A year ago today I said goodbye to you for the last time. That was after I’d paid for your service, insisting to my niece that I wasn’t supposed to be the one signing papers and making arrangements. That had always been your job, but you, well… you were otherwise occupied.
It was a year ago today that I eulogized you with as much love, respect, and honesty as I could. I stood at the podium after our beloved rabbi said the things he needed to say, and then walked to the lectern, legs quivering under a long, black skirt. I was sure I’d trip, but no one else could know for sure.
It was a year ago that my undeniable truth, my new and most unwanted status as an adult orphan, became seemingly etched in stone. Your soul had left the earth 3 days earlier and I got to you as quickly as I could, what with 6,000 miles and a Shabbat that separated us. Finally seeing you though, not smiling, blinking, responding, complaining; seeing you still and absent, that was when I couldn’t un- know.
A year ago. I stood at your graveside after telling one of the grave diggers to be gentle with you as he moved you into your new home. It’s funny, you used to say that you wanted to move, that you hated Coney Island. And then, there you were, a few boroughs away in a new place that wasn’t like anything you’d ever discussed.
A year ago, I said goodbye to you and Daddy, finally together again. I allowed myself to feel the love shown to me as I grieved for you as well as the death of an era. I entered Shiva, sat in a low chair, sometimes on the floor, and mourned.
And what a year it has been.
There have been graduations, a bar mitzvah, a move, new jobs, and all the things that life is, in between. There has been a war here too. I have heard your thickly- accented, undeniably Brooklyn voice on the phone in my mind, asking me what’s gonna be, if I’m sure we want to stay here, and then being scared and proud while you tearfully say, just be safe. I can hear your thoughts on Mistah President, accent on the ‘dent,’ and your subtle- as- a- brick- wall thoughts on Israel and Hamas. And while one part of my brain hears you say this, the other sees you and Daddy sitting near each other looking atypically calm, assuring me quietly, that it’s all gonna be OK. You both look tranquil, accepting, and pain- free. The image simultaneously comforts and haunts.
And now, it is a year later.
I can buy new clothing, listen to live music, go to bar/ bat mitzvahs and weddings and stay for their entirety; I am allowed to be part of the community once again.
Nothing changes, nor can it change, your permanent, physical non- presence. Nothing changes the fact that it is more than miles that maintain our distance. The separation between us now is wider, deeper, and enduring.
But so it is and so it shall be because a year ago everything changed.
It was a year ago that I buried you, but not before telling you things I needed to say and hearing you say things I needed to hear. I was granted the gift of closure and goodbyes. For that I am eternally grateful.
This year has been hard, but a blessing nonetheless.
It was a year ago.
One year, 366 days ago, today.