When we go come to Shabbat services on Friday evening, the services are held in the small ancillary sanctuary off the lobby. It is smaller, more intimate, and holds no memories or images for Dorothy and I. we enjoy that service, and rarely do we miss Friday evening services. it is a safe place for us. We enjoy the spirituality, the prayer, and of course seeing the hand full of regulars we have come to know well.
But when they have services in the large sanctuary, it is more difficult for us.
We sit together in the main sanctuary for the high holidays and we look up front, below the bimah, in the space before the stage where the Rabbi and Hazan chant from. What we see there now in this space is the beautiful holiday choir. We think of the music and joy that these five young men bring to bring us, and the entire congregation. We listen to their songs and melodies. We see the smiles on their faces, and everyone there can tell that they love to sing and to spread their joy of music. They move with the music, their bodies sway and their hands follow as they sing. We sit there and smile, as everyone does, while we listen to them sing.
This year we watched as one of the members of the choir, before they started to sing, went off to the side of the sanctuary to greet and kiss his wife and to hold and kiss his young baby. It was the look and the love in his eyes only a father can have for his daughter.
And then we also tear.
For in this very spot, in the spot these young men, not much older than Andrew was, stand and sing and bring joy to everyone, that we saw our beloved Andrew for the last time. It is in this spot that we sat as our friends and family came up to us and hugged us and said how sorry they were. It was where we sat and stared at his plain pine box with a Star of David carved on the top. Where the Rabbi talked about how it is a tragedy when someone so young passes, and how he and Andrew talked about hockey and exchanged hockey stories. Where Uncle Roy talked so emotionally about his memories of Andrew growing up and cooking with him, and how we were all robbed of so much by Andrew’s passing. Where his friends and family talked about their special memories with Andrew and how he would be missed for the rest of their lives. We were numb that day, as we were for days and weeks and months afterward.
Now we look at that same spot, and we listen to this beautiful music coming from a few young men so much like Andrew was. You can see they are all full of life, they love what they do, and the joy they bring is a wonderful thing. I smile knowing that Andrew did get a chance to hear them sing a few years ago before he went off to college. If they were not there singing and brightening up that very spot, I don’t think Dorothy or I could sit there looking at that blank void space on the floor. I also smile knowing he is there somewhere right beside us, still listening to their music, still holding our hearts, still a part of our lives. I just want to thank the holiday choir for bringing joy and peace and music to a spot that holds such a dark spot in our lives.