For columnist Bethany Mandel, tragedy eclipsed tragedy. But with time, she “forgave God” and learned to embrace life — the good and the not-so-good alike.
Mandel, who is Jewish, penned a column this week in which she wrote about her father’s suicide years ago, when she was a 19-year-old student studying at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
Her dad’s decision to take his life came not long before Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar:
I remember that Yom Kippur vividly though. The plans I had made to go to Hillel went by the wayside, and I instead went to the dining hall in the morning and stayed there all day. I treated it like an all-you-can-eat buffet at the King David Hotel instead of just a college dining hall. I skipped classes that day and just sat alone, eating, staring at a wall. I went back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and ate until I felt sick. I took it to be God’s payback for eating on Yom Kippur (it was probably just due to eating anything but cereal and milk at Rutgers University’s worst dining hall).
In the piece, Mandel went on to explain she had been mulling over the idea of writing a column about her father’s tragic suicide and “about my anger at God for making me an orphan at the ripe old age of 19.”
She wanted to write a column about forgiving the Almighty for circumstances she had blamed him for, but there was one problem: Mandel knew she had forgiven God, but she didn’t know when — or how — it happened.
Among the more personal things I’ve ever written. I wrote about my father’s suicide in the shadow of Yom Kippur. https://t.co/qeIzOJY0gi
— Bethany S. Mandel (@bethanyshondark) September 18, 2018
“I can’t quite figure out when it happened, or why; it wasn’t a conscious decision, but a gradual one,” she wrote. “Over time, as it happens, the pain dulled, and I was able to see through the clouds towards light again.”
Two years before her dad’s suicide, Mandel’s mother passed away. Mandel and her mom were planning to get matching tattoos, but her health deteriorating quickly and she died before she could go under the needle.
Mandel chose to get the tattoo in memory of her mother.
The tattoo, an image of the sun and moon, represent the fact that life “is cyclical.”
“Sometimes we have light, and sometimes, darkness,” she explained. “We must always remember when it’s light to embrace it, to treasure it, because it will soon become dark again. We can get through the darkness knowing that there is light coming again, that dawn always comes if we wait for it.”
That’s an important life lesson, the 32-year-old writer noted, her father never learned.
Following her dad’s death, Mandel went to the tattoo parlor again, this time for a Hebrew inscription. She now has a tattoo that reads, “Chai,” which means “alive.”
“I got it,” Mandel wrote, “because wanted to live life fully conscious, and live a life with no regrets.”
Read her full piece here.