Tradition & Innovation

Tucking in Aunt Belle

black and white photo of older woman standing by a gravesite holding umbrella
I avoid seeing the shovel near my aunt’s grave.
The rabbi says we mourners
will carpet her coffin with earth,
an unrepayable act of loving kindness.
I tune out until “we are tucking Belle in.”
It makes me reconsider my prior
reluctance of sharing in the ritual.
I had dreaded the harsh sounds,
cringed with each thudding of dirt laced
with stones as it dropped onto the pine box.
I downplayed how the act helps us to heal.
Today I struggle, knowing I should do my part,
but again lack the courage to perform
this painful parting sacrament.
I even try to convince myself that perhaps
I am being brave to breach a norm.
Yet I know my grief will be tainted with shame.
Finally, the earth is becoming layered enough
to blunt the distressing thumps.
A cousin transforms the rhythm by gently
strewing, almost feathering, dirt onto the mound.
I mutely thank her, grateful my mother’s
best friend is being tucked in just right.

This poem first appeared in the March/April 2021 edition of Poetica Magazine: Contemporary Jewish Writing.


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Found in: Funeral & Burial

Tags: grief

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