It wasn’t lost on me, mother, that this year on the anniversary of death, you had been gone eighteen years, Chai in your beloved Hebrew, a lifetime for me, having never met you save in the half of my genes you implanted in me when I was implanted in you.
As you aged, alone, did you wonder what became of the closest family you had after your parents were interred in the soil of Charleston? Did you ever regret not knowing, or were you comfortable that the Jewish Family Service Agency would make a selection of which you would have approved had your approval been sought.
You have grandsons and greatgrandchildren who will mourn me, carry my memory forward, but know that I do the same for you, and you never aged a day from that one when the photographer took your college yearbook photo, a grainy copy of which is tucked in my wallet and heart.
I approach it slowly, overcome by fear and desire, warned to step carefully over the uneven earth that on this hillside haven set behind the rusting wrought iron fence , its master lock dangling askew, peers out through the trees to the Kanawha river flowing unknowingly through the valley.
The stone is set in line with the others, neatly incised, a name, English and Hebrew, two petunias, cornered, in perpetual bloom, a beloved sister and aunt, and unstated, unknown perhaps, a mother whose son, gently touching the stone, washes her with my tears, and we speak of love in silence, and I, a child of sixty-seven, embrace my mother for the first time, and I am finally and for the first time, complete
In this place there is a fatted, sacrificial silence. It is the large Jewish Cemetery nestling the road where Maryland and the District are loosely stitched together. It is a small plot goldenrod dirt outskirting Lisbon.
This ground is sacred not for the blessing of one who has taken the tallit of holiness. The sanctity of this ground leaches from the simple pine boxes that return with the body to the soil.
The stones, mostly simple with neatly incised Hebrew inscriptions are all blank to me, worn smooth by memory denied. I place my ear carefully to each, wanting to hear a voice, a fractured whisper that will resonate in the hollow spaces.
I pass by those with shared names for if he or she is here each must share the isolation they willed me. I look at the faces of passing mourners — none resemble the morning mirror.
I grow tired of the search, sit in the paltry shade of the ricinus plant knowing we both will be gone by sundown.
First Appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 29, No. 1, 2005.