Last night, I attended shiva for a colleague’s father. A kind man whom I had the privilege of meeting nine years ago, he died at 95 years of age, having lived a very full life. He was a source of great happiness for his family, and they are grieving his passing but finding comfort in the support of family and friends.
At the gathering, a book was passed out to those in attendance to follow along with the service, and in several places, poetry had been included, as a compliment to the prayers (the Kaddish). They were beautiful, and the one below, by Ruth Whitman, especially resonated with me. She wrote this poem as she imagined the journey of Tamsen Donner to California in 1846. (And, thanks to Google, I learned this interesting fact about the poem.) In my colleague’s living room, surrounded by people celebrating the life of her father, I saw the poem as one of hope and of continuance.
If My Boundary Stops Here
By Ruth Whitman
If my boundary stops here
I have daughters to draw new maps on the world.
They will draw the lines of my face.
They will draw with my gestures my voice.
They will speak my words thinking they have invented them.
They will invent them.
They will invent me.
I will be planted again and again.
I will wake in the eyes of their children’s children.
They will speak my words.