What’s a consecration, really? What does it mean? Why do some people call it the unveiling of the tombstone? Do I need to wear something special? Where does it take place? What’s the spiritual meaning? Should I take something with me?
These are all questions I would’ve asked him. And he’d have explained each bit. We’d probably have had a slight argument regarding religion in the midst of it. It’s what we did. We debated, we talked, he taught me (and I like to think I taught him a little back, but I’m not sure.)
But I couldn’t ask him my hundred questions, because it was his tombstone that was being unveiled. It was his consecration. My best friend at work for fifteen years. The one who died over a year ago. I still miss him.
Instead, I phoned one of my Jewish friends, and Googled. My researching taught me that the unveiling of the tombstone marks the end of the mourning period. It’s a gathering together of family and friends, a grieving, and a symbol of the finality of it, written in stone.
“Pinelands 2 always has a cold wind blowing. If you ever go there, take an extra jersey,” he’d always say, when returning from a funeral there.
So I took an extra jersey and went out to his consecration yesterday, the hole in the ground of last year now a stone grave, with a headstone, on which rocks were placed by the hundred-plus people there. Another Jewish tradition that I’d have asked him about, but had to Google instead. I’m not a fan of organised religion, but there are some lovely traditions in Judaism. Ones that make so much sense in the grieving process. This was one of them.
He was right, it was cold. The wind yesterday blew off the snow-capped mountains as clouds gathered above us, the rays of wintery sun peaking around their edges in that metaphorical silver lining way. Two crows gambolled about high in the sky and a seagull called out over the rabbi’s prayers. We all stood, the elements making themselves known, and said our final goodbye to a man we loved.
And the finality hit me. His death last year hit me like a punch in my stomach. It was the first in a series of events that left me reeling by the end of 2013 (and had, I only later realised, a huge effect on my head space and, therefore, interaction with the world at large.)
But this time, the blow I felt as I saw his name carved in that head stone was more like a winding. Like the time I fell off a swing as a child and found myself sprawled on the pavement, unable to take a breath. The world stopped for a second or two, went momentarily quiet, readjusted its axis, and began turning again.
That’s just it. The world is still turning. It’s not the same, but it’s turning none-the-less.
And I filled my lungs with the icy air and felt my heart beating in my chest as we walked back through the graveyard to the car, the sun itself making a quick appearance between the gathering clouds. Last night it poured, tears from the sky cleaning that turning world.
One, last, time, I’ll say it. R.I.P. Joe.