Sometimes I hear my father’s voice
when I listen for his counsel,
wanting an answer
Other times I struggle to hear it,
yearning to gain his insight,
longing for his challenge, his calm
Sometimes I see my friend
when I edit a challenging piece of writing,
& see her tiny, perfect script in the margins, writ years ago,
making a sentence just so
Sometimes my grandmother tells me what to wear…pearls!
or how to bake
My grandfather tells me to vote-
My aunt reminds me to sing —
My friend shows me how to weave.
My student encourages me to take a principled stand
When I hear their voices, it’s something –
but not enough, never enough —
I remember the questions I want to ask now, & can’t:
how much sugar, whom did you choose,
what’s your favorite lyric,
what should I do right now?
It happens –
we hear their voices – don’t we?
They speak to us —
they speak through us
When we listen
The voice may be loving, It may be harsh
It may be wise or amusing
We see them —
in a photo or handwritten recipe,
in jewelry or in the house
on paper or on a trip
in a city or in a celebration
The image may be of a child or elder, holding us or dressed to the 9’s
Sitting around the house or on the go
Then we want to stop, take a walk, or sit at the table with them
Mark the occasion, go back to that time or place,
Feel that hug or hand holding us –
But we can’t
they are not here –
though they are with us
There is no one like them[i] —
Our parents & grandparents, our husbands & wives
Our sons & daughters,
Our brothers & sisters
Our dear friends – our family –
All who we loved
No one like them
They challenge and inspire
Humble and teach
Make us laugh and make us cry
“When [they] die, they cannot be replaced.
They leave holes that cannot be filled,
for it is the fate…of every human being
to be a unique individual,
to find his own path, to live [her] own life,
to die his own death.”[ii]
So what do we do when they are gone?
We grieve out loud, or sit in silence
We are angry & sad
We’re resigned or overwhelmed
Maybe we don’t know how we are feeling —
it changes, unpredictably in a moment
Sometimes we can feel only their absence in the void
We can’t hear, we can’t see them
We feel emptiness & longing,
The pain of “If only…they were here”
But when we allow ourselves to journey back,
When we take space and time to remember,
to be with our memories…
& just stop —
We might just hear & see those we have lost.
We might gain meaning and insight
Affirming or painful, new or familiar
This is that time, that space –
to listen, to see, to hear, and to remember
Take that walk in your mind’s eye
Sit over that cup of tea or holiday dinner
Imagine that phone conversation…
Hear the voices…
Ask the questions…
Whose voices do you hear?
What do they tell you?
No, it’s not the same.
It’s not enough, never enough.
But here is something, a gift for us, if we accept.
Yizkor is the time to see, to hear, to remember.
Yizkor is a gift. Accept the gift with me.
[i] Gratitude, Oliver Sacks.