Confronting the Unthinkable

This blog post is dedicated with love to the memory of Daniel Ae Roo Beer, age 11 years and six days. And it is dedicated to his grief-filled parents and brother as they put one foot in front of the other, moment by moment, day by day. I pray that my words are healing to the Beer family, to the many communities who mourn Daniel, and to anyone who faces sudden, traumatic loss. May we all be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Daniel Beer zl
There is suffering and sorrow in the world. We do not look it in the face every day; we push it away because we have lives to live and children to raise and joy to seek. We know that suffering exists in this world, but thank God, we choose life.
So when sorrow hits us hard, when the loss is personal, breaking our hearts, we are in shock. We ask, “How could this be? How could this happen?”
Some of us believe we have answers based on our experience or belief or non-belief. I am familiar with the theories and the theologies. But when I face suffering as a member of a community, when I am a part of the sorrow, there is only one thing that I know. I know that I do not know why.
The loss of Daniel cannot be fixed. Answers to the question of why it happened cannot fix the reality of Daniel’s being gone from our lives. It cannot be fixed. But it can be healed.
Judaism teaches us how to heal: we heal by choosing life. Daniel showed us how by embracing life for 11 years, every moment of it, and all its fullness and luxury and joy. How can anyone in the community who loved Daniel find the way back to that kind of living from out of suffering and sorrow?
How does anyone find a way back toward life from out of the depths of loss?
Each one of us understands that we are part of concentric circles of caring. An immediate family, in the grip of loss, is the innermost circle. That is where our focus must go.
From our place outside of the most inner circle…
We choose to be quiet rather than offer theories.
We choose to be silent rather than offer opinions.
We listen first, with open hearts, without judgment, rather than distract with details and stories and any conversation other than that which is before us.
We understand the unique nature of every loss rather than offer our own experience without being asked for it.
Ultimately, Judaism teaches that healing begins when we offer nothing but our presence. Think of all the concentric circles. Imagine the power of everyone offering loving presence, directed inward toward the innermost circle, hoping to begin the process of healing.
All of us who knew and loved Daniel Beer learned from him that the world is a joyous place. Daniel’s life taught us that curiosity, limitless love, humor and kindness are the best way to live a life. Everything has changed now, except for one important thing: Daniel’s life lessons remain. The healing begins when we turn toward the joy that defined Daniel’s life.
HaMakom y’nachem etchem b’toch sha’ar avelei Tzion v’Yerushalayim. May the One who is the Place of Comfort give comfort to you among all of those who mourn in our communities.
L’shalom, Rabbi Paula Mack Drill


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8 responses to “Confronting the Unthinkable”

  1. perrygrosser says :

    You Never “heal” from losing a child – never. You just learn how to move forward and learn how to deal with your loss – but to say that judiasm teaches you to heal is not realistic and does not ever happen.

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Thank you for your comment. I agree with you totally. You are clearly writing from personal experience.
      In my experience as a social worker and as a community rabbi, the pain of losing a child is never healed. You are correct.
      But in my understanding of Jewish living, healing does indeed take place. Healing is not curing. Healing is not fixing. Healing is the ability to continue loving, remembering, and finding the strength eventually to bring your own unique gifts to the world.
      Sincerely, Rabbi Paula Mack Drill

      • Walking Nude says :

        Thank you for acknowledging the difference from curing and healing. I wholeheartedly agree. My Mom lost her first born, my adult sister, and she died from hearr-break 18 days later. In her family of origin, she lost her adult brother, who was never ill, to a heart attack two weeks after her Mom passed.

  2. Walking Nude says :

    To all those who have no families for guidance and direction, including yours truly, listen to the wisdom of Rabbi Paula Mack Drill in this beautiful dedication to the Beer family (Sam. Jill and Ethan) and walk softly and keep Daniel’s memories alive by living well. Be kind. Lana Ackaway

  3. Faye Dinowitz says :

    Beautifully said

  4. Rhonda Plawner says :

    Rabbi Drill you always have beautiful words to comfort the bereaved from your spiritual heart, yet bring reality to a most difficult situation with words from your intellectual heart.

  5. J. Scott (Yitzchak) Strauss says :

    It always sadden me when a child passes away. He/She will never have a chance to fulfill his/her life, especially becoming an adult. The lack of experiences is meaningless. May his memory be blessed forever.

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