I never expected him to die on Shabbat, the quiet day of the week when no grief or anxieties should be present. Shabbat is called a “delight” except when something terrible happens and then it is no longer delightful . . . like the death of my cousin Leon.
Leon’s death, although imminent, seemed so distant and removed from my peaceful Shabbat in New Hampshire. A call from my daughter awakened me to the reality that no matter how I calculated the drive to New Jersey, I was not going to make it to the funeral the very next day.
I missed the final goodbye and the ritual send-off to a person I cared about.
One spends a lifetime together (four plus decades!) laughing and talking and celebrating and weeping until there is no more time, just a final goodbye.
While the burial was happening, I stopped my activity to pay respect to my good-natured cousin and his light-hearted demeanor. I envisioned our large, extended family surrounding his grave at the familiar ancestral cemetery where I have been a frequent visitor since I was a child. My grandfather Abraham was the first to pass on.
I inclined my ear to hear the voice of the rabbi chanting the final Hebrew prayers while the lowering of the casket disturbed the hearts of the newly grief-stricken. The kaddish mantra from Leon’s three grown sons and the softer voice of his beloved wife shattered my still-life picture.
I missed his funeral and I missed grieving with everyone. I would miss my cousin who delighted in everything and everyone.