Not much blogging here lately, I know. But I've been writing, mainly for the wonderful class I'm taking once again where we study a little Torah and then listen to one another's words—I am awed and inspired by both. I wish there were more hours in the day to do that, and work, and sing, and draw (an old hobby newly resurrected—or will be, once I finish clearing some space out in a corner of my bedroom). Oh, and socialize and pray and look at art and relax. I need a 48-hour day.
Meanwhile, in the middle of today's 24-hour one I led a shiva minyan. I arrived to see the rabbi deep in conversation—must be a scheduling mistake, I thought, since they certainly didn't need me if he was present. "No problem," I said to the son of the deceased. "I'm glad to stay." "The more the merrier," he answered, not ironically. A torrent of laughter came from the dining room; you could almost see the love pouring from all these good spirits. But I didn't know a soul, and suddenly felt uncomfortable. I'm not great at being a stranger in the middle of a crowd, even a really nice one. Just as I began to strategize which back wall to melt into, the wife of the deceased came over.
"You can lead now," she said with a smile. And there was the rabbi, putting on his coat and thanking me; he just came by for a visit. (Maybe he was on his way to another minyan. This winter, once again, brought a depressing increase in deaths within the community.) I was relieved to have something to do, and to do this thing in particular. (And also that the rabbi would not actually listen to me lead. Silly! They hear me sing all the time. But not in someone's living room while pretending to be in charge, even though I sort of am. It's less stressful to wear that mantle in a room full of people I don't really know.)
Today was the last day of shiva and everyone prayed wearily, too familiar with the drill. I learned that the deceased was alive and eating dinner at this time just a little more than a week ago, and then died very suddenly. The family cried and smiled and laughed, lovely, gracious people who made sure to thank crowds of friends for their support, and didn't seem numb, but I knew they were. I walked out into the rain very glad to be alive, chilly, and wet in the middle of Broadway.