The dead. The alive. And those in between.
They are always with us. They always have been. They always will be.
Whether they are invited or not, we hear the hum of their unmistakable presence.
As we learn how to talk about the unspeakable, and when we fail miserably.
By our side, sitting on our shoulders, they comfort us during the nightmare, and whisper reminders of caution when memory is clouded by rage.
They carefully place breadcrumbs for us to follow when we are seeking a path to travel.
We feel them smile when we arrive home.
Our parents. All of them.
Ex-lovers who died before we could become family.
Future lovers, waiting in the wings.
Childhood friends, and even those we had hoped would play with us on the playground, but never did.
Babies we didn’t plan for who never came to be, babies yet to be born, and those who only dreamt of their birthday.
The dead, those alive, and those in liminal spaces, are always with us.
We dance with the memories of those we have yet to meet, woven into our moving hips.
We wail with the ancestors we never knew. Some fled their homeland of Poland leaving families in lost graves. Never to return.
We journey to find them, behind locked Jewish cemetery gates crafted in the shape of menorahs. The cemetery is so large, one wonders how they were ever lost.
We celebrate with the grandson of a distant cousin becoming a bar mitzvah. In Argentina. During a pandemic. Masked on Zoom.
We have known these prayers and melodies for many lifetimes. They fill our eyes with life and heal wounds we didn’t know we had. They touch places that have no words.
We love a great-niece we have never held or touched or smelled. She cracks a smile and babbles through cyberspace. Making sounds of sheep.
The heart hears. The soul sees her neshama.
They all find a place at our delicious Shabbes table. Every one of them.
There is homemade challah. Even dessert. Sometimes there is an apple cake. Or chocolate almond cake so rich you wonder if heaven might taste like this.
We hear the unexpected cries of the shofar in the neighborhood. Is it close? Or from another time and place?
We send sacred blasts back to the unknown shofar blower. We have always known each other. We don’t need to know their name.
They arrive for Shabbes and find a place at the table. They bring sweet wine.
We breathe for the man in the bed struggling to find his breath. We hold up the nurse who is caring for him and so many others with COVID-19. She is tired. We comfort her with song and sweets.
We swim in the river with the children, and we bury the ones who died during the Great Deluge. The First Flood, and the ones that continue.
Grief permeates. Swirling throughout our dreams.
Joy and despair from every time and space make their home within us. They find a place at our Shabbes table and raise a glass.
They are always with us. All of them.