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The Weeping Willow


Rebecca OUP-US

The Weeping Willow: Encounters With Grief collects real-life stories which teach lessons about coping with grief, I have excerpted one of the stories below. Lynne Dale Halamish and Doron Hermoni the authors of this volume, share how they work with a person to get at the truth of their grief.

What Is The Gain?: Cost Versus Benefit

It had been months since Shai’s disease first showed itself. This disease would kill this small boy. By the lost look of his father, Benjamin, it appeared that it might kill him too.

This illness was vicious, taking any small gains Shai had managed in his four years of life and slowly reversing them, until this child who had run and played with all his friends was now bedridden. He had only power to slightly move the ends of his fingers. He couldn’t even breathe unassisted. It was as if all his muscles had melted away. His life would probably be over within the year. In the meantime, the struggle was with the pain and with his father’s hopelessness. Shai somehow managed to enjoy every small attention. Could it be that he didn’t remember that less than half a year ago, he had been running with his friends?

weeping-willow.jpgBenjamin and I met, as we did weekly, to talk about setbacks, frustrations, and how to plan your life, your week, your day . . . or only your hour, when your only child was living in the deep shadow of death.

After about twenty minutes the words ran out, as often happened in these meetings. There was not always a way to mold pain into syllables. We sat in silence for a while. Then Benjamin turned and looked at me without speaking.

‘‘Benjamin,’’ I began, ‘‘What have you gained from Shai’s illness?’’

‘‘What?!’’ he whispered hoarsely. ‘‘What could I have possibly gained?’’

I waited a moment before continuing. ‘‘Benjamin, for everything in life—everything—there is a price and a possibility of profit. Everything.’’

‘‘I don’t understand.’’

‘‘Every situation, however horrible, carries with it a possibility of a gift, a gain, a benefit. The price and the benefit are not usually equal. Sometimes, as with Shai, the price is unspeakable and the gain may be small. Sometimes, the price is small and the gain large or any combination in between.

‘‘The difference between the price and the benefit is that the price is fixed. You cannot change it. You cannot avoid it. The benefit is optional. You usually have to look hard just to find it. It is frequently hard to agree to take the gain because it seems somehow profane to benefit from, for example, Shai’s pain or illness.’’

He continued to look at me silently, waiting for me to continue.

‘‘There is always the possibility of a gain. It is an option—you can take it or leave it. Whichever you choose, it doesn’t affect the price in any way.’’

‘‘So what should I do?’’ Benjamin asked helplessly.

‘‘First look for the benefit. Then decide.’’

‘‘What possible benefit could there be?’’

‘‘It could be anything. Changes you have had to make to accommodate your son’s illness—changes that could be good.’’

He thought for a few moments.

‘‘All my life, I’ve been shy, afraid, really, of any confrontation. I made sure I was always in the background, or I would agree with everyone. Anything to avoid confrontation.’’ He looked down at the floor for a moment and then looked up.


He paused. ‘‘I have had to fight with everyone. It took a long time to figure out what was happening to Shai. I knew something was wrong, but everyone insisted I was being hysterical. I insisted on a second opinion, then a third opinion. I brought him to the best doctors in the country, insisted on medical coverage. I had to fight for him. I learned to fight! I learned to fight. ‘‘ He began to cry. ‘‘I learned to fight . . . ’’ he murmured.

I waited until Benjamin’s tears subsided and his eyes met mine.

‘‘Benjamin,’’ I said, ‘‘This is a gift from Shai. Don’t lose it.’’

_ With every situation comes a price and the possibility of a benefit.
_ The price is fixed, and the benefit is optional.
_ If you are already paying the price, it is wise to take the benefit.
_ Whether you take or leave the benefit, the price remains the same.

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