A friend of mine who recently lost his mother shared with me an interesting vignette. When he was a guest at someone’s home, he very much enjoyed the soup that the hostess served. He then asked her for the recipe so that he could share it with his mother, forgetting for the moment that she had died a few weeks before.
The incident reminded me that parents and children possess a powerful bond with one another that emotionally transcends the physical. Even when they are no longer in this world, we still feel connected to them. The powerful connection between parent and child is at the center of Tomb Raider, an adventure in which a child embarks on a treacherous search for a long lost parent, whom most considered dead.
When we first meet Lara Croft, she is working as a bike courier in East London while simultaneously taking college classes and often not making it to the lecture. Although she is the heir to her father’s global wealth, she is fiercely independent and wants to make it on her own.
We soon learn that her father, Richard Croft, was an adventurer who disappeared seven yours before, and Lara is not reconciled to the narratives suggesting he is dead. She is not ready to mourn for him or to move on with her life because she secretly senses he is still alive. When confronted with the opportunity to control all of his wealth, she passes on it and decides to undertake a perilous journey to the site of her father’s last known destination, a mythical island off the coast of Japan.
Her father’s disappearance is connected to the legend of an ancient sorceress named Himiko, who is reputed to be a source of evil and destruction. Her burial plot is on the island; and the legend is that anyone who opens her tomb will unleash a torrent of destruction on the world. Hence, Richard Croft traveled to the island to insure that Himiko’s evil would not spread by getting into the wrong hands.
He bids farewell to his daughter reluctantly, only because he feels that his intervention can prevent a world catastrophe. They part from one another; but the ties between father and daughter, which are rooted in blood and a similar disposition to help the unfortunate, run deep and they survive absence from one another.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, a well-known Jewish educator, sheds light on the nature of enduring love in the face of physical separation. He observes that the Biblical Jacob refused to be comforted for Joseph even after he heard that a wild beast killed him and after he saw his son’s bloodied cloak. Jacob, indeed, intuited that Joseph was still alive: “A Midrash gives a remarkable explanation. One can be comforted for one who is dead, but not for one who is still living, it says. In other words, Jacob refused to be comforted because he had not yet given up hope that Joseph was still alive. That, tragically, is the fate of those who have lost members of their family (the parents of soldiers missing in action, for example) but have as yet no proof that they are dead. They cannot go through the normal stages of mourning because they cannot abandon the possibility that the missing person is still capable of being rescued. Their continuing anguish is a form of loyalty; to give up, to mourn, to be reconciled to loss is a kind of betrayal. In such cases, grief lacks closure. To refuse to be comforted is to refuse to give up hope.”
Tomb Raider reminds us that the relationship between parent and child is unique and can withstand many challenges. Separation may test that connection, but the love between parent and child endures.