Bob and I went to Jerusalem yesterday to see some friends and meet their new baby. After having a delightful time, we went into the Old City. To the Wall, to pray.
There is a lot to pray for right now. So much pain and strife in Ukraine. And as parents, we prayed for our children, and also for the well being of friends and family. Our own fears and excitement about entering this next stage of life—as empty-nesters, as immigrants. Our hearts were heavy. Grateful for our many blessings, but also heavy.
And as we made our way through the Arab Quarter and past the music shop that sold ouds of all sizes and racks of Pashmina scarves and Turkish coffee, we both found ourselves singing Mahalia Jackson’s, “Walk in Jerusalem” which recounts the suffering of the generations, as well as the encouragement and strength we receive from our ancestors.
Yet, so often we can feel very alone in our pain.
But this is where we are wrong. For certainly, others have known the pain of regret, love lost, physical ailment, moving and aging. And they lived to tell the tale. I think of Picasso’s Guernica, the memoirs of Melissa Febos or Cheryl Strayed or Dani Shapiro, the poetry of Whitman or anything by Shakespeare. Or the Psalms. Or maybe we feel this interconnectedness in nature, listening to the birds or smelling the dry summer Eucalyptus or sea air. Or maybe by talking to a friend who knows all too well the pain of which you speak.
Our elders, our loved ones, our sages and poets speak to us. They remind us that we are not alone. That our pain is not bottomless. As Mahalia sings, Way over in Beula I hear the voice of friends I’ve known. They been gone on, gone to Glory, well, a long time ago. They been waitin’, they been watching’, they been waitin’ at the beautiful gate, And one day I’m gonna meet them, Oh I’m gonna sing forever more.