I return over and over again to hands, to touch, to the beginning of story which is also a type of touch my mother taught me. But in a time when loving means not touching, regardless of how much we ache for and need our loved ones’ touch, remembering my mother’s hands fills an emptiness that memory also creates.
A few days ago, the author Ellen Kushner posted a poem on Facebook, “Blackberries” by Margaret Atwood. In response, I wrote “I look at my hands and see my mother’s touch.” I knew it was the beginning of a poem, of such intimate memories that I wasn’t quite ready to sit down and let it flow through me. Some memories can’t be allowed to blossom until the heart is soft enough to not fear the pain and the beauty of lost loves, past moments that can never again be reclaimed. Then, this morning, I looked in the mirror, held my hands to my face, and I knew I had the strength once more to be soft.
My father often told me a story about his older sister Rose and the neighborhood sprecher.
In 1918, my Aunt Rose lay feverish and weak, barely aware of her mother wiping her brow with a cool cloth. Even my Grandma Anna was beginning to lose hope. That’s when they called in the sprecher.
At this point in the story, Dad would explain that sprecher meant “speaker.” I never learned Yiddish, but some of his words stuck; this one particularly. And it has influenced me in more ways than I’d realized.
The sprecher’s role in the Jewish immigrant community was to sit by the bedside of a seriously ill loved one, to hold her spirit within her body with his words, to not let it fly away, to fight death itself with his own spirit.Read More
Four years ago today, my Dad passed away in his sleep at the age of 99 1/2; as usual, he had fallen asleep while reading an ebook on his smart phone. I will miss his big smile and loving presence for the rest of my life. Below is an exhibit blurb I wrote about this picture, for him, about him, about us, soon after his death.
Blessing L’Chaim To life To love To continuity of blood and love and life
I created this photograph on the occasion of my father’s 95th birthday, which was also the day of his first great-grandson’s bris. Of the many photographs I have taken, this one frozen moment has the greatest timeline, pulling at my heart with memories that go so far back and so far forward that they can exist only in my imagination, spanning far more than a single lifetime.
Generations created this moment, as I composed the image and pressed the shutter button. Generations I can know only from stories told by those who came before and are no more. Generations yet to be, whom I will never meet, but whom I hope will remember the stories told by this picture.