I arrive at the port with a backpack. Accompanied by some friends, I am ready to go but I am not exactly sure why I am here at all, in the heart of this carnival atmosphere. A majestic, old-fashioned ship is waiting at the dock, its wooden deck trimmed with brass railing. There is a crowd of thousands pulsating with the music of marching bands, confetti is falling from the sky and brightly decorated men and women in colorful feathers are sitting atop majestic horses.
I see familiar faces in the sea of celebration, everyone I have ever known in Israel,, and so many people I don’t know.
I stop one of Tsiki’s best friends and pull him close. “What is happening?? Why are we all here?”
“Don’t you know? He looks at me hesitantly. “They found a way to bring Tsiki back. He’s here.”
My insides twist and turn at the news. I rush through the crowds trying to find my way onto the boat. I keep trying to digest what I heard as I search for a quiet spot on the vessel, I walk in a maze through restaurants and lobbies in this massive ship, full of celebration, full of people. The maze finally brings me to a long carpeted hallway and I set my bag next to a soft, velvet couch, which i fall into and I sit there breathing slowly, intensely rubbing my temples.
If he’s here, where is he?
Why are they doing this?
How can this be possible?
In this state, I still I can’t comprehend how it’s possible. My brain is not processing this new reality.
And then I become angry. I become angry because the last thirteen years has brought a lot of pain and the last 13 years has also brought a lot of joy and that joy happened after he died. I can’t suddenly change the life I have, 13 years in the making.
And when I look up, I see Tsiki walking down this long corridor, accompanied by two figures. He is shorter than he was supposed to be, his clothing hanging loosely on his pale frame. He is not the long and lean young man of 2004. His skin is not glowing from the Thailand sun and his sandy brown hair is not highlighted from the Israeli summer.
“Is it really you?” I ask him.
“Ya it’s me.” he hesitantly replies.
And then, I become urgent, impatient. “NO. NO. I need to know if it’s YOU. Is it your heart inside, and I don’t mean your beating heart, am I speaking to your נפש ? ?
My heart is pounding as my body jerks itself out of this dream. I heavily breath as I grab David’s arm and hold onto it tightly. The pieces of the dream fall around me and are replaced by the familiar shadows of our bedroom: the echo of the refrigerator fan turning on. The low grumble of our dog in the living room. Silence, because our babies are deeply sleeping in their rooms in the early morning.
I recently took part in a study on grief. It’s been ongoing, the researcher Dr. Ofri Bar-Nadav, from the International Center for the Study of Loss, Bereavement and Human Resilience, Department of Psychology, University of Haifa, is no stranger to myself or the group I am a member of, he has has helped the Girlfriends of Fallen Soldiers (GFIDF) tremendously throughout the years. But I shy away from most things like this, my Hebrew sucks and thirteen years later, I hate confronting this failure. But Dr. Bar-Nadav is patient, and he’s willing to do the interview in English, so I concede.
There are a lot of questions about life after loss, what my relationship with Tsiki was like..did we fight? (no). What my relationships look like now (“Mostly positive!” I assure him.), and where my grief is now, 13 years later. “Everything is excellent.” I proudly answer Dr. Bar-Nadav. My kids call Tsiki’s parents Sabba and Safta. I had a very positive relationship with Tsiki. I have a wonderful marriage. I love my life.
I love my life.
I am thankful everyday for the life i lead.
But through all those questions, some truths come out. I STILL put on the Hamsa necklace Tsiki gave me when I am going through tough times. This year especially, in dealing with a serious family illness, this necklace brought me comfort, brought me strength. 13 years later, I STILL keeps Tsiki’s army bathrobe hanging in our family bathroom, inconspicuously, under the 5 towels used daily.
Tonight, another year has gone by and my heart has been heavy since last week. No matter how much wonder and joy I carry in this very moment, 13 years ago I lived through the absolute darkest moments of my life. 13 years ago, I didn’t think I could make it in a world without Tsiki Eyal. My sadness was so immense that I was certain I could not love or be loved again.
Tsiki’s spirit was contagious and every single day I had with him was better than the last. When he died, we all lost something fucking beautiful. I’m sorry it ever happened- but Tsiki Eyal will never be forgotten and will never cease to be loved by all of us.
Remembering Tsiki Eyal.