It was an eerie and surreal experience, one I will likely never forget. The night seemed even darker than usual, inky black and moonless. Undeterred, we shuffled along, a quivering mass of humanity, united in our love, determined to participate in this final journey.
The flight from New York had arrived mere hours before, and the holiness of the land precluded waiting until morning. So there we were, her relatives and friends weeping softly and grieving deeply, as we escorted our beloved sister-in-law, aunt, mother and grandmother to her hallowed resting place.
We were devastated by the tragic loss of such a wonderful and special person – so dear and cherished to us all – while still in the prime of her life. Her incomparable husband, Avram, with his ever-present smile and twinkle in his eyes, had departed this world several years before, a victim of the same insidious machalah.
They had married young, as if they somehow had a premonition that their beautiful lives and relationship would be cut short, leaving their loved ones bereft and uncomprehending. Together they raised a magnificent family of fine bnei Torah, sincere and emesdik like their parents with the same trademark simchas hachaim. Neither lived long enough to see dorei doros, but they were ultimately zocheh to an exponential return on their investment. Their four children merited to produce nearly forty grandchildren, and those grandchildren continue to do likewise.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The exact details of that nocturnal levayah have long since faded from my memory. However, one poignant story shook me to the core of my being – and remains with me still.
As our beloved aunt, a sister-in-law of the nifteres, recounted the tale with a gleam in her eye and unmistakable excitement in her voice, all of us stood in awe and reverence, absorbing its message.
She had suddenly awoken from a deep sleep in the wee hours of the previous night, understandably startled but at the same time surprisingly calm. And on that dark night of the funeral, she shared with us her remarkable dream from the night before.
Her brother, our beloved Uncle Avram, had appeared to her, wearing his finest clothes and sporting a broad, joyous smile.
“Why are you so happy?” she inquired. “You look absolutely radiant.”
“I just heard,” he ecstatically replied, “that my beloved wife is coming to join me!”
She awoke with a start, the crystal-clear image of his beaming face still dancing in her mind.
So when the phone rang early the following morning, and the tragic news was haltingly relayed, it came as no surprise to our dear aunt. Her beloved brother, from his exalted place in shamayim, had already informed her in the most wonderful possible way. In fact, after making some rudimentary calculations, she quickly discovered that she had awoken from her dream at the precise time that her much-loved sister-in-law had returned her holy neshamah – some six thousand miles away.
A thousand weeks of shiva and infinite recitals of the prescribed words of nechamah could not have had a greater impact than this simple story, recounted with such obvious love and joy. All of us returned to our respective homes and lives, buoyed by the image of the magnificent reunion that was simultaneously taking place in Heaven between two unique souls that were destined to forever be united. The dark night no longer held any fear or concern; instead, it heralded a bright and glorious tomorrow.