Thanks everyone, for you kind words yesterday. As the day moved along I was able to check in with the world and read your supportive comments. I’m so sorry that I am not yet back reading and responding to your Slices. I will… 4 days left.
So I tried last night to begin my 11 months of Saying Kaddish for Eileen as a way to stay connected to her. I had a fresh copy of the prayer, we recited it together, in a large group at the cemetery yesterday, but back home, last in the evening when Tuvia went off to bed, I tried and it just didn’t work for me. Once in the my life that prayer was familiar and homey but now, it’s just ancient words. I don’t think Eileen would feel any connection to it either, so early this morning, I came up with an alternative that I think will work for me in my modern life.
Conversations with Eileen... I want to keep writing daily, first thing if I can, and what could be better than to direct my morning writing to Eileen.
So, for the next 11 months my phone conversations with Eileen are moving here.
The Funeral: I have this feeling Eileen, that you had a lot to do with the planning of your own send off. The funeral home was small for anyone who didn’t speak to my sister-in-law and make sure to get there early for a seat. Lots of people came from all walks of your life and were willing to be patient and accept the discomfort of being squeezed together.
What a diverse crowd. Sure, I shared a lot of this with you in our conversations but to see and hear so many people sing your praises for your commitment to peace and social justice was just overwhelming. But first Danielle, a Reconstructionist Rabbi, your daughter-in-law, led a lovely service without too many G-d connections. The family took on the challenge of sharing eulogies: Kevin and Jenn (son and daughter), Jim,(son-in-law), Mark(brother), Jeffery(cousin). It was hard for each one but beautiful. For me it was a unique experience, different from any funeral I’ve ever attended.
I spent the day walking through the events…from service, the cemetery, to a covered dish luncheon at a local community center…it was just too much for me and as I watched Tuvia eye the food in front of him, on a long table, I knew that this was not a comfortable place for him and I used him as an excuse to leave and rush off to spend time with my parents.
There were more people than anyone would have imagined and while there wasn’t enough room for everyone at the funeral hall, out at the cemetery there were more people than grave stones. It wasn’t exactly as I remembered it. I remember when it was more covered in nature but now it’s a bit neater and the tombstones are open to the world. I visited my grandparents and their families… and then joined the large crowd welcoming the newest member. A new pine box arrived to be placed on the wooden frame and soon lowered down into the freshly dug hole.
Danielle gave the crowd of friends an opportunity to share their memories and many people did. I didn’t. But I listened to the voices and thought about you but I was a fish out of water.
As the silence took us over when the last person shared, and the Mourner’s Prayer was recited together, your casket was lowered and the shoveling began. The sound of earth hitting the top of the coffin began. Many people joined the line to send you off. I couldn’t. Even your grandchildren joined in. It gave them something to do with their pent-up energy. But me, I found my spot for a photo.
It was harder, than I could have ever imagined and I am so glad that tomorrow night I will be spending time with the family back at the house during Shiva time. I love this tradition.
So Eileen… I want to know where you are? Can you send me a sign?