Thursday, August 21, 2008

the unveiling at Montefiore Cemetery

fascinated by cemeteries
we find ourselves wandering again
18 years after our second date to one
only this time in Queens, New York
not Manchester, New Hampshire
I read some of the Hebrew lettering on the stones
and am glad that I still remember my aleph bet

we stop and pray at a cousin's grave
his son beside him, dead at 30
I don't know how anyone
can bear the death of a child
but somehow we go on
some find strength in faith
others destroy themselves with alcohol
or pills, trying to deaden the pain

we walk to the site of the Lubavitcher rebbe's grave
and find a stone building over it, like a small temple
a steady stream of mourners remove their shoes
then enter to pray and ask for blessings
hasidim in black hats and long coats
one with Nike sneakers that seem incongruous
with his payes, beard and other garments
the physical death of this leader
did not end his spiritual legacy
or his inspirational messages to his followers
to lead a life of meaning

there are many gates here
the names of the donors inscribed on them
they remind me of transitions
from one world to the next
some too soon, others in their time
old stones shaped like trees with cut branches
mark the graves of young children
or the ones who died cut off in their prime

we finally reach the right gate
leading to the Feinberg headstone
"Chayah Gittel" "Aryeh Leib"
my aunt and uncle
no longer with us physically
but a baby boy already bears
my uncle's Hebrew name
a beautiful tradition continues

copyright 2003 Linda H. Feinberg (Tishrei/Heshvan 5764)

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