Now that the one-year anniversary of Roneet’s passing has taken place I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the strategies, tools, and approaches that I have taken to move forward in life in the absence of her physical absence.I do emphasize her physical absence because her spirit is still with me and so is her voice in my head, which I don’t think will ever go away because she was one who never hesitated to share her opinion no matter the subject matter. As a result, when I’m thinking about something and what the right course of action might be, her voice inevitably materializes to help guide me. This is a great thing not only because it helps keep her memory alive for me, but she had great judgment and intuition so it is a gift to have access to her wise counsel.
I did a check-in awhile back about actions I was taking that were helping me cope and progress without her. Now that I’ve had more time to reflect and to be living my life in her physical absence. I wanted to do an update as to where I’m at now and some lessons learned. I like to come up with silly patterns to keep a congruity with the points I’m trying to convey. In that vein, I have come up with words that start with the formidable letter of F that have helped me quite a bit. So without further ado, let me get started.
The 7 F’s of Moving Forward Without Roneet
Faith – I have had the opportunity to delve more deeply into my Jewish faith in the aftermath of her loss and it has been extremely helpful. Judaism is very much about the here and now and by doing good deeds today we can help repair the world and hopefully someday do such good that we will create a heaven on earth and reunite with those who have passed. By doing for others (“mitzvahs”) and restraining from negative acts, we can do our part to leave the world a little better than we found it and in the course of doing so find that we have developed a closer relationship with God and humanity in general. If we can direct our thought, speech, and action towards the healthy and divine we not only honor those who have passed but can do our small part to better the here and now while feeling better about ourselves.
Family – I cannot overemphasize enough how important family has been through this whole ordeal. The loss of Roneet has bound us more tightly together. This is something that she always worked for and would have wanted as a result of her untimely passing. Roneet was the ultimate connector, especially when it came to family, and she loved being deeply connected to people and she wanted nothing more than our family to be close, especially our kids. Family is, and always will be, a very important part of my life and I look forward to continuing to grow closer to them and I know doing so will be one of the greatest ways to honor Roneet.
Friends (relationships) – I have been extremely fortunate to have wonderful friends who have been there for me that have reached out to see how I am doing and others that I have spent time with that have become a greater part of my life. These connections and relationships have meant so much to me and have helped me persevere and remain hopeful and optimistic. Roneet was blessed with so many close friends and deep relationships and I would tend to ride her coattails. In her absence, this is no longer possible but it’s vital to my health and well being that I make sure that I intertwine my life with others and not default to isolation. I am particularly lucky that I love the people with whom I work and that I get not only a lot of mental stimulation from working closely with them, but a lot of social benefits as well. They are warm, kind, intelligent, compassionate, and just fun to spend time with. CWS is a very special place to work and I have been lucky that I have had the great fortune to be there for over 32 years. Roneet knew how special it was and, conversely, they knew the same about her.
Focus – Our minds are nourished by focus and concentration. This is particularly challenging in our distracted age. For this reason, developing healthy habits is essential to our mental and physical well being. I have made a concerted effort to build more focus and discipline in my life in the aftermath of Roneet’s passing. I have to have healthy habits to get me out of bed and to move forward in life.
- Making my bed every day
- Taking at least 30 seconds of a cold shower daily
- Making my daily smoothie
- Working out with a trainer twice a week
- Playing tennis usually 2-4 times a week
- Writing my blog weekly
- Reading consistently
- Not missing a day of work due to sickness since I returned after Roneet’s passing
- Putting a greater emphasis on getting at least seven hours of sleep a night
- Staying in close touch with my kids and doing all I can to help foster their independence to and to take on new challenges to enhance their life skills
This next one is a little bit cheating but since I have poetic license so here goes.
Filanthropy – Yes, I know, it’s spelled Ph, but since it has an F sound I included it here as well. This has been a new focus of my life and one that I jumped into fairly aggressively in the aftermath of Roneet’s passing and I am really glad that I did. I have written about this before, but the people and the organizations that I’m supporting are ones headed by individuals who have a deep passion for what they do and who they are serving. I am sure that Roneet would be proud to be supporting them as well. My support of them helps connect me to her and enables me to think of others and not just myself.
I have focused on the following causes:
- Establishing the Roneet Carmell Memorial Endowment Fund in support of Dr. Yama Akbari at the University of California Irvine
- The Pardes Institute in Jerusalem
- Helping to establish the Roneet Carmell Center for Jewish Life in Tustin, CA through the purchase of a great site for the future home of the center
- Establishing the Roneet Carmell Community Center for a village in Zambia through Tevel b’Tzedek. The center is scheduled to open in February and I’m hoping to visit it in February or March. [UPDATE] The Roneet Carmell Agricultural Training Center opened in Zambia March 2020 combining highly motivated local farmers with capital, technology, and a committed local team who are now moving from subsistence to sustainability.
Fitness – This has been essential to my health and well being. I have continued to work out with a trainer twice a week and I have been playing tennis two to four times per week when I’m in town. I also hike from time to time and ride my bike, although I have been doing less of this since I started playing tennis. I love tennis for the social interaction, the mental acuity that’s required to play effectively, the sprinting that comes with it, the competitiveness, and diving down deeply when I feel like the tank is running low on gas and finding that reservoir of strength to persevere. Adding tennis to my life has improved the quality of my life immensely and I will be forever grateful to the person that brought me back to the sport and has helped keep me going with it.
Fun – It is important to remember that life is for the living, and it’s not supposed to be lived with deep remorse, regret, and negativity. Roneet was an extremely joyous and happy person. In fact, Roneet means happiness in Hebrew. She loved having a good time even in the wake of sorrow and sadness as she knew she had a gift for lifting the spirits of others. She would feel pain and sorrow deeply but after she processed them she was able to release and let go and move forward and live life joyfully and help bring others together and do the same for them. And I think this is the situation that I’m in now and I know she would want me to be enjoying life and to be interacting with the world, to be loving my kids, to be growing, challenging myself, and doing my best to inspire others to do the same.
I will wrap up by saying how proud I am of my two kids Jacob and Ariella. They have suffered a devastating loss, as we all have, but they in particular. Their mom was so involved in their lives and so loving and caring and such a powerful presence that her absence has been heartbreaking and intensely painful. And yet, in spite of this, they have grown in so many ways. They have taken on so much more responsibility and have continued to do what life calls of them in spite of losing their mother. And as time goes by, I think their growth in some ways will no longer be in spite of but because of, and recognizing that this is what their mom would have wanted from them. I know she is so proud of them because they have risen to the challenge above and beyond the call of duty.
And for my third child, Libor, it too has been cooperating in ways that would have made Roneet very happy. Rather than growing, like Jacob and Ariella, it has fortunately been contracting, which is something that I kept telling her would happen, and now finally has.
Thank you to everybody that has helped make this year a little less painful than it otherwise would have been. I have been blessed with such extraordinary people in my life. Most of all I want to thank Roneet for an amazing 32-year journey together.
You taught me so much and I am so lucky to have ridden the rollercoaster of life with you.