Like a tide drifting, a thick quiet hovers as the clicking of heels and dress shoes exit the room leaving the rest of us to a muted hush. The alive sound of gurgling babies and chattering children dissipates and dissolves into the background as the room stills into a mournful soulless whisper. A haunting silence stalks me. Those who have been in the confines of these hallowed secluded walls stare at those of us who sit with ignorant discomfort for the first time. I have gone on to the other side. I am no longer one of them. The group that gets to leave Yizkor. Rather, I am part of a collective consciousness that has witnessed the pale of death and have seen the shadow of His Majesty give life and taketh. Eyes glance at me and my three sisters, the young newcomers. Much too young to be in this room. This is the place that holds the relics who remember the unforgotten and memorialize our lawyers up in heaven. Familiar warm stares, a knowing nod, and charitable gestures are exchanged. Its as if several moments of Shiva have been implanted into this space for what feels like an eternity. I take a deep breath and close my eyes amongst the thick eery and noiseless stillness that waves through the murmuring prayers like a glassy pond unruffled by the stagnant smell of loss and I remember his face, his warm body that used to hold me, his eyes that saw me unconditionally. I am reminded of my fragility.
Every man and woman sitting during Yizkor knows that time moves like a salty quivering wave in the ocean blue. That nothing stays the same. And that life swells with loss at different times. We have seen the other side. Our perspective has been pushed to another perimeter of comprehension. We have grasped the unthinkable and we live with the bitter taste that life’s other side of the coin is indeed a quiet that can never be quelled. Yizkor is meant to assuage the changes of time and pacify the puzzled who have scowled at the facade of shatterproof infinity, for we are the only witnesses to the sincerity and fact that infinity lies only with The Maker Himself.
I am not crying. I am still. I am embalmed in a memory that kindly holds me like a swaddled cocoon forever protecting my fragile psyche.
Like a crashing wave billowing down in a sudden sweep, the room fills up again with clamoring infants, children, and adults taking their recognized places. Yizkor is over and the ignorant have not witnessed our reserved ceremony. The moment is interrupted and I am left with a clashing of congregants who know not what my new space holds.
The prayer of Mussaf begins. It is the eighth day of Sukkot known as Shmini Atzeret and we are about to welcome prayers of rain. The chazzan bellows a prayer with great fervor. I recognize this prayer. I remember singing these words as a child, the song is etched in my mind,
“For You are the Lord our God, who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall. Remember us for a blessing and not for a curse, for life and not for death, for plenty and not for scarcity.”
The singing and chanting smells of inspiration and great fervor. Finally tears flow down my cheeks as the realization and reassuring reality carries me to this moment. Yes, I have witnessed death, I have tasted loss, yet I am still standing here, and my prayers of the entire month have culminated to this very moment. Bring me blessings not curses, life not death, plenty not scarcity. I am bewildered by the chasm of emotions, the dichotomy of life. For in one moment I can be honoring and testifying the horrors of loss, and the next moment I can be observing and watching the echoes of hope of song and of optimism.
Tomorrow when the first day of the new year really begins, I will swim with the wave when it pushes me, and I will tread with the tide when it carries me. I will sing and I will cry. And I will know this year I am guided by the Compass that I cannot see, yet that sees me always and forever.