Death and After
We went to our first Temple Micah funeral today. The sanctuary was packed with people who had known Richard in some capacity over the years. His wife of 53 years was there with their children and grandchildren. Although Esther hadn't known them well, she had pieced together enough information to give everyone a realistic characterization of the deceased man. She read things written by his various family members. She included this fitting poem from John Updike, specifically because Richard was a witty guy who liked to make people laugh:
And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market --
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories
packed in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That's it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren't the same.
We've just come from the first Shiva service, where friends and family join to mourn their common loss. It's like a warm-up to grieving, the process that will officially last a year, but which may in fact last a lifetime.