Memories cling to Mayer like barnacles. It’s the curse – and the blessing – of having attained long years.
The youngest of ten siblings, Mayer has outlived all of his brothers and sisters. His parents have been gone more than half a century. Throw a dart at a Jewish calendar and it’s even money you’ll hit a date on which Mayer observes a yahrzeit – the anniversary of someone’s passing.
On days when the Torah scroll is read, it is customary to offer a Mi Shebeirakh – a blessing for those who are ill. A handful of congregants will come forward with a name or two each; Mayer’s list reads like the New York telephone book. That’s what happens when you’ve outlasted your family and most of your friends.
Mayer’s mother passed away fifty-five years ago today. As our morning service entered its closing moments, he strode to the front of the chapel and opened the Aron Kodesh, drawing the curtain to reveal the Torah scroll within. Then, with a deep, resonant voice that trembled with emotion, he chanted the haunting Eil Maley Rachamim prayer: Exalted, compassionate God, grant perfect peace in Your sheltering Presence, among the holy and pure who shine with the splendor of the firmament, to the soul of my mother, who has gone to her eternal home...
Fifty-five years. It’s like the blink of an eye to the Eternal, but for me it is almost a lifetime. And Mayer, who has attained long years, continues to keep his mother’s memory alive.