On bodies, blood, and blessings
Mourning for Trayvon


It is humbling to sit by the bedside of someone who is transitioning out of this life.

Sometimes their breathing is labored. Sometimes there is the "death rattle," a kind of guttural rasping with each inhalation.

Often their skin begins to seem almost translucent. The Hebrew word for skin and the Hebrew word for light are homonyms.

Often as I touch their arm, or stroke their forehead, I remember extending that same gentleness to someone who has died.

I say, It's Rabbi Rachel. I'm here with you. Your loved ones are here with you.

I say, let go of any old stuff, any anger or frustration, any baggage between you and anyone else. You don't need it anymore.

I say, we're letting go of our issues with you, too. We love you. Whenever you are ready, you're free to go.

I sing the angel song. I think of the illustrations in the bedtime shema book, sweeping watercolors showing Wonder and Strength, Light and Comfort, the angels who accompany each of us into sleep.

I sing the niggun which asks why a soul incarnates in this world, and which answers that we enter this world in order to know God. A funny thing, isn't it? We think of God as being beyond this world, and yet the way to know God is to be in the world. We have to be apart in order to yearn to be together.

When we leave this world, maybe we return to that intimate connection. I believe we do.

May angels accompany you, dear one, through this passage into what's coming. We love you. We're here. You are not alone.