Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Paul Beckman


Sarah safety-pinned on her dress a piece of cloth from her mother’s apron, a corner off her father’s tallit, and a piece from her brother’s baseball uniform. Then, leaving the hotel, she took a cab to the synagogue.

Inside, she walked down the aisle approaching the coffins and spotted the Rabbi. She walked over. She told him she was Sarah and took her coat off. Please rip these mourning ribbons and say the blessing she said pointing at her handiwork. He asked the meaning of each. She told him.

They were outside the doorway of the ante room holding the mourning family leaving room for well-wishers. The Rabbi reached into his pocket and took out a black ribbon but Sarah insisted on three black ribbons with safety pins and one by one pinned a black ribbon and said a prayer after cutting the ribbons up the middle with a scissors. He said the English and Hebrew names of her sons and her husband who lay in the coffins but he did not touch the safety pinned pieces from her parents and brother who sat in the mourner’s room looking at her. They hadn’t seen each other in the five years she’d walked out on her family to be with another.

The Rabbi motioned for her to go into the mourner’s room to be with the family before starting the service but she turned and walked to the caskets and stood dry-eyed and motionless, head bowed, hands on each coffin until she was gently prodded away so the funeral service could begin.

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