Headstone for a Son
My son Aaron died this past March in a boating accident. He was 42 years old. He leaves behind a wife, three children and heartbroken parents.
The death of every child is tragic beyond comprehension; sudden death adds an angry blast whose echoes persist relentlessly.
Karine, Aaron’s widow, is composing the inscription of his headstone. In Jewish tradition, the child’s name can be inscribed in Hebrew as well in English. His Hebrew name follows biblical tradition. He is, in translation, “Aaron the son of Larry” or in Hebrew, Aharon ben Aryeh.”
Inscribing his Hebrew Name
When she first proposed an inscription, wholly in English, I gave no thought to this tradition. But when she reminded me of it, I suddenly felt that the headstone must announce his Hebrew name. It was as necessary as the air I breathe. And then, when composing the inscription, I relaxed. I wondered why.
My thought: I think that Aaron’s Hebrew name attached my son and me to the great chain of generations. I imagined that as I stood at the gravesite I would see in my mind’s eye Aaron, me, my father, and my grandfather standing together upright, holding hands, looking straight into the horizon.
Headstone Links Generations
My grandfather died of tuberculosis at the age of 42, my father was chased by the Nazis to the ends of Europe. He too died in an accident when I was 30. And I lost my son. Fortified together, we would affirm, in the face of our sorrows, that our lives were
worthwhile, that we had created asylums of love, however temporary and fragile.
We would announce that death has the final word but not the only answer.
A friend said that as she moved through her grieving, the sadness that can’t be endured gave way to sorrow, and then the sorrow to moments of sweet memory. I thought about this. Sweet memories affirm life. They announce that a life, however, truncated and compromised is worthwhile, truly, truly.
Aaron lived a vibrant life. He leaves behind the bereft. But he also gave them and himself the gifts of his talent, drive and never- ending caring. In the face of his dying, this must be enough.
For more on burial, A Healing Walk in the Cemetery – Open to Hope
Check out Larry’s book: Grieving Aaron: Poems in Response to the Sudden Death of My Adult Son