Very recently, I lost a friend. She was someone I talked to or texted with almost every day. We laughed a lot, were silly or serious, sometimes talked about what shaped our lives—she lost a fiercely beloved spouse to cancer, and I lost one to suicide. We were sensitive to each other’s feelings and protective of one another. As we lived hours apart, we spent a lot of time on the phone.

My friend had not been well. I knew that, although the last time she came home from the hospital, she was in good spirits and seemingly on the mend. And then she was gone. She died in her sleep one Sunday morning. I am glad that apparently she did not suffer, but my grief was almost unassuageable. There was no warning and no way for me to comprehend how I could get a happy text from her one day and a notice of her death from her husband two days later.

Of the people I have lost in my life, I am not sure why the sudden loss of this friendship was more devastating to me than any previous death I have experienced, including one to which I was witness.

Perhaps it was our mutual passion—the adoption of ex-racing Greyhounds. Lesley ran an adoption group for 15 years, dedicating her life to making sure hundreds of these dogs found good homes. Over the years, I adopted four of these magnificent creatures from her—three of whom still grace my home with the kind of joy and comfort only G‑d’s four-legged creatures can offer. During the pandemic, when isolation has been the norm, my animals have given me reason to laugh when it seemed the world around me was inexplicably so dark and filled with sorrow.

Although my grief for the loss of this connection in my life has been deep and hard to get past, I looked for a way to find comfort. It is hard to slow the grief when I still think, “Oh, I have a question for Lesley. I think I’ll give her a call.” And then the gut punch comes when I remember I cannot connect with her in this world anymore.

But, as is often the case, Divine Providence provided an answer in the form of the writings of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. Reading on The, I found a passage of incredible comfort.

Throughout his correspondence with those in mourning, the Rebbe insisted that there remains an ongoing, spiritual connection between the living and the deceased and that this relationship is not merely theoretical, but tangible. It is a dynamic relationship that can be developed and enhanced. (From an article by Mendel Kalmenson)

Going on without the day-to-day ties to someone you love is a necessary part of letting go of the deep, searing grief and turning back to your own life, as you seek G‑d’s purpose for you. The Rebbe’s assurance that we are always connected to those we love—whether their souls inhabit their physical bodies or have gone on to their place with G‑d—comforted me beyond measure.

And so it was, I picked up my book of the Tanakh (Scriptures) with no particular idea of where I was looking. But G‑d is miraculously and beautifully in our every moment. As I opened it, it somehow fell open to the Psalm we said this year for the Rebbe, Psalm 119, and my eyes landed on verses 33-40.

33 Teach me O L‑rd the way of your laws;
I will observe them to the utmost.

34 Give me understanding that I may observe
your teaching
and keep it wholeheartedly.

35 Lead me in the path of Your commandments,
for that is my concern.

I understood this as a clarion call to leave my grief behind and live my life with purpose, letting go of my grief and letting G‑d lead me. I need to do what G‑d expects of me while my own soul is still in this world.

The answer to my grief was to live for the purpose G‑d created me, to be the good in this world He expects me to be. Yes, I will continue to miss the friendship Lesley and I had in life. But now I recognize that our spiritual bond is forever, and that G‑d has a plan for me going forward that includes joy and purpose. And my responsibility is to fulfill that plan.