Invitations to Heaven
As we prepare for our son’s wedding, I’m thinking of all the people who touched our lives.
We are preparing the invitation list for my son’s wedding and the decisions feel sensitive and complex. In a community of friends, in a family that has spread far and wide, it is hard to winnow out the must from the maybe, the friend from the friendly, the obligation from the affection. We lift the names up one by one, examining each relationship in the light.
At last we are ready to send the spreadsheet to the printer. This, finally, is the list of all those with whom we feel connected enough to share our joy. Inscribed in Excel cells, here is everyone we want with us on this momentous occasion. We review and revise. We press Send.
But something inside me says, not yet.
In the age of Whatsapp and Facetime they are still and always inaccessible to me.
Because there is another list of invitations that I would like to issue. People without whom my joy and my husband’s is incomplete. But I cannot figure out how to reach them. In the age of Whatsapp and Facetime they are still and always inaccessible to me.
I speak to them in my heart.
Zaidy, how I wish you were here! It’s a year since you’ve been gone and I can still hear your rumbling voice in my mind. Your glorious smile would have lit up the hall and made me forgive you for being an hour late.
My husband, our son and me
Babbi, you died years before my wedding and I still think of you so often. You were such an impossible mixture of wisdom and beauty, strength and grace. You should be here tonight.
Zaidy, when you died I was a self-centered teenager and while I mourned you, I didn’t quite understand what I was losing. I didn’t know enough about your heroism, your unshakeable faith, your determination; it was all masked in the twinkle of your deep blue eyes and your clever hands and stubbly kisses. But I know it now. I mourn it now.
Babbi, you died when I was already a mother. By then I knew enough to know that you had suffered unthinkable losses; parents, a child, a whole world literally burned before your eyes and still you sat with quiet devotion, whispering Psalms, faithful to Him until the end. I wish you were here with me. I wish I could give you this nachas.
I would invite my husband’s grandparents. His grandmothers, women of faith and kindness whom I knew. And also his grandfathers who I never met. They are only stories to me, but they are stories of Jews who survived and thrived and rebuilt against all odds. They were loved by my husband and they loved him deeply. They should share this night, this is their simcha too.
A picture frame I keep in my study with the few of pictures we have of relatives who died in the war.
I would invite you George, my good neighbor, who pronounced at 99 years of age, that every day was a good day and actually believed it. You would have loved to see your little buddy married and we would have loved to see your love.
And you, Mima Luchi, a woman of profound kindness. Although you spoke only Yiddish and I spoke only English, we understood each other through our hearts. I wish you were here, wearing the smell of fresh kokosh cake and squeezing my fingers in your warm, soft hands.
They’d give the couple gifts not found on wedding registries. Gifts of faith and strength, hope, love and the special protection granted to the righteous.
There are others I don’t know, but know of. Great grandparents who died sanctifying God’s name in the raging inferno of Europe. There are cousins who fell defending our Land. There are friends who are with us but not with us, lost in the fog of dementia and sickness. My uncle who died too young, the victim of a hard and lonely life. The uncle I never met, murdered as a baby in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. It hurts my heart to think that there are so many honored guests who did not make the printer’s list.
But I know this. As we prepare to see our child marry, move on, build his own home with God’s help, I carry with me the memories of the ones who came before. They shaped us and they shaped him, whether he knows it or not. I imagine that they give the young couple distinctive gifts, not found on wedding registries. Gifts of faith and strength, hope and happiness, love and the special protection granted to the righteous. I imagine this and I know that the wedding hall will be full of so many who weren’t on the spreadsheet. Every one of them is welcome.