My dear friend Audrey never got to meet her grandson, Max. Max’s mom Jessie and my daughter met in first grade; their friendship led to Audrey’s and mine. Audrey became Emma’s second mom and likewise, Jessie became my second daughter. Audrey died months before Jessie married. It is a sacred, cherished, and bittersweet role to be there for Jessie at milestones large and small. Whenever I visit, in my mind and my heart, I take Audrey with me.
Last week our synagogue’s green team sponsored a plant exchange and all sorts of kids’ activities focussed on bees and butterflies. By happenstance, Max had found a coccoon the week before and the morning of the event, his butterfly — a Monarch, no less! — emerged. There was quite a bit of fanfare when Max opened the jar and eased out his butterfly. During a lull, Jessie and I took Max into the sanctuary. We brought him to the ark, the enclosure where the Torah scrolls are kept. Its smooth wooden doors are carved into the shapes of animals and Jewish symbols. Jessie, Max and I spent a good few minutes finding rams, birds, and a lion or two.
Next we went stood at the bima, the platform where the Torah is read. We opened the prayerbook and Jessie handed Max a yad, a slender silver pointer, and explained to him that we never touch the Torah with our hands, but use the yad instead to keep the place as the Torah is read. As Max pointed to words in the prayerbook, Jessie recited them to him. He pointed to a prayer that happened to be one his parents sing to him at bedtime. Oseh Shalom asks God to spread peace over us, over all the people Israel, and over the entire world. Jessie and I sang Oseh Shalom to Max. He laughed and giggled with joy. I imagined Audrey joining in, her voice audible across time and longing.