One Jew in the Pew


Today was the funeral for one of my first Speaking of Aphasia clients.    He came to us with an additionally wonderful family, all of whom were evidence of his grand heart, quick wit, and desire to do good.

Aphasia was an unwelcome but not insurmountable life alteration to him.  His intellect permitted him to engage in conversations that were rich and satisfying, even without the words.  In this way, using SCA™ I discovered that the scar on his hand and arm was the result of a fight and fall, that he played baseball well enough to have considered it vocationally, that he was a tireless supporter of many liberal causes, and had waged battle with his own personal demons in younger years, emerging victorious and committed to helping those in the same hell-space.

He  participated in celebrations for his children and grandchildren, enjoyed the recognition he received from his colleagues, the weekly lunches with one true friend who never abandoned him for lack of spoken words.  And then, the loss of his one great love; I attended his wife’s funeral in this same church not so long ago.

Sitting there, an observer of the Catholic rituals and music, the Bible readings by his grandchildren, I felt…what?  A bit shut out of the communal mourning with which I so wanted to connect.  Jewish funerals are so much more familiar to me; the responsive choral utterings fall off my tongue so easily.  And here I was, intimidated by an Amen.

The priest rose to give his eulogy, and I listened intently, recognizing in his words that they had been friends, and hearing both familiar and new stories.  Toward the end, he asked us to close our eyes, and to meditate upon the man, whose coffin I could see clearly.

When I closed my eyes, I saw light grey, and in the foreground, what looked like two darker grey figures in silhouette.  My left brain recognized them as negative shadows of the two priests in bright white vestments I had gazed at for several minutes, but then I saw them as this man and his wife, and in that instant of recognition, the two figures quickly merged, and then all became light grey again.

In the last moments we all stood with eyes closed, I heard the first few words of the Aramaic Kaddish – considered the Hebrew prayer for the dead:

Yis’ga’dal v’yiskadash sh’may ra’bbo…







About Shirley Morganstein

I am a life participation therapist for people with aphasia, exploring the relational and reflective process.
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