I Never Knew

Aug 12, 2019 by

I Never Knew

I never knew. 

I never knew what this felt like. 
I really never knew. 

27 years as a rabbi, caring for others and yet,
I never knew. 

After all those sermons about death and dying, about loss and living on, 
I never knew. 

Through the innumerable condolence calls, leading countless shiva minyanim, in fact
I never knew. 

Over years of checking in on others, 
In late night calls and texts 
Just so they would know 
They were not alone, 
That we hadn’t forgotten, Still
I never knew. 

Even after officiating at funeral after funeral after funeral, 
Until the losses piled up so high that 
They became part of the cycle of life 
Yet each one representing a precious moment of memory, a unique life, 
For some reason
I never knew. 

Yes
He was old
And yes 
He was ill
And yes 
He was ready
And yet, still

While my loss is no greater, and 
My pain is no sharper, while
My sadness is no deeper
Than those of countless others. 
Still

This sadness, this sorrow
Is like no other
Because although I have counseled many others
Through the valley of the shadow of death, 
Nonetheless 

Nonetheless
Today this death is mine

And I am starting to realize:
The emptiness of loss
The sadness of what isn’t anymore
The foreverness of it all. 

You see
My dad is dead. 
And what is that like? 

I think 
I wish 
I never knew.


Rabbi Paul Kipnes serves Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA.

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3 Comments

  1. Liz Ornstein

    Thank you,Rabbi, for sharing this heartbreaking and heartwarming reflection. I am a psychologist and over the last 30+ years I, like you, shepherded countless clients through the grief of their losses. It was only when I lost my parents (within one year) that I also realized that “I never knew.” I learned (because I was taught during my training) to never say to a client, “I know how you feel.” Now I know why.

  2. Rabbi Anne Brener

    Paul, please call on me. Anne Brener

  3. Monique Mayer

    Thank you so much for this, Paul.

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