If memories are painted in watercolor, susceptible to fading or being painted over by brighter colors of fresh experience, then telling them as stories are the Sharpies that outline them in bold.
My memories of my grandfather, whose Yartzheit (anniversary of his death) is today, are warm but faded. So when I tell my sons stories about him – clinging piggy back to him in the swimming pool, or the funny way he danced, or that he was present at my wedding despite his illness — I bring him to life.
In fact, the stories I love most are from before I knew him: the 5-year-old boy who immigrated to America; the talented young baseball player who dropped out of school to support his family; the winning amateur boxer; the bold, successful entrepreneur; the handsome devil who followed a red-headed beauty home one day, then married her, putting the rest of our story in motion.
Stories keep my husband’s grandfathers alive, too. Though he was a baby when they died, the family lore gets passed down so that even our children feel like they have known these men. Stories are more important than memories. Or rather, stories pass memories to those of us who were not eye witnesses.
My grandfather was not a religious man, but at his funeral, his nephew, Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan, gave him a tribute inspired by a Hebrew name that came closest to “Al,” the American name my grandfather took as a boy. The name “A’lon,” Peretz said, means oak tree. Al Diamond was an oak tree. That sums up some of his truest qualities – strong, sheltering limbs to protect his loved ones, deep roots. Permanence.
One year and four days after my grandfather left his body behind, our first child was born, a boy. We named him Aaron for my husband’s grandfather. And, in the Jewish custom of giving babies a Hebrew name different from their given names, we named him A’lon for my grandfather. In their names and in the stories we tell, we keep our grandfathersever present, even decades after their touch is gone.
Today as I stepped out of the shower, my mind turned, in that untraceable-to-first-thought, how-did-I-get-here way that minds work, to the subject of cremation.
If I could tell you why I was thinking about this, I would. But let’s just start here.
Would I be cremated? I asked myself. There are a couple considerations. First, there’s the afterlife. I mean, what if there is a there there, and what if we really do need all our parts — what happens if I’m all dust and gone? I wouldn’t have a hand or a forehead to smack it against, no mouth to say “Doh! Mistake!” I wonder, would I be able to get a loaner? Could pick a different body type? Could I be taller?
But if, as I suspect, there’s no need for the body once we’ve expired, what reason is there not to return to the cosmos all dust…
View original post 392 more words