I woke up from my nap as the car turned into the cemetery yesterday morning. It was a crisp, sunny fall morning, not much different than the morning we laid my Grandmother to rest last year. My father navigated the car through the twists and turns of the cemetery, not stopping at the Administration Office. Clearly, he knew where he was going. Once we made the right on Lebanon Avenue, I felt my body tighten. We were almost there.
The car stopped when we pulled up next to the area where my grandparents were laid to rest in 1990 and 2007, respectively. It was the first time I had been here since my Grandmother’s Funeral. It was the first time I was going to see the double headstone with engraving on the left side. Don’t cry. You have nothing to cry about. They’re both in heaven. Don’t cry. I kept repeating those words over and over to myself as my husband asked me, “Do you want me to come out with you?”
“Sure,” I said in a small voice.
My parents stayed inside the car. They just went to the cemetery right before the High Holidays. It was me who needed to pay my respects now that I was home from Rhode Island for the weekend.
When I exited the car, I began looking for two rocks to place on top of the headstone – one for my grandmother and one for my grandfather. Though unsatisfied with the puny stones I found, I went up the three stairs that led to path that would take me to my grandparents’ grave. I put one rock on the right side, for my grandfather, and one on the left side, for my grandmother. Marc did the same. Then I stood about eight feet back from the headstone, sniffled, and then some tears spilled over my eyes.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t cry,” I told Marc.
“It’s okay to cry,” he reminded me as a wash of memories came back to me standing there. Memories of my grandparents’ annual June visit to New Jersey. Memories of simchas, like the one I was headed to yesterday afternoon, popped into my mind. And memories of the little things, like going to the shopping mall, out to dinner, or going for a ride on a weekend afternoon with me in the backseat buckled-in between the two of them with my parents in the front seat.
“May I have a minute?” I asked Marc.
“Sure,” he said as he proceeded back to the car.
From behind my sunglasses, I looked at the headstone thinking unsure about what I should say or do next. Just a few seconds after Marc walked away, I began reciting the Kaddish, the prayer that is often said to lift the soul higher to heaven each time it is recited. It seemed like the right thing to do. And, when I was done, I paused for a moment to take in the stone for the last time, sad that my grandmother wouldn’t be at my cousin Isaac’s Bar Mitzvah with us today, and walked back to the car knowing that she and my Grandfather were together.
And this morning, as I sit here wishing I could have shared yesterday’s Bar Mitzvah with my Grandmother (had she not been able to make it physically, we would’ve talked on the phone about it), I remind myself of the final paragraph of the eulogy I delivered at her funeral last year:
There’s a book by Harriet Zaifert I often pull out for my fifth grade students when they’re having a bad day. It’s called Misery is the Smell in Your Backpack. It basically defines what misery is in the hopes of making the reader put their bad day into context. However, we are not in misery. Today is not a less-than-perfect day; in fact, it’s a bright one. I’m thinking of today as a celebration of the beginning of Grandma’s next journey. After 17 years apart, my Ebubbey and my Grandfather who I continue to miss so much each and every day, are reunited. And for that, I am anything but miserable as I stand before you today. I am so happy for they are together again.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.