When our loved ones die, we don’t leave the burial to strangers. Because to participate in the act of burying our dead is considered a chesed shel emet — the ultimate and enduring act of lovingkindness. We do it knowing that the person whom we’ve buried can never repay the mitzvah to us. We do it hoping that others will treat us with the same lovingkindness.
DadGiraffe taught me: just as our parents pull up the covers and tuck us in before we go to bed so do we place earth into the grave and tuck in Ploni-ben-Ploni for his Eternal Sleep.
So accustomed to this and our other rituals in the face of death, the inability to participate in the mourning of a relative or friend leaves us with a lack of closure. As if he or she just simply went away. On an extended trip, perhaps.
Going out to California to help bury my friend was simply not possible. Mourning the loss of this remarkable person away from those who best knew him felt as though I was experiencing the loss in a vacuum. PC and I could talk about him, but I needed more. Texting, emailing, Facebook — they all helped soften the torn edges.
One hundred eighty-seven miles.
To be with our classmates, our friends.
To hear from your congregants what you had meant to them.
Sudden memories came flooding back.
Crazy-informative and impromptu tours of the Old City.
The “word-of-the-day” in a certain American Jewish History class.
It was worth every minute of the long drive to physically connect with others whose lives are now diminished without you.
And then nothing.
An unresolved coda.