Becoming the lady who weeps

On the first day of Rosh HaShanah a friend mentioned that last Rosh Hashanah she was weeping throughout the service because a dear friend was dying. The weeping reminded her of something her late father used to say about "The old lady who cries all through the High Holiday services."

My friend said" I think I have become that lady." She wasn't feeling as devastated this year, but she was feeling sad, remembering her loss from last year and also thinking about our mutual friend whose father is now actively dying.

My conversation with my friend, but more than that just living through this season brings back the memories of hard high holiday seasons. The hardest of all was the year our friends child in a perfect storm of a genetic flaw and a fall was in the middle of what felt like a real life episode of the medical mystery show House.

House always had the same dramatic arc during the hour long show. Usually at about the 42 minute point Dr House would figure out exactly what was wrong. and in nearly every episode despite being close to death several times in the previous 42 minutes, the patient would be saved.

Real life is unfortunately not TV and the crisis did not unfold over an hour but over three weeks. By Rosh HaShanah the situation had gone from terrible to dire. Our friend's son was engaged to be married. I am not generally a big believer in magical amuletical thinking. I told the bride though that I would buy her veiling to make into a wedding veil as an amulet, a prayer that she would be able to marry her beloved.

On Yom Kippur the hospital called for all of us who have escorted a loved one from this life to the next know, "the family meeting". 

Well, magical thinking did about as much good as the smartest doctors in the world. Our friend's son  died  the day after Yom Kippur.

Each year I relive the events of that terrible year. The following Yom Kippur we were waiting for my father in law to draw his last breaths.

So you might wonder what I did with that veiling.

My youngest had decided to spend some of his bar-mitzvah money on something he really wanted. He bought himself a banana suit. When it arrived in the mail just before Yom Kippur while our friend's child was dying the suit came with instructions that the top and bottom of the banana needed to be stuffed with fabric. 

I realized that the magical thinking was just not going to work. I gave my son the veiling to stuff into the banana suit.
I knew it wasn't going to be worn by the bride.

The funeral was five hours away. We left early in the morning. We came home late that night. I had been away to bury my friend's child. When I came home I went into my son's room to give him a kiss. He was asleep and wearing that banana suit stuffed with the veiling.

In the intervening years my son has achieved some measure of fame while wearing that banana suit enhanced with the veiling. Today on Facebook I had an intense conversation with that bride.

She was oddly comforted by the veil's use.

As I get older, I realize that each one of us becomes the lady who weeps on the High Holidays.


  1. Beautiful, as always. I love your writing.

  2. Thanks Liege. I really appreciate both the fact that you read this and your kind words.

  3. Sarah,
    Joanne and I send our love. You helped us get through that unspeakable time. Gmar Hatimah Tovah- love to all the family.

  4. Send love back at both of you...Such a hard hard time...and despite being at best tertiary to the horrors...I am back reliving those weeks every I am sure you are.Wishing you both a year of many b'rachot. I feel like they are owed to you big time, the tzoris account has been overdrawn by the KBH it's time for some deposits in the b'racha v'simcha account.

  5. I am that old lady who weeps, not from sadness but from nostalgia. I always carry a couple of my grandmother's embroidered handkerchiefs ro shul; lovely to use but the lines of narrow satin stitching start to hurt my nostrils after a while...


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