I was at a Labor Zionist meeting the night my mother died. We danced an ecstatic hora, whirling and stomping until the walls shook in empathy.
Teenagers, we were starving from stomping, so we stopped at a deli and made a great show of tossing coins into the table’s center, the kupah that guaranteed no one would go hungry for lack of money.
The February snow in Michigan crunched under my boots; tiny cloud breaths like cigarette puffs preceded me. Every window in my house blazed as if for a party.
Everything, for which I had escaped to my meeting, the camaraderie, and the warm hands around my shoulders, vanished.
I knew my mother was very sick, but death was a stranger to me. Slowly I made my way up the carpeted stairs to her room.
She lay on her bed, hair bound in a white cloth, a faint smile on her lips and a bubble of saliva overlooked when the women washed her. Winter billowed the curtains at her open window, and a brother would sit at her side through the night.
The triple mirror of my mother’s vanity was shrouded, some say so the spirit of the dead won’t encounter itself as it leaves the body.
The next day we began the formal shiva, seven days of mourning. I readied myself, wearing a plaid school dress, and I waited for my Zionist friends to arrive with awkward condolences. But not a single one of them came.
Several weeks earlier, I had been introduced to a young man outside the Movement. He came to call in a belted storm coat, a copy of Bulfinch’s Mythology under his arm. His name was Jack. My Zionist friends laughed when I called him “so bourgeois,” our favorite epithet for anyone not committed to life on a kibbutz.
So guess who came to sit with me every day of the mourning? My bourgeois friend, Jack, came, and each day he brought me a little present to amuse and distract me from the seven days of confinement. I only remember one of those gifts, a cunning cigarette rolling machine with tissue-thin wrappers, loose tobacco, and a final product, a fat cigarette.
Jack chatted up my mother’s grieving sisters and brothers, even my bewildered father and my two brothers, aged six and twelve, now half-orphans. My mother had been 40 when she died.
I never went to live on a kibbutz. Instead, I married my Jack six months later when the official mourning period ended. That was in 1948. This year, 2019, we celebrated 71 years together.
Faye Moskowitz is an author and professor of English and Creative Writing at George Washington University. Jack Moskowitz died on June 3, 2020 at the age of 93. He and Faye had been married for 72 years.
6 thoughts on “Beshert | From a Shiva to My Lifetime Love”
Lovely story written by a lovely woman who married my cousin Jack. They are a dear couple with gifts only they could give the world. Our family is blessed.
I love reading stories of long-lasting love. Thank you for sharing your bashert story.
Thank you for sharing this special Bashert memory. Your stories always touch a special spot in my. Heart. Congratulations on 71 years of marriage!
So beautifully written. Your stories always touch my heart, Faye, as does your love for Jack.
Dear Faye and Jack, so blessed to have known you for so many years. And we always remember your wedding anniversary which is the same day as Dicks birthday. Your love for each other means the world to those of us who bear witness to it. Love. PT
This was written by my aunt Faye who I miss often. I remember visiting her, uncle Jack and usually Lizzy and Sho. They treated my sister and I very special. I remember them giving me a (1950’s?) Barbie and her entire wardrobe. They used to talk to me about boys and other things. My dad would take my sister and I to Passover every year, which I remember fondly…seems like a dream now. Uncle Jack would lead the services of course! I’ve always been proud of what my aunt and uncle accomplished. Aunt Faye’s historical non-fiction I’ll call them are truly wonderful!! I learned so much about my family through her stories. Such a gift for me! I also felt the quiet comfortableness in my aunt. She never appeared stressed to me; although I don’t really know what was on her mind. Her incredible dollhouse in her dining room. I remember practicing my half Torah for aunt Faye, uncle jack and my dad. I had a small Torah I was so proud of. She was always so full of compliments. With the death of my Uncle Jack, it feels like half my life was a dream. I miss those times. I miss my aunt and uncle. Time moves so fast as everyone always says. My daughter now 22 and about to graduate college used to visit my aunt and uncle often as a young girl. She always had a good time. Usually her cousin, Daniel would be there to make her laugh. I miss you all very, very much. I’m Reuben’s eldest daughter..