On the morning before erev Rosh HaShanah, the night before the Jewish New Year, my mother Lynn drew her final breath. I wasn’t in the ICU beside her because of my compromised immune system and Covid-19. My sister held up her phone so through FaceTime I could say my last words to her and see her neshamah (soul) leave the earth.
Her funeral was on a brilliant sunshine-filled Sunday afternoon in a small Jewish cemetery surrounded by the greenest hills of trees in Central Pennsylvania, where she had lived for the last forty-two of her eighty years. It was excruciating to be to be so physically near my Dad, siblings and nephews but not be able to hug them, to cry together on each other’s shoulders. I delivered my Mom’s eulogy in a masks, sniveling, sobbing, stopping to blow my nose. My husband Fred, daughter June and me drove the four hours back home without the comfort of a shared meal following the service. But waiting to greet me on my porch were beautiful fall mums and pumpkins that lifted my spirit more than I can express, left by an anonymous friend.
Between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, our extended family, friends and circles of communities met in the evenings on Zoom for shiva. Faces of loved ones across North America and even my Mom’s cousin joining one night from Israel at 2am filled three screens of connection. Our Zoom shiva was full of prayer, listening, sharing…memories close and intimate, tears, laughter, shock, disbelief, comfort.
Since it’s been over, I’ve tried to keep an open channel to my Mom’s soul, talking to her through the day much as I would have through our texts and phone conversations. I’ve felt her near me at different times, some quick and fleeting, some powerful with a clear and sparkling comfort.
Thursday was a warm early fall day here in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania where I live. My day began at 6am as usual, when I wake up and take my dog Hank out to pee. That afternoon, we took a great 45-minute walk through the neighborhood. When we came in the house, he followed me, tail wagging to the refrigerator, asking for some baby carrots. He got some and then went to lie down in his bed while I opened my computer and got back to work.
At 4:30pm, Fred put Hank’s dinner in his bowl but Hank didn’t follow him to eat it. That was highly unusual behavior for Hank and had happened only…