The above phrase has been repeated more in the past few months and certainly over then entire tenure of our current President than anyone would have believed possible back in 1999. In fact I am willing to bet that more people have lost their jobs while Dubya has been in charge than in any other eight year period this side of the Great Depression.
And depression is a perfect word for what is going on in our minds and our country. The economy is depressed and the stock market has tumbled, taking much of our retirement money with it. Gasoline, while down a bit is at unprecedented levels and the general cost of living is staggering, especially for those out of work.
So am I depressed?
But am I to be blamed?
In my case I feel as though I am going through a death. I worked in the textile industry for almost 40 years. I did not start out to be ‘rag’ man. My chosen profession in college offered no placement when I graduated.
I was an electrical engineer with a side of and science.
Soon I may be working at a fast food place offering a side of fries!
In my born religion of Judaism we have a period after the initial shock of a death known as the Shiva. The parallels are intriguing. Without delving too deeply at this point into the ritual I will say that Shiva is a good thing developed to get the bereaved back into life in a healthy way after a necessary period of aloneness, mourning, and respect for the deceased.
After the loved one has been interred (that's buried for you heathens) those left behind return home for a period of between three and six days to mourn, reminisce, and receive friends and loved ones wishing to pay their respects. These visitors offer food and assistance in any way they can. Aside from tradition they realize that one day they themselves may very well be on the receiving end of a Shiva call or worse, the reason for that Shiva call.
After the Shiva period is the Shloshim which is Hebrew for thirty. This is the continuation of the Shiva and appropriately lasts until thirty days have passed. During this period the bereaved is allowed out of the house on a journey back into society. It is traditional that there be no great festivities or music or partying during the remaining twenty three days of this second stage of mourning. The more religious don’t even shave (applies to men only.)
My name is Bruce and I was laid off.
During the first few minutes after the death or more accurately the murder of my career I was in shock. But in keeping with another tradition of quick burial I immediately informed everyone I knew of the tragedy.
As in a real life death where the funeral home tries to milk as much money out of the bereaved family members before they come to their senses my old company is in the process of trying hard to screw me out of my earned severance and back vacation pay. But while this drama is being played out the Shiva portion of my ordeal continues unabated with friends and family e-mailing; calling; and visiting me.
These friends and family members are wonderful and keep me moving forward despite my underlying desire to either do some well deserved harm to the murderers or merely curl up and sleep, drink, or watch a movie or ten.
Today I had lunch with a good friend. This was the second day in a row that I had lunch with a good friend. They are both concerned and as perplexed as I with the circumstances that necessitated the noon repast but nevertheless joined me to pay for and break bread in the true Shiva spirit.
With a weekend on the immediate horizon I am now faced with the end of the lunches and the reality of stage two. In my case the Shloshim will involve a job search. I will enter it with solemn determination and no glee, but I will shave.
Yizkor or remembrance is a prayer and a way of keeping our lost loved ones in our hearts and minds. While the religious perform this act in a Synagogue I will occasionally remember my days at the old place in a different way and at various times, most likely while on the toilet.
The final stage of the bereavement is the unveiling of a stone at the grave site. This commemorates the one year anniversary of the loss. Life officially returns to normal.
While I will most likely not get stoned on this date in 2009 I do believe I will commemorate it with a drink or two.
And if there is any justice in this world perhaps, just perhaps I will be able to repay the favor and pay a Shiva call to the location of and in honor of my former company.
And let us all say, “Amen.”