Friday, April 12, 2013

A Cemetery in Common

Three years ago, my college friend Rachel and I made a discovery! Our late beloved parents are buried in the Cedar Park/Beth El Cemetery in Paramus, New Jersey.

Rachel grew up in Washington Heights in Upper Manhattan, and I grew up in the Bronx. During their lifetimes, our parents resided in different neighborhoods, but they were cut from the same Jewish cloth. Both came from Poland. Both spoke mainly Yiddish. Both carried immigrant baggage. Both had two daughters. Both were humble and faithful to the Blessed One, Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

After a fifteen-minute car ride from Rachel’s house in Teaneck, New Jersey, we entered the gates of memory.

I stood next to Rachel and encouraged her to read aloud from the wooden-framed poem she had written many years before her father’s death. Her voice and tempo assured the sincerity of this premiere recitation at graveside.

The Cane by Rachel Schulman

It stands between us
cold scepter demanding attention
shining with flawless glow
old man's obdurate gavel
Erect as you bend before it
A testimony to time and change


We glance at it and look away
sheepish smile on both our faces
Knowing that something new has entered our relationship
the once infinite demanding to be addressed
and my love for you expressed
faster than I would have done before

as we both pay silent obeisance

Rachel and I bowed in silent obeisance before the passing images of our four parents. With this poem and in this setting, our friendship reached a higher rung. It appeared that we had more in common than we had just yesterday.

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