Newtown, Conn. — Six days after the funeral of six-year-old Noah Pozner, his family is taking stock of the gifts sent to them by strangers all over the world. There’s a stiff teddy bear in a brown overcoat and hat accompanied by a note from a woman who says the bear gave her great comfort when her mother passed away. There is a box filled with tiny stuffed animals. And a miniature cypress tree, which reminds Veronique, Noah’s mother, to think of life.
Noah’s maternal grandmother, Marie-Claude Duytschaever, pulls a brown bear with lanky arms and legs from a cardboard box. It’s meant for Noah’s twin, Arielle, and his 7-year-old sister, Sophia. Veronique takes the stuffed animal — the family will later name it “Noah Bear” — in her arms and gives it a long squeeze before surrendering it to the living room where the toys are quickly piling up. The gifts seem to comfort the family, but they also highlight the absence of the boy who would have reveled in them.
Noah was the youngest child massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, when 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza first killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, and then shot his way into the school and slayed 20 first grade students and six staff members, including the principal. Noah was hit 11 times. He was the first child to be buried, on December 17 in a funeral overseen by Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel of Newtown.
For the following six nights, the family sat shiva at a friend’s house, which could better accommodate the dozens of visitors than their smaller home. Today, Sunday, with the official Jewish mourning period over, the Pozners have invited friends and family to a large white two-story home they have rented on the outskirts of Newtown. (Noah’s father Lenny is not present. After the shiva period, he went to be with family in Florida.) In preparation, the family clears the stuffed animals off the kitchen island and replaces them with bowls of dried fruit, chips, candied nuts, carrot sticks and a roast turkey.
This is how the nation’s most famous Jewish grieving family grieves.