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By Rabbi Harold Schulweis

"I recently attended a memorial service at our temple and a poem written by Rabbi Harold Schulweis was read. It helps answers the question: 'What is left to be done after the dying is over?' So many of us want closure after the death of a loved one and I felt Rabbi Schulweis helped address the issue." The poem is reproduced below.
     Karen Alpert Entous      December 2015


What is left to be done after the dying is over?
After the earth has covered the grave
The casket lowered
The ribbon cut
The tears shed
The last kaddish recited
The farewells over
The closure formed?

But there is no final closure in death.
Life and death are locked in embrace.
So intimately intertwined that the keriah
Of the cloth cannot tear them apart.
Something important remains intact.

When the dying is over,
A different kind of memory takes over.
Not the memory that is obituary.
Not the memory that records the past indiscriminately,
But an active memory that sifts through
The ashes of the past to retrieve isolated moments,
And that gives heart to the future.
That memory is an act of resurrection.
It raises up from oblivion the glories of forgotten years.

Even the memories of failure,
The recollections of frustration and regret, are precious.
Broken memories are like the tablets Moses shattered,
Placed lovingly in the holy Ark of remembrance.
Memories are saved-
Those immaterial, disembodied ghosts that endure.

What is left after death?
Pointers, ensigns, marking places
That raise us up to life and give us a changed heart,
Perhaps a life lived differently,
Better, wiser, stronger than before.
What is left after death? The life of the survivor.

written by Rabbi Harold Schulweis


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