My husband’s aunt died this week; she was 71, another victim to Terrorist Cancer. We were not able to go to the funeral in Kansas City, but thanks to modern technology we were able to watch it live streamed, virtual observers and passive mourners. We couldn’t see her coffin or hug our cousins or hear the sniffling and sobbing of her children, but we were able to hear the memorial service.
The stream came on to a cantor singing a solemn prayer in Hebrew and instantly a lump formed prominently in my throat. I didn’t understand the translation for what she was saying, it sounded like ancient whaling. The picture was pixelated, but it didn’t matter because my view was soon clouded by tears. When she finished the prayer, in English she said, “Psalm of David…I walk through the shadow of the valley of death.”
Four children lost their mother; four children lost their bubbe`, and a husband lost the only world he’s known for the last 47 years.
Her four children replaced the rabbi on the podium and her oldest son began to speak, “One of the things you may not have known about our mom was for the last few years she had been emailing us Shabbat poems. We’re going to share some of those with you now.” They took turns reading her lovely rhyming poems, evoking bucolic images of lavender and lilies of the valley. The youngest daughter spoke last and after a short poem, she sings a Beyonce song I don’t recognize with lyrics she altered to fit the situation. She sings about having the courage to go, having the courage to stay, and having the courage to live on and remember. I couldn’t believe she kept it together; her three siblings cried in the background. I couldn’t see the “audience,” but assumed they were all sobbing. Her voice was angelic.
The rabbi returned to the podium, unable to compose herself for a few seconds. She stared at the words in front of her, trying to gather her thoughts, but I could see she was staring through a blur of tears. She swallowed hard and read through my husband’s aunt’s entire life story, as gathered by talking to her friends and family.
After the life story, the rabbi asked the congregation to stand and she sang another prayer, which sounded guttural, a hurricane of grief building from deep within. These Hebrew prayers, none of which I understand, even though I’m a Jew, penetrate me as if they’re speaking in secret code directly to my tear ducts. I’m sobbing for a woman I barely knew.
The rabbi asks for the pallbearers to step forth; all females – and then the video comes to a halt. That’s all we get.
I turn to my husband and say, “At my funeral that whatever they read, it better have a lot of “fucks” in it because I no matter what, I will be angry as fuck for having to leave the greatest party: life.”
It’s always too damn soon.