Sunday, March 7, 2021

Passing of a Chevra Member

 In simple terms the Hebrew word “chevra” connotes a group of like minded men and women who share common values and beliefs. A society.

To be part of a chevra, residency in close proximity is not required. Political leanings might be polarized, economic status could be disproportionate, education levels and professions might be different, family status need not be uniform.

You don’t have to be best friends with every member of your chevra, but it is universally understood that in a crisis, large or small, you would be available without hesitation to do whatever is necessary or asked.

What matters is that one cares for the other. Sort of like members of a military platoon, like in “Band of Brothers.” A chevra transcends any defining code. Chevra celebrate good times together and comfort each other when tragedy or just the normal ebb of human existence intrudes, as it inevitably will.

The serenity of the chevra Gilda and I belong to was pierced Saturday morning by the sudden death of Howard Silver. Five months shy of his 72nd birthday, Howard’s passing exposed the vulnerability of the dozen or so couples in our chevra, all in the seventh or eighth decades of our lives.

Most of us latched onto our chevra 35-40 years ago when we moved to White Plains, joined Temple Israel Center, and enrolled our children in the Solomon Schechter School (now the Leffell School).

Our children played sports together, performed in plays together, partied together. We parents attended their bar and bat mitzvahs, their weddings and sat shiva with them when a grandparent passed away.

After our daughter Ellie went off to college she complained that we lived in a bubble. It was hard for her to relate to other students. None of our chevra divorced. None had drug or alcohol dependencies. No one was abusive or arrested.

Perhaps unique among a chevra of our age, it has been 31 years since a member of our group, Michael Lauchheimer, had died. Through several coronary issues and assorted minor ailments we survived intact. Howard’s passing shattered any illusion of invincibility.

I didn’t consult anyone but I am sure many like me had difficulty falling asleep Saturday night. Most of this blog was written between 1 and 2 am.

Saturday, for Gilda and me, started out in a joyous way. Saturday was my 72nd birthday. Calls from friends and relatives filtered in throughout the day.

Birthdays are supposed to be merry occasions, a day to remember happy times. And so it was for me as I sat at my desk writing a whimsical blog about past birthday celebrations when a 4 pm call from one of our chevra brought overwhelming sadness into our lives.

More than a friend passed away Saturday.