RIP Michelle. On And On The Village Goes.

“On and on
I just keep on trying
And I smile when I feel like dying
On and on
On and on”

Life is in constant forward motion that has no room, nor patience, for stragglers. We keep moving. And sometimes I just want to stop and turn back. Singer John Mayer reflected this sentiment when he wrote, “Stop this train. I want to get off and go home again. I can’t take the speed it’s moving in.”

I wish.

I just spent nearly my entire Sunday at a memorial service in honor of my daughter Rosie’s best friend growing up, Michelle, or, as she refers to her, Michu.

She passed away of breast cancer on March 29 at the age of 27.

Wow. Life is just not supposed to happen that way. I guess.

Yet “on and on” we go.

So when I looked across our table at another friend of Rosie’s growing up, Kelsey, I was reminded of life’s seemingly careless twists and ferocious unpredictability.

Kelsey was a beautiful and gregarious child. When she was in the seventh grade, she caught a virus that was diagnosed to be healed in just a few short weeks. In the meantime, this nasty virus caused the bottom half of her body to go paralyzed and she became wheelchair bound.

The virus never healed and now, 15 years later, this beautiful young woman experiences life from a chair.

“On and on. Toss up my heart to see where it lands.”

I watched Michelle’s dad, Dan, shriek guttural screams and primal cries as the slow drip of the reality of death became ever more present with each passing story, photograph and memory. I connected with his fatherly energy, feeling and empathizing with this deepest of internal agony. I. Cannot. Possibly. Imagine.

I think a brutal ripping out of our guts would not be nearly as painful as burying a child.

“And I smile when I feel like dying.”

My daughter posted on Facebook, “[The Rabbi said], ’Don’t try and search for meaning in any of this, there isn’t any.’ I think those were some of the most comforting words I’ve heard the last few days. This is all so unfair and unjust, and I know it’s only going to get harder, but I will continue to celebrate you every day.”

Rosie, who has now lost a grandma and best friend within a six month period, is forced to reckon and deal with seemingly endless pain. Forced to learn at age 28 how do deal with the sting of loss, whether she wants to or not. Life can be that way. Learn or go home.

“On and on
She just keeps on trying
And she smiles when she feels like crying”

I watched all the moms and dads, our faces having aged and wrinkled since when we were youthful, hopeful and eager parents of elementary schoolers; hopeful for the exciting promise of what the future may hold for our precious little ones, now our faces bearing the toll of the years and the knowledge of what that future really held.

Our collective countenance suggested a sharing in the pain of Dan and his wife Ellen. In a sense we all lost a child that day. Our village was in mourning. Our faces etched with another wrinkle of experience, wrinkles lined with unwanted loss and grief.

“So he takes a ladder, steals the stars from the sky, puts on Sinatra and starts to cry”

I heard the outspoken basketball analyst Charles Barkley once say that when it comes to doing battle with Father Time, we humans will always be on the losing end as that is a battle that can never be won.

Yet “on and on” it is, in an inevitable forced march with no turning back. No stopping allowed. Not for a second. Do not pass go. This train stops for no one or no thing.

So what do we have? I do know we have each other. We have this moment and we have a life full of memories.

I do know that I will continue to live the hell out of life.

Yes. That I do know. I may not beat Father Time though he is gonna be so sick of me by the time it is all said and done he may wish he had lost.

So my precious village, I love you…this I know. Goodbye Michelle.

“And I smile when I feel like dying.”



  1. Your writing leaves me more speechless with every post. So beautiful. May her body be eased of pain and her spirit never die!

  2. Hi Jimmy, I terribly sorry about your daughters friend. We lost my little brother on this very day 11 years ago, so this brought some more tears to my eyes as read. I hope your daughter knows she’s in a better place with no more pain and suffering. Other than this I hope life is treating you well. I still remember our speech class I took with you. To this day the best class I have ever taken. Be well Jimmy!

    • Hello Rabbi Shafarman…you did a beautiful job punctuating the service. So tight. As one who has lead many a service, I know how difficult it is to lead a service well and make it nothing about you….just lead and get out of the way and let things unfold as they should. Your insights were comforting even in their brevity. Thank you.

  3. It really hits close to home when the person who passes is so young. Death, especially from cancer is not something we think will happen when we are in our 20’s. I’m sorry for your daughters loss. I can’t even imagine…

  4. Hello Jimmy,
    I can definitely relate to you with dealing with death since the age of 7. It all started off with my grandpa passing from heart congestion and then my uncles, my aunts, my cousin. Our family had just lost my dearly beloved grandma last December at the age of 91. However, cancer has effected so many people in this world. It is not fair for people so young like Michelle to pass away from cancer. I give my condolences for your mom and Michelle. Death hurts the human soul like a piece of your heart is missing. I do agree what you are saying to smile when you feel like dying. What I feel that you mean by this is to live your life to the fullest for your loved ones even though you hurt so much. My mom is battling ovarian cancer and I honestly smile all the time with her to make her as happy because like my mom says, “Every day is a good day.” We all have to face death but it is not fair to others. I lost my godmother to pancreatic cancer at the age of 45 and I feel like it just happened yesterday. The quote that I have seen on social media when a death occurs they put, “gone by never forgotten.” We must live our life to its fullest for our loved ones that are not physically here with us anymore. God Bless!

  5. I would just like to say that I have never been the emotional type, but this, literally brought tears to my eyes. Your daughter must be a strong woman to have survived through these great losses. When you mentioned having to bury a child, UGH! I never want to know the feeling. So yes, lets live and cherish in every single moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *