In general, I think a lot about the traditional Jewish way of grieving makes sense. Don’t delay the funeral; then spend a week, called shiva from the Hebrew word for seven [days], of intense concentration upon the deceased, with friends and family gathered together to–in a sense–celebrate the life that was.
The lines blurred a bit for me at RivkA’s shiva. What was I? Neither family nor “friend.” Like Cosmic X, I had met RivkA in person only once. But I read her blog and have read what others have said about her. I feel lucky to have “known” her, even in that glancing way.
I wanted to pay my respects. (I did not go to the funeral, which had a turnout of 1,000 people. Yes, ONE THOUSAND people.) So I went to the shiva, at what I thought would be an “off time” (mid-morning on a weekday) to find it overflowing with her kids’ school chums, assorted cousins, and people who knew her in myriad ways: cancer treatment, women’s learning groups, her Barnard book club.
I did not introduce myself. (Perhaps I should have.)
I was suddenly shy and felt like an interloper, sitting among people who knew her so intimately. Instead I listened to person after person praise her intellect, her passion, her kindness. I heard her husband, Moshe, tell of driving with their children to her funeral and reminding them to stop and really look at the crowd, in an attempt to absorb the number of people whose lives their mother had touched–of course that number includes hundreds more, who were not present there, from her blog and other Internet outlets.
Thinking about it later, my own mother’s influences–on me and others, her connections and friends, her work and her passions–have mostly occurred to me only as an adult. I have had the luxury of time with her. RivkA’s children will have to take what they have now with them as they continue to grow up. Thankfully, it is a rich legacy.
RivkA seemed to make people want to be better: better Jews, better Israelis, better thinkers, better neighbors and friends. And not only because of what she said, but because she led by example.
I have other people in my life who cast a similarly long shadow, people who emanate kindness and respect, tolerance, dignity, and Torah. I am lucky to have them.
But who on Earth would say, “Oh, sorry, I’ve reached my quota of being touched by amazing people”? Nobody, that’s who. So that’s why I read RivkA’s blog, why I traveled to her shiva, and why I will continue to think of her as I strive to improve myself as a Jew, as an Israeli, as a mom, as a friend, and as a person.