Thursday, January 19, 2012
Living and Leaving
Gear shift. My ex-father-in-law passed away yesterday at the age of 92. My girls were understandably upset; and as with Jewish custom, he was put to rest today. Amid swirling snow and frigid temperatures we formed a circle around the freshly dug grave and watched the solid wood casket adorned with the carved Star of David disappear slowly into the ground. We tossed poppies into the grave to commemorate his military service as the rabbi chanted in Hebrew. Then came the final and most difficult obligation -- to bury the dead. Each one of us took our turn at shovelling dirt from the pile onto the casket. It was a jarring sight, driving home the finality of death. I watched as his estranged son poured four shovelfuls into the hole -- one for he and his wife and for each of his sons, both of whom were not present, nor who were known to their grandfather. It was a heart wrenching sight. Were there regrets; words left unsaid? Would he find peace?
My daughter and I drove home in a blizzard, processing this ritual of death, discussing customs and these rituals that we cling to to ease us through this labyrinth that is our life.
Hubby just handed me the phone with a smile; my father-in-law was on the other end. My FIL joked that he and his son had run out of words in their conversation .... and then proceeded to chatter (uncharacteristically) about his day and all of the birthday wishes he received. He was clearly touched that his brothers had reached out to him and that he had heard from his loved ones. We agreed that a year lived was something that deserved celebrating. And so we will.
Today was a day of celebrating my father in laws --
one - a long life well lived, the return of his body from where it came, and the leaving of his spirit from this earth, and
the other - a year of life and milestone birthday (cheque is in the mail!)
Goodbye. You were loved. Happy birthday. You are loved by many.
Life is a twisted yarn of irony, surprises, and mysteries. And that is what makes it worth living. And for that I am eternally grateful.