I’ve been tired all week long, packing in time with the ones I love, cooking, cleaning, talking, listening, celebrating life and love and death.
Yesterday I attended the memorial service of the father of a young child for whom we cared last year. It was the first time I’d attended the service of a parent of a child so recently in our care, second time I’d attended a service for a parent of one of our children.
The father died in his late thirties, as my father did. His sons are three and six. My sister and I were four and six. This dad was married to his wife eight years. On the way home in the car with Liana I tried to retrace my parents’ life together, to see how many years they had been married, arrived at something near eight.
When the young family entered the service, popular recorded music the father had loved playing for all of us, two young boys holding their mother’s hands, parents and brother of the young father walking in front to the seats at the center front of the room, I needed my tissues.
The room was full of mourners. The service was lead by the same rabbi who had performed the wedding for the young couple. There were love and music, great sadness and terrible loss. I didn’t get to visit with the family, as I had hoped. In the car on the way to the service I tried with Liana to remember the names of the grandparents and brother, was happy to have my memory confirmed and corrected by the eulogists who named the family members as they remembered their lives with the young dad, had expected to talk with the grandparents and mother and children before returning to day care to care for the children there, was saddened to leave without making that connection.
This morning I think of my week, the week I turned fifty, the week that has brought unexpected tears all month long, and I am struck by the places I’ve spent time, in the company of my children and mother and Richard in a Chinese restaurant for my birthday last Saturday, with my sister and her family last Thursday on Thanksgiving, with my daughter and Richard watching Moonlight on Monday, so sad, with Richard in a fancy restaurant for my birthday on Tuesday, with the Sharing Circle on Wednesday, with the mourners on Thursday, with the day care children all week long. This weekend I’ll be in Northampton with my guy, sadness of holidays spent apart, highlighting a summer spent apart behind us, then we’ll be in Rhode Island with my college roommates celebrating the fiftieth birthday of the one whose husband is surprising her with a big party at their yacht club.
Yesterday at lunch with the children after I returned from the service the children wanted to know about it. We spoke about who was there, what it was like, how hard it can be for young children to sit in church, that this family is jewish so it was not a church, the fact that the child whose father had died had grandparents who had picked him up a lot last year because his father wasn’t well and his mother was working. I had imagined Tuesday morning that I might take some of the day care children to the service in order to attend, thinking it would be impossible to get a sub. Instead, my son’s girlfriend, a certified sub currently working in the day care and after school at the YMCA, came to take care of the children with Anne so Liana and I could go. We talked about how she was such a good day care teacher because of her other work, but also because she went to a school with mixed ages, as they do, and understands how to be with younger children, as they do, and they agreed.
I realized as I was leaving the service without talking with the family, that a good part of what I was doing in attending was showing the children in the day care that we care, that if any one of them were to lose a parent we would be there. We would sit and mourn that loss as important in the world. We would sit with the sadness of what life is, much of it loss upon loss, the loss of my own father echoed in my day, the loss of my guy, fifteen years older, echoes this morning in the shower as I think about this piece, know I would like to be the one to carry him into the other world, whatever that may be, imagine my children at his service amazed as I was at the service yesterday at the love and joy and meaning he had in his life, much of it revealed to us by others.
Jonathan was an amazing man. The stories and remembrances of his friends yesterday at the service, the love his family showed him in his final year, the only year we knew him and his family, the few interactions I had with him in the time we cared for his child, all that communicated to me that his life mattered, that he was real and full and alive, even as the children said, we didn’t see him much because he was so sick.
Yesterday morning I woke up early thinking of all I’d like to tell his children. I hoped to write a letter to them with the few memories I hold, had started it on my phone in the middle of Tuesday night, did not find time yesterday before the service to write it down. Instead I sent a handwritten card along with Liana who visited their home with the other mourners while I returned to the day care for lunch and nap, and promised to send the stories later. As I said to Richard when I called him after dropping off Liana and before arriving home, I wish someone had done that for me. As the rabbi said to the mourners, the friends and family carry the stories, which they can share with the children, who are so young they will otherwise not remember. That is all too real to me, and so I will do my part to share the stories I hold.