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  • Writer's pictureAriel Tovlev

Lessons in Grief Taught by a Teenager

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

A couple years ago, one of my professors died from an illness we all hoped she’d recover from. The whole college was in mourning over this great loss. We knew the college would not be the same without her expertise, her scholarship, her gentle style of teaching. The school put together a Zoom meeting to join together in our grief.

The meeting was comprised of people from the college along with my professor’s husband and daughter. We each had time to honor the memory of the person we lost.

After many people spoke about her accomplishments, the daughter unmuted herself. “I don’t care about her accomplishments,” she said. “I don’t care that she had more to publish. She was my mom. I just want my mom back.”

My cheeks flushed in recognition of this truth. Here we were talking about worldly matters, when this person lost a soul connection.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in accomplishments. We feel like a person of stature is measured by the great things they’ve done. But to the people who loved them, they didn’t love them because of their greatness. They loved them because of their goodness.

I didn’t know Rabbi David Ellenson, z”l. I knew of him, of course; he was a great of our time. But in seeing the memories of him shared in the wake of his death, I am reminded that the outpouring of grief is not based on his greatness; his memory will be for a blessing because of his goodness.

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