Poem for Debbie

On the day Debbie died,
we could hear it,
entropy taking over matter,
matter advancing over mind,
a radiant object falling away,
an intricate sand castle absorbed by the sea,
nothing and something finally wedded,
the Black Hole that charmed your youth
finally swept you away.

During your dying,
You stood for us twice on Kol Nidrei eve,
How we gasped to see you stride out,
a towering Miriam robed in white
a pathfinder in unknown lands
balancing on a high wire
not looking down once

In your teaching,
you teased and you prodded,
sent us wandering around mazes,
searching for heavenly clues
you spun us in circles
till we were breathless, dizzy
in your celestial carousel
we lost our earthly bearings.

Then you brought us home,
covered us with messages like a mother with kisses,
pinning them all over our lives like sticky notes.

You lived your struggle in public,
not sliding by degrees to a demise, 
withdrawing like a wounded animal waiting,
or an Eskimo bound for snow. Instead,
you came to our windowless shule
where prayers shed the only light,
let us see you stumble
wrote commentary all the way,
kept on with your singing, always
seeking the best harmonic line
to G-d’s defective song
even when He was tetchy,
you did not let Him steal the solo,
you did not surrender,
nor wrestle Him away

This is what we saw.
Every Shabbat you brought the name of a sick one
not yourself, every week
the journey to the bimah,
and the dozing in the backroom,
grew longer,

how frail we are
how hard it is for us to reach out for even one moment
to keep on caring
to not smile in the course of a funeral,
and if a tear should form in the corner of an eye,
to know for whom it really falls.

I was almost a friend, more an admirer
I write this poem while others weep
In your last days, you gave Andrew a chocolate
wrapped in silver, you said it was for me,
to help with my work,
a sweet remembrance

the closest thing we have to G-d
is each other.

Sadly we hand you back to the void.
We go back to our lives and our skipping ropes,
and translating His sentences ourselves,
we hope with an ardent hope (Rabbi Ralph called you ardent)
that the One you told us about
waits for you

—Lynette Chazan (Wirth)

Posted on August 1, 2011 .