This one goes straight into my memoirs (if I ever write them).
This past Sunday, I had the privilege to officiate at the headstone unveiling for one of our shul’s most beloved members, who died just about a year ago. For privacy’s sake, I’ll call her Rose.
The unveiling ceremony opened with Rose’s daughter reading a letter she had found in her Mom’s house a few months earlier. It was a letter to her children filled with practical advice for living. Everything from how to dress for certain occasions, to how to hold on to Jewish tradition. Prominently featured in the letter was the advice to not get into squabbles and arguments with family members. “Always ask yourself”, Rose instructed, “whether you are quarrelling over something that’s really trivial”. Family bonds were precious as gold, Rose wrote, and should be treated as such. All of us present in the cemetery that morning had known Rose well. And we smiled through our tears as we could hear her voice saying all those things that were in her letter.
As is my custom when I officiate at unveilings, I asked everyone assembled to share his or her favorite memory of Rose. Some recalled the Passover Seders at Auntie Rose’s home, others remembered the birthday gifts she sent cross-country, a granddaughter recounted going shopping with Bubbe Rose. And then, without warning, it happened. One member of the family, roughly of Rose’s generation, stood up and faced the group. She said, “I always wanted to be like Rose when I grew up”. She then turned to a younger woman in the crowd, also a member of the family, and asked if they could finally reconcile, right there and then. And as we all watched silent and spellbound, the younger woman took several steps forward as well, and then literally over Rose’s grave, the two women embraced and wept. I heard myself simply whisper,”wow”.
We all aspire to be a source of blessing to our family and friends. And what I see now, as I never saw before, is that this aspiration need not be confined to the span of time when we actually walk the earth.