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Positivity Again: The Power of Ritual

nightsky2When All That’s Left Is Love

by Rabbi Allen S. Maller
When I die
If you need to weep
Cry for someone
Walking the street beside you.
You can love me most by letting
Hands touch hands, and Souls touch souls.
You can love me most by
Sharing your Simchas (goodness) and
Multiplying your Mitzvot (acts of kindness).
You can love me most by
Letting me live in your eyes
And not on your mind.
And when you say Kaddish for me
Remember what our
Torah teaches,
Love doesn’t die, People do.
So when all that’s left of me is love
Give me away.

Yesterday was my father’s memorial service.  It was a small, unpretentious, heartfelt letting go on a 26’ pontoon boat a few miles offshore in Florida.  The day was overcast, with brief sun breaks. We were blessed to have both a ship captain and a minister in one of our oldest friends who helped us find our way out into the Atlantic where, one by one, we remembered what was best and real about my dad.  In the end, what we find is that even the most challenging people we live with are, at their core – loveable.

There is something about these rituals of memorializing a person’s life that brings a sense of closure and healing to the heart.  Letting go of the final remains of the body, whether it is put in the ground or let loose over the side of a boat makes death real.

The abstract idea of someone gone off somewhere unknown, which weaves itself through our dreams and leaves us waiting for the door to open with them standing there saying – “what is all the fuss?” dissipates, and grief takes a step further from denial.

The lightening of disbelief is replaced by the weight of reality, of the stuff of life to be redistributed, of the letting go of places, of choosing what to keep. Our family minister read this poem as  a guide to walking from this place forward.  How to take all that remains from a life and turn it into love is the gift, the challenge of how life always moves forward.

Today I will take a few tentative steps down that path.