Friday, November 5, 2010

Thoughts from a funeral

My wonderful friend, Lesley Gross Fuchs, lost her mother, Sophie, this week. Mrs. Gross was 90 years of age.

I drove to Cherry Hill for the funeral today, in dreary, wet, chilly weather, thinking of Les and her family dealing with what is always a heartbreaking blow.

Both Les and Andy, her brother, gave stirring, lovely, humorous tributes to their mother, as only children of devoted mothers can. Les's husband, Mordecai, known more commonly as Moti, a well-known New York cantor, conducted the service. His sweet tenor voice intoned the psalms in Hebrew, then he read them in English. But it was what happened next that stayed in my mind as I drove home and is still rolling around in there somewhere, niggling away for no seeming reason.

Moti could have been a very successful actor. He knows how to deliver lines in stentorian tones or in the crooning way of soft-spoken orators. Best of all, he knew his wife's mother well and loved her dearly, so the words of his eulogy were personal, moving, sentimental and compassionate.

I listened to the praise of Sophie and all that she meant to her family... her exemplary mothering skills and, then, her son-in-law spoke about tachlit, the Hebrew word that means a sense of purpose, the purpose for which each of us was created. Motherhood, he said, was Mrs. Gross's tachlit, and Lesley and Andy were living testaments to how faithfully their mother had fulfilled her purpose.

I sat in the silent room, half of my mind on Moti's words and half of it searching my own life, asking if I had found my tachlit and either fulfilled it or was on my way to doing so. My answers were unsettling.

Yes, I was a mother, but not of the stripe attributed to Sophie Gross. Yes, I'd worked at a variety of tasks but none of which stamped my indelible mark for future note. Yes, I had made and cherished countless friends whose love I valued, but making friends hardly qualifies as a purpose fulfilled. Where, then, does that leave me? What do I have that stands out as a tachlit achieved?

Obviously, I don't have an answer. Perhaps my "purpose" is still waiting to be discovered and fulfilled. Perhaps something along the way, something unconscious or appearing to be trivial, was a purpose for which I could claim fulfillment.

Regardless, the life of Sophie Gross held up to me the value of doing everything I attempt with a zeal, a dedication or an attempt at making it part of my tachlit. I'd never looked at life that way.

Now, in the shadow of one remarkable woman, I do.

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