Of all the ways I’ve spent my birthdays, this one really took the cake. Yesterday, I spent my 34th burying a family friend. Literally.
We all took turns at the grave site, depositing a small sprinkling of dirt. Some of us letting it cascade off of a garden trowel and onto the casket, maybe catching a glimpse of mica or a waft of dead weeds. Others struggling with a shovel thinking about the right amount of dirt to cast down so as not to seem weak or to cause a thud. First on the bottom half and then on the top. When we thought we had been successful and had said our goodbyes, the rabbi–a nephew who had flown in from Florida–grabbed the shovel to continue what we had mimed at.
This wasn’t some pussyfooted burial with big black hats, calla lilies, and fancy bamboo bar mitzvah chairs. This was a proper burial. An actual burial.
Having taken over from the rabbi (he was, after all, fairly heavyset), I shoveled over the casket and its cement casing. I watched Eadie disappear behind a dirt screen that became a wall that became six feet of earth. To finish the burial, the rabbi asked and then demanded that the bulldozer track its way through the cemetery–something that at first seemed unnecessary and impetuous in a way the orthodox always seem to be. I watched as the bulldozer rolled over burial plots and popped up a small flat tombstone (a baby perhaps) in order to position itself properly to place the lid on the cement casing and bulldoze the remaining dirt into the hole. It was raw, and it was real. This was a final act of respect. This was the end of life.
At the service, my friend Caryn talked about how her grandmother always insisted that she respect herself. “Don’t get fat. Stand up Straight. You can’t buy time, so don’t waste it.” Today, I can’t help but want to follow through on that message. How I can be a better person? How can I respect myself and my body and the time that I have?
I want to think big. I want to be bold and smart. I want to be action-oriented. I want to take control of my fitness and health. I want to live authentically and be in tune with my soul. I want to be mindful of my own wants and the lives of others.I want to be open to new adventures. I want to explore. I want to stay feisty, and I want to be loved like Eadie.
Great thoughts for a new start to a new year of my life from a sad but very love-filled day.
PS. Cake recipe tomorrow!