva part of the time in Kew Gardens Hills or other local areas instead of their parents’ home to make it convenient for people in those areas to come.
This was the second guinea pig to die at six years old, which according to vets is an old age. The major difference is that the first one, Macaroon, was the only guinea pig while he was our pet, and the second one, Chestnut, had a buddy, Oreo. When there is only one guinea pig and it dies, then the focus is solely on the deceased animals and how to move forward without having one. However, when there are two and one dies, the focus also must be on the mental health of the surviving guinea pig. Guinea pigs are very social animals. Oreo and Chestnut had been together for most of their lives. Depression is common when they lose a friend and are now alone. Therefore, two days after Chestnut’s death, I, along with my two daughters living at home, went to an animal shelter to find another guinea pig. We ended up finding one named Squirrel, who is approximately a year old. However, you cannot put them together right away. Their cages are next to each other, and they have seen each other. This set-up should be for about a week. Hopefully, they will get along. Right now, Oreo still seems to be very sad.
I also saw that the actions of the animals were better judges of their situation than what the vets concluded, or tests showed. On Wednesday, Chestnut began to look sick. On Thursday, the day before we took Chestnut to the vet, Oreo had gone over to him, and it seemed like he was trying to comfort Chestnut. I took Chestnut to the vet the following morning. It appeared to me that he had an upper respiratory condition. I was correct. He was given various tests which came out normal, except that he had an upper respiratory condition that required seven days of antibiotics. Plus, we had to feed Chestnut food by a dropper. The vet did not seem concerned about Chestnut’s condition as long as Chestnut took his medicine and ingested some food. The first time we did it, Chestnut was not happy but took it. After we put him back in the cage, Oreo seemed concerned about Chestnut. The second time we gave him the medicine and fed him, Chestnut started to cry. In all the years that we had him, he had never cried. He died within a couple of hours. He must have known that the end was near. Oreo realized that Chestnut had died and seemed upset. He would not move from him except to get food.
I have never had any interest in the Royal Family. Queen Elizabeth really had no power. So it shouldn’t matter whether she reigned for one day or seventy years. Then I saw the outpouring of grief by the British people upon her death. The country mourned along with her family. During the time that Elizabeth was Queen, Great Britain’s governments have come and gone, the latest being Boris Johnson as prime minister. There have been many crises but only one constant: Queen Elizabeth. She gave stability to the country in an apolitical manner. Since the United States does not have a monarchy, we do not have this option. The closest we have is the Federal Court system where the judges, including the United States Supreme Court, have lifetime appointments. Also, there is a notion of stare decisis. This gives stability to a branch of a government which is supposed to be apolitical.
Finally, it is hard to believe that it has been twenty-one years since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I am sure that we of a certain age remember what we were doing that day and what happened. However, I try to watch video of the events of that day. It is important every year to see the attack in real time as seen by those who suffered. What upsets me as time passes is that some people are not remembering the attack, rather they are using it as springboard to discuss contemporary public situations. I have seen this from both Democrats and Republicans. If you want to make such comparisons, do not do it on September 11. That is the date to remember not only the attacks but the loss of life and impact on many of those who survived. Put the politics away for one day.
It was a hard week, but one needs to dwell on the lessons and not the sorrow. Rosh HaShanah is coming. Use these events as a way to motivate change in our outlook on life and how we live every day.