FUNERAL AFTER TISHA B'AV
The windshield wipers sway from side to side
like whip-thin Hasidim shuckeling in prayer.
I traverse Silver and Old Orebed, roads named
after gashes in the flesh of the earth.
When the clouds relent, I lead the pallbearers
and their purple-draped cargo: two steps, pause.
Two steps, pause. Seven stops in all, one
for each day of the first week of creation.
Sweat beads on my back inside my black suit
like the water pooling atop the funeral home tent.
On behalf of a woman I never knew I ask forgiveness
and offer it in turn, untying her tangles.
We stand in silence as the shovels spear the dirt
and send it thudding down like arhythmic drums.
When I lead funerals, I recite the deathbed vidui on behalf of the person who has died. Tradition says that the soul of the deceased lingers until burial. Reciting the vidui may be a way of helping that soul to let go.
At Jewish funerals, the mourners always begin filling in the grave -- either with handfuls of soil, or with shovels. Some have the custom of using the shovel upside-down, because burying a loved one shouldn't be easy.
I'm always grateful to have the opportunity to serve at a funeral. There is something incredibly meaningful for me about being able to do this work.