I cooked obsessively during the funeral. If you stop, you know — and look at the screen…then the others can see the tears streaming down your face — and I just didn’t want that.
I didn’t want them to read my face.
So I made a pumpkin pie. And dumpling soup.
Comfort food to comfort the cook.
It was a zoom funeral. That man there is his middle son, I told my mother.
And that one speaking — it is his son.
And so I narrated.
And cut vegetables.
And toasted pecans.
And hid my grief.
When I was 7 years old he shook my hand and stole my heart. He demonstrated to me how six million grass seeds represented the number of my people that had been killed – and how my family had died among them.
It was like losing my father all over again.
When I was twelve he taught me to look at the back of the room from the stage.
Imagine, near the ceiling, he said — that you can see the words – Slow, Loud, Clear. Imagine that they are there. And deliver your message that way — slowly — loudly — clearly.
It was a way to deliver a message — and a way to live a life.
When I was sixteen we jogged together at dawn — through cornfields.
When I was nineteen he wrote me letters in college.
When I was twenty-five he flew to California to officiate our wedding.
We had breakfast with him. I ordered Huevos Rancheros. with extra Tabasco, I said.
Wow, he said, I have never seen a bride eat like that on her wedding day.
He told me, at our wedding ceremony, that I had an extra soul.
He told my groom that he was industrious.
Over the next few years we saw him, bringing one baby with us.
When it had been twenty-five years I called him.
I know that voice, he said. I have missed you, my friend.
I have missed you too, I said.
And so it was that on our twenty-fifth anniversary that he married us again. This time on his turf.
And this time holding up the poles at the corners of our chuppah, our wedding canopy, were our children.
Do you still love hot sauce, he asked?
Yes, I love it. Why?
He then addressed the children. Because in all my years your mother is the only one I have ever met who had huevos rancheros with extra hot sauce the morning of her wedding — and for twenty-five years I have been telling everyone about the “hot sauce bride”.
And then we laughed. And went to lunch.
Over the next few years we lunched a bit more. I stopped by his house when I was in town for this or that. He commented on my work and directed me to learn from my children.
A few weeks ago I got a call from his son.
Dad is in hospice. Please come.
It was just before dawn when I left the next morning.
Driving this time, again through cornfields.
I arrived at the house – I sat at his feet.
I have loved you my whole life, I told him.
He picked at the bed linens.
I stayed ten minutes and drove back.
He had taught me about light — in people’s eyes.
He had taught me about light — in peoples’ souls.
He had taught me about boycotts and fighting for rights.
He had taught me about genocide.
He taught me about speaking slow, loud & clear – and living my life slow, loud & clear.
He taught me, most of all, how to connect with and encourage a young heart and mind – how to inspire and what the heck to do with an extra soul.
And how to keep moving.
If you stop, you know — and look at the screen…then the others can see the tears streaming down your face.
Zichrono tzaddik livracha – may the memory of the righteous – be a blessing.