I’d like to say I heard his spirit in the wind. I’d like to say his essence was with us as we stood beside his grave site. I’d even like to say, the day embodied May 1, 2012, in a meaningful way, but it was, for all intents and purposes, another spring day. The grass was fairly green, the trees were filling-in with abundant and luscious foliage, and life, seemingly, went on its merry way; however, for us—my mom, dad, and grandmother—we were in a state of pause. A moment where everything slows down, and seemingly freezes, just for you—what you need to think about, the moment you need to embrace, the memories you need to conjure—to make his existence as real as possible.
At my grandfather’s funeral two years ago, I barely cried. I had moments when it seemed like sunscreen seeped into my eye, a tear welted within, and like a single droplet of rain rolling down a window pane it crawled down my face, and then it vanished in the sunlight. The day before his passing, at the hospital, driving my grandmother back to her apartment, driving home, and in my bed, I couldn’t find a wrench to turn my tear duct valve off. Last year, I cried all week before his yitzkor date, the day of remembrance. My eyes swelled throughout the evening service I attended; I was lost in my emotion. My grandfather and I didn’t have a close relationship, but I was keenly aware of his presence, bolstered and prominent, within our family. He was the patriarch—a strong, proud, and stoic Russian-Jewish immigrant, and the catalyst for so many of our family’s successes. He was bold, loved life, understood hardship, respected the streets, and protected and provided for the people he loved. My grandfather never learned English, probably out of pride, and he only left Odessa because my grandmother wouldn’t live there without us, after my parents decided the anti-semitism and opportunities were too much and too little, respectively.
May 8th, 2014 was a beautifully hot and windy day. It was my grandfather’s yitzkor. As we drove to the cemetery I recalled his funeral, I recalled asking my brother to drive my car, I recalled carrying the coffin, I recalled refusing to shovel dirt, I recalled my Aunt’s inappropriate friends, I recalled the sun, and the quiet, and the perfect May day with a pungent bitterness. Now, walking to his grave site, the wind gusted with purpose, only tapered by the warmth of the summer sun. As a plane flew over head, and then a while later a helicopter, right before the longest train scrawled across the background, it became overwhelming apparent, life goes on. The world unfroze. My mom was telling my dad to stop with the candles, it was too windy, my grandmother seemed to be curled up trying to escape the moment, my dad was clinging to his task, and the birds were conversing with vigor. I read the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer, and then for a second the world stopped again, the wind subsided, the bird’s stopped chirping and for a second, I thought he knew.
Our lives are made up of fleeting moments, but when you need them, and more importantly want them, you can create an extra long moment—a memory capturing more color, more vibrancy, and more weight—those moments illuminate the path we’ve taken.