11 September 2011

The other night I sent my father a photo of me, just two and in saddle shoes, feeding swans with my mother at the duckpond. 26 hours later, his response came, and with it went my breath:

I remember it like it was yesterday
G-d rest her soul

I thought of what it means to my father that the girl he married when she was 19, he 20, the mother of three of his four children, has died. He was the second person I called when she died, and he came to our house, and cried as he kissed her goodbye. For the first time, I saw my father as the unseen, the third person in the photo, the one behind the camera. Now, my mother is the unseen, but she is as real and as present as my father is in that photograph taken 30 years ago.

And, I thought what it means, "G-d rest her soul," and how common words reveal themselves as beaming vessels when the soul in question is the one that made yours. If ever a soul is resting, it is my mother's, who, like our Rabbi said (the same Rabbi that married us, 75 days before she died, and oh, what a day can mean when there are only 75 left) climbed the mountain with us to know that on the other side, she would walk on and leave her children in a valley.

Today, 10 years later, I think of my mother's dear friend, Josephine, and how Josephine knew instantly, this morning, 10 years ago, that the love of her life would never return home. He was a firefighter, on disability, but for the reasons she loved him, she lost him: into the towers he went, out he never came. I think of our dear friend, Gabe, who toasted us so beautifully at our wedding, and how he stood on the sidewalk, 10 minutes late to his job, and watched a plane explode into the place he was not. The gift, and weight, of survival was handed to him in a loaded quiver that will be slung across his back for the rest of his life.

I think about my father's words, "G-d rest her soul", and I am grateful for the 8 years we had with our mother as she lived over her illness, and let it be the white noise that played in the background, when most would have let it be the dissonant symphony that clapped a deafening refrain. On Mother's Day, we sat in the living room together and read her Winnie-the-Pooh (we laughed, it is our favorite), and went for a drive by the beach. My brothers learned how to lift her gently, so as not to rattle the cancer that filled her body, they dressed her, cooked for her, fed her, and I knew that inside, deeper than where the cancer dwell, my mom was beaming, for her boys were driven by love, not constrained by fear. I have never thought "G-d rest her soul" because it is so clear to me that never has a soul left as proudly and peacefully (though not joyously, do not think that) as my mother. I think today about those nearly 3,000 souls who did not have the gift of forewarning, who had no time to dance the hora (though there is never enough time). 57 years is not enough, but on this day, I am grateful (again, common words, beaming vessels) for the warning that Death came closer, before Death came to our house.

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the forest a little boy and his bear will always be playing. - Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne