Monday, September 19, 2005

Funeral Experience

This past weekend was the Chai Lifeline retreat for Bereaved parents. The highlight of the weekend is a speech given by Dr. Norman Blumenthal. I was honored that he read verbatim from the piece below that I wrote a little while ago. It describes my experience at the funeral of a daughter of a dear friend. It was his third child that passed away due to a genetic disease.

As they brought out the aron, I felt my knees betraying me. I grabbed hold of a friend by the shirt to keep me from falling. The aron was small. Having just experienced the death of my own child, I understood what was in that box. Everyone around me knew what was in the box. But, as a parent of a deceased child, I understood what was in that box. I cried bitter, pain filled tears.

After a few minutes, I walked with my “cane” (well actually a close friend who I held so I wouldn’t fall) towards the burial site. The Rav spoke simple and brief. Much like the life of the nifteres. He said that he was humbled by the experience and felt unfit to talk. He spoke about the fact that he had known others who were buried in that cemetery while they were alive. I think he meant it literally, but it was a reminder of the other 2 children, siblings of the nifteres, who had been buried there already. He spoke about the difficulty in understanding what was happening before us. The father spoke briefly and thanked those who had helped him and his family over the last few months. He and his wife are strong and noble.

I stood back, behind the circle of people. I was afraid to look too carefully. The sight of the open pit with a small wooden casket next to two other graves, which were siblings of the nifteres, was too awesome for my already broken heart. It was cold and quiet. The first swoosh of the shovel penetrating the dirt was loud as an airplane engine. Swoosh. What followed was the thump of the dirt hitting the top of the coffin. Swoosh. Thump.

Swoosh. Thump. Recently I was browsing through the diaries and scrapbooks of my own daughter, Nechama Liba. Reading through each story or browsing each picture, I feel transformed to another time. I am reliving the experience of each thought and digest every word. I turn the pages, and finally reach a blank page. As I flip through the pages that follow, it strikes me that the rest of the pages are blank.
The majority of the each of the books, diaries, journals, and scrapbooks are more empty than full. Each swoosh of the shovel hitting the dirt is like picking up all the dreams, hopes, aspirations that you ever had for that child. Every thump is like you are burying them. For this child, there will never be a first day of school. There won’t be a graduation or hearing her say her first words or seeing her walk for the first time. You won’t be able to walk her down the aisle at her wedding or hear about her first date. There are far too many missed memories to count.

Swoosh. Thump. It seems to last forever. Is there anything more mundane than dirt and wood? Is there anything more dead than dirt and wood? The thought of a flowerpot enters my conscience. Maybe this is where real life begins. The digging finally stops. I hug the father of the nifteres and tell him that G-d should give him strength. He says, “You have been where I am. You know something; it doesn’t get easier with practice. “


Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

momesh your are the most stoic.your strength is unreal chazak veamotz

10:16 AM  
Blogger Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

dear glen,

a dreadfully sad story so well told!


8:23 PM  
Blogger Soccer Dad said...

When Elie and Debbie buried Aaron. It was a beautiful day. The cemetery was beautiful. Everything was wonderful. Though we all knew why we were there there was an air of unreality to it. Aaron didn't really die.
It was the sound of dirt hitting the wood that brought me back to reality.
Your words made me recall that. You said something I've been thinking about for the past year.

5:42 PM  

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