We participated in a funeral over a week ago of a woman who lived in our town for a while with her husband. They were already older, with their kids already out of the house, which is very unusual for our community. Usually people move here either right before babyhood or already well-ensconced in it. It’s important for a young community to have people of all ages; it keeps your eye on the ball of what you need to pay attention to.
Mixed metaphor, I know.
I guess it was less sad because she was not young anymore, but it was sad because she had lived for a while in the same assisted living facilities as my father-in-law, and he appreciated her quiet regalness. He “allowed her” to sit at his table at meals, and he has spent his last years allowing the nastiness that he hid all his life to creep up on him. So this was not a little thing, since he did not want to allow others who we knew to sit with him. He called her a lady.
And he was so right.
We haven’t told him yet that she has died; she moved away from the place and he has also moved to a different place, so what’s the point? It only hurts to get that much closer to the end.
I have often enough considered writing about my community in some more public setting (a collection of short stories, perhaps?) because it is such an interesting (and that word stands in for anything else you want to put in) place. The people are strange enough to make them characters, as I see all places have with their local color. I guess I never understood the power of local color when I learned about it back in school…A strange enough book could be written about all the Jewish funeral people and all of their sets of mannerisms. Maybe I’ll talk about that another time.
Or about the power of learning how to do mitzvot while in school by really doing them. My husband realized that there might not be even enough men for a minyan to say kaddish, so he arranged to have some seniors from the local high school come to help. It’s a good way to help kids understand life by being involved with this hessed shel emet. But I’ll save that for another time, perhaps also.
But I never thought that we should be using our power of writing for other people, for the good of others.
The family of the late lady include one son who married an Israeli and has raised a beautiful family. They’re part of the geirushei Gaza; those who were kicked out of Gaza. In fact, the husband/son was dovening as shaliach tzibur the day they got kicked out because it was also the yahrzeit for his father. The children did not come to America for the funeral, and the wife speaks very little English. Right before the burial, I told her how maybe I would try to get people who couldn’t make the funeral to write down their thoughts and memories of her mother-in-law, and she was very grateful for that idea. While they were dovening minchah after the burial, I had planned on doing some phone calls, maybe some writing, but she approached me and asked me to talk to her about her mother-in-law right then. She really hadn’t understood the eulogies, and she really needed to hear good memories to help start the healing process. Oh, my Hebrew took a licking and still came out ticking, or the second scenario is that she was so eager to hear things that she was not about to correct my broken Hebrew. Let’s go with that. I could see her face taking everything I had to say in, not that I said that much, but as I spoke, I remembered more and more. I spoke about her father-in-law as well, because he is part of the equation, and about their deep respect for each other that shows up in the wonderful relationship that the boys (why is it at a funeral, the sons become boys?) have with their own wives. I spoke about how her mother-in-law was such a perfectionist that when she worked as a teacher assistant in our nursery school, she wouldn’t let students’ work sit without “little touch-ups”, because it was a reflection on her. I spoke about a lot of things, and she got to remember them to take them home to her children, and even to her husband.
And now we are trying to get other people to write up their recollections.
One man, so far, has written. He said,
Dear sons so-and-so,
I remember your parents. They were really nice.
Maybe we’ll get more responses soon.