March 25, 2022
Pile of earth
draped in astroturf:
like a challah
while we bless
candles and wine,
like a Torah
covered for modesty.
This pine box
is a cradle
for an empty shell.
What's left after
what made him
The scene was exactly as I expected: a dark green tent above an array of folding chairs, a large rectangular hole in the ground next to a pile of earth discreetly draped in astroturf. I braced myself.
And then I noticed. The hole is over here, and the tent, and the astroturf. And their shared headstone, with Mom's name and dates engraved on it, is over there -- some twenty feet away.
"They dug the hole in the wrong place," I said, out loud. Disbelief gave way to laughter, edging up to hysteria. One of the undertakers had a phone to his ear, pacing and gesturing as he spoke.
As each of my siblings arrived, and my father's siblings, I watched as they went through the same mental process. Here's the hole... but wait, there's the headstone. Something's wrong. They're not together.
I decided that my parents were relaxing on lounge chairs in olam ha-ba, cocktails in hand, laughing. "Never mind the weather, long as we're together," I sang, imagining Mom singing it to Dad.
It took a while to disentangle, but it turns out that my father's grave was dug in the correct place. The grave where we buried my mother three years ago...? That plot turns out to belong to someone else.
Two days later, a few of us reconvened at the cemetery to consecrate Mom's new grave. The headstone was moved too; now it sits like the headboard of a bed. They're each buried on the correct side.
I sang El Maleh Rachamim over my mother's new grave, planting my feet to draw strength from the earth. Two parallel mounds of earth, as though we had just tucked them both in together to sleep.