Clouds, May 2010

Clouds, May 2010

Sunday, May 18, 2014

otherwise okay

This weekend did not go as planned.

Friday was Dan's birthday, & since Thursday night we would celebrate with his family, we planned for the 3 of us to do something together on the day of.

This weekend would also be my grandmother's unveiling, on Sunday. The unveiling is a Jewish custom "to show honor toward the deceased & reflect the teaching that all are equal in death" (according to It is basically a graveside service to unveil the headstone. The grave marker, or monument, serves to honor the memory of the deceased & identify a place of burial-- that part is familiar for many. But according to Jewish law it is customary for the grave marker to be put in place & for an unveiling ceremony to be held within, & no later than, one year after the passing. Many families will wait until almost the full year has passed to do the unveiling, but it may be done sooner. The unveiling ceremony may consist of Psalms, a brief eulogy, removing the cloth covering of the headstone, & the Mourner's Kaddish (prayer in praise of God recited by mourners).

For me, the unveiling is more equivalent to paying final respects. It's a different step in the mourning process but it's also more closure. It's a chance to leave a stone.

I researched common explanations of this stone-placing tradition & it's part custom, part superstition, but regardless... there is a customary Jewish belief that stones "keep the soul down" (if you will). Rooted in the Talmud, the belief suggests that souls continue to dwell for a while in the graves in which they are placed. The grave is the permanent home to retain some aspect of the departed soul, so therefore stones are more than a marker of one's visit-- they symbolize the permanence of memory.

Again, according to, all explanations have one thing in common: the sense of solidity that stones give. I prefer the below paraphrase when comparing to the better known (non-Jewish) custom, of graveside flowers:

"Flowers are a good metaphor for life. Life withers; it fades like a flower. But the memory is supposed to be lasting. While flowers may be a good metaphor for the brevity of life, stones seem better suited to the permanence of memory. Stones do not die. When we place stones on the grave among all the souls whom God has to watch over, we wish to add the name-- the 'pebble'-- of the soul of our departed."

So at the unveiling I would have the opportunity to leave stones today-- one for GG & one for Poppy (H's special genetic link, & incidentally, he is & will be the only great grandchild with that uniqueness).

I sort of daydreamed that Hayden, very calmly & in a very grownup way, would place his own stone just as the rest of us.

So the original plan was on Saturday, with all of the family having traveled to New Jersey, we would get together at some point. This way the visit was not just limited to the unveiling & then a get-together at my parent's house afterwards. Especially with Flora & Gabriele only being there for the latter.

Well before the weekend even arrived, I learned that one of my mom's sister's was not going to make it to New Jersey at all, after ending up in the hospital due to severe pain from sciatica. Her other sister's flight was canceled-- but she was still expected to get here, albeit a day later than planned. I don't believe my Uncle had any travel issues per se, but I know one of my cousins had a major delay returning to the States. 

So, let's backtrack to Friday night-- Dan's birthday.

We (the 3 Capelas) learned of all the family travel hiccups, hoped for the best, & went ahead with our evening plans. It was raining quite heavily. We decided on a nearby familiar restaurant that has a particular dish Dan really enjoys. Hayden seemed to be in a pretty good mood, & off we went.

Everything was okay at first, but it soon became evident that Hayden was not going to eat his food. The food was not the issue-- he just seemed very anxious all of a sudden, & sort of uncomfortable. He began perseverating about leaving, & that was the beginning of the end. Overall he tends to do well in restaurants so this was just, for whatever reason, a sort of fluke thing I guess.

I tried bringing H to the bathroom thinking maybe his stomach was bothering him or something, but that wasn't it either. If I had to guesstimate, I would say we were physically in the restaurant for a whopping 45 minutes-- maybe 10 of which were fun.

Nighttime routine did not go so well either. He was refusing to clean up his toys & when it was time for lights-out, he would not stay in his room. Dan & I had originally planned to watch a Netflix movie together but that never happened. By the time Hayden was finally settled, we were too exhausted.

Saturday was a beautiful day. Aside from waking up to a bit of a toy mess in the living room which was still there from the night before, it was sunny out & the rain had stopped. It was slightly chillier than normal for this time of year, but the sky was clear & it looked like Spring should look.

It turns out that Dan's nephew & godson both had lacrosse games on the same fields on the same day. So the plan was that Dan would bring Hayden there, my Dad would meet them, & I would sneak in a couple of errands including grocery shopping while I could. Unfortunately our nephew ended up not feeling well enough to play that day, however, Hayden still enjoyed seeing our friends there & hanging with Pop Z. Afterwards he & Pop Z went for a quick lunch together & then came back to the house... to work on stuff, of course... including customizing H's new bike with a hitch
& fixing a broken drawer in the vanity in my bathroom (possibly not as fun as the aforementioned, but necessary).

In the evening though, for the third night in a row actually, Hayden was not complying with the usual routine at all. Long story short, the Netflix movie is still in its sleeve.

Sunday morning was relatively uneventful-- just busy. Hayden would be coming with us to the cemetery, but we felt he would be okay with that. I tried to explain in simple terms that it's where people are buried after they pass away. I believe I said something to the effect of: even though GGG is in heaven we can visit her grave. I said we would have a short service there, just a few minutes, & then we'd go back to Grandma Suzi & Pop Z's house. 

Although I think he does get it in his own way, Hayden only wanted to know if he could go in Pop's car after. I said yes & this made him absolutely fine with everything else.

We were about half way to the cemetery when everything on the highway suddenly came to a standstill.

This was no ordinary traffic for a busy day-- let alone a Sunday. A short distance ahead, when we got close enough to read it, a digital highway sign indicated we were about a mile from an accident.

Fifteen minutes later we were a half mile from the accident, but a lot closer than that to a nervous breakdown.

The unexpected standstill made Hayden anxious to the point of anger. Hunger & needing a toilet was not helping anything either. Although I did remember to bring food & snacks for him, he was no where near calm enough to eat a morsel of anything. Not to mention he would then need a drink & we still wouldn't be any closer to a bathroom. (And in case you were wondering, he is not a pull-over-on-the-side-of-the-road-&-pee-in-the-woods kind of kid.)

That is not something he would be okay with, never mind the fact there was no place to pull over on the stretch of highway where we were stuck.

I soon realized we were simply not going to the make it to the cemetery in time either. I had already spoken to my parents at this point & they knew we would likely just meet them back at the house.

The truth is, missing the unveiling left a little bit of heaviness on my heart.

Just a notable side observation-- nor here nor there-- but interestingly my mom, her brother, & her sister all named their first born daughters with a J: for GG's mom, Jessie.
Due to unforeseen circumstances & so on & so forth... out of the 7 grandchildren to GG & Poppy... the three first-born J namesakes were the only ones present for the unveiling.

Oddly I am finding a different sort of comfort in this symbolism & hoping that GG's soul does too.

I will one day place my own stone. I'll find one with a nice purplish hue. In the interim I know that GG continues to be at peace. Interesting how her burial was just before Hayden's birthday last year, & her unveiling was just after Dan's birthday this year.

One day last summer I inadvertently discovered that we still had her message on our answering machine-- (yes, we have one of those--) when she called to wish Dan a Happy Birthday. At the end of the message she giggled. I have it saved in a 3-second sound clip. I don't think I ever told anyone.

I guess it's like a stone for me.  


"There is something suiting the antiquity and solidity of Judaism in the symbol of a stone. In moments when we are faced with the fragility of life, Judaism reminds us that there is permanence amidst the pain. While other things fade, stones and souls endure."
--David Wolpe, of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles, for 


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