Sunday, July 02, 2006

Chapter 19: Shomer

Certain acts are best characterized as “selfless” and, as such, are performed without thought of payment or recognition, as if to say:

‘I am doing this because it is the only decent and helpful thing I know to do.’

It is a Kiddush Ha Shem, an act performed to sanctify God's name, signifying:

‘In doing this for you, I expect nothing and will accept nothing in return.’

It is the ultimate act of friendship.

I have such a friend! ...

It happened on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2000 when Ben's mom and I, together with a few family friends, met with the funeral director to make the awful but necessary arrangements to lay our son to his final resting place.

In a way I think the worst part was the purchase of the casket. Our choice was simple. Made from pine, then lacquered and adorned with a Magen David, Star or Shield of David, the sighting of one exactly like it at a friend’s recent funeral brought back memories of that day when the funeral home staff delicately walked us through the casket show room. There was another choice, a simpler design without a lacquered finish, a flat rectangular construction. It reminded me of the caskets shown in the old cowboy movies that always had an undertaker in town.

Ben’s mom looked at me and I at her. Not quite enough we agreed for our beloved Benjamin.

That Thanksgiving was indeed a dreadful one: a quiet, somber but exhausting confusion. With so many suddenly necessary things to do and little time left to accomplish everything before Friday, it became an opportunity in abbreviated time when the angelic reflections of our souls shone brilliantly!

So many of our friends joined in to lend us a helping hand in our time of greatest need. A lady from my synagogue prepared me enough food for several days. A dear friend flew in from Canada. We were all so frenzied, and I recall feelings of surreal suspension which lasted until I heard the first spade of earth hitting the casket.

Our community experienced an ingathering that day, Thursday November 23, 2000 and for many days thereafter-a time when acts of chesed, kindness and gemilus chasadim, acts of loving kindness awakened our finest natures that really did manifest themselves in a common effort to mend that which cannot be fixed and heal that for which there is no cure. Each one comforted the next, quietly dreading the coming morning when would arrive the very last chance to say our ‘goodbyes’, but before which no one was left alone. No one!

A shomer sat next to the casket reading from the Sefer Tehilim, The Book of Psalms, throughout the night.

The soul rising higher...

This particular shomer knew Ben: who he was, where he lived, having conversed with him, seen him seated next to me in shul, discerned a fierce loyalty to family and friends; in sum simply this: the kind of person for whom one prays that his soul have an
aliyah, an ascent to a higher heavenly level.

Earlier that same day, this shomer sat near me while we finalized Ben’s funeral arrangements, whose selflessness later that night comforted me and whose tefilos, prayers, uttered on behalf of my son, I am quite sure, reached the “divine ear!”

I have such a friend!

Thank you Harv!

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