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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Better to receive than give... bad directions

I've mentioned here on more than one occasion that I have a mild problem with dyslexia.  Over the years I've created lots of work-arounds to help deal with this... but I still live in fear of giving or getting information/instructions... especially anything involving numbers.

On Friday morning I went to a cemetery outside Beit Shemesh (yes, the one with the smiley-face in the eulogy chapel), with the intention of attending the unveiling of the headstone for a fellow blogger's father-in-law. 

Up until the last minute I wasn't sure if I would be able to attend, but when Zahava and I had hosted this blogger and his lovely wife at our home a few days previous, I had intimated that I would really make an effort to show up.

To that end, as soon as I got back from dropping them off at the place where they were staying I surfed over to his blog and printed the entry where he listed the exact time, cemetery, block and section.  I printed it out because I was sure I would transpose either the time or location if I simply wrote it down. 

Fast forward to Friday morning.  By some miracle I had actually shown up to the right cemetery.  And by even a bigger miracle, I had remembered to take the print-out of his post so I didn't have to worry about the details:

"The unveiling for Karen's father, Rabbi Philip Harris Singer ZT'L will take place Friday, November 24, 2006 (Kislev 3) at 10:00 am. The cemetery is Eretz Hachaim near Beit Shemesh, Israel. Block 1 Section 8. "

So there I was... 10:00AM sharp... standing in Block 1, Section 8.  Alone.

I had made a point of showing up on time because I knew Robert was speaking... and if his spoken remarks were anything like his written prose, I knew they would be memorable.

As the minutes ticked by a trickle of nervous sweat dripped down my back as I started to wonder if perhaps the time given was 'Israeli Time' (meaning nobody need show up on time xcept the idiot American immigrant).  But after almost 15 minutes of standing alone amongst the graves, I suddenly realized that, besides the obvious lack of people, there was also no new headstone in this section.  All of the gravestones were piled with stones indicating months... or even years... of faithful visits by loved-ones.

Several times I took out the folded piece of paper and examined the location and time to make sure I hadn't gotten confused.  Each time I did this I walked out to the main path and looked at the sign which told which block and section lay nearby.  Let me tell you, it is pretty near impossible to look inconspicuous at a cemetery.  Waiting for someone at the mall?  No problem... you can window shop or people watch.  At the cemetery?  not so much.

No matter how hard I looked at that paper the numbers remained fixed in their positions... and the block remained stubbornly empty of other people.

I finally resigned myself to having somehow missed them but walked over to the cemetery office just on the off chance that they could shed some light on my dilemma.

I was unprepared for the level of efficiency in the office.  I poked my head into the room and cleared my throat.  Instantly a Hassidic man popped up from his desk and asked if he could help me.  I was sure my question would , at best, send him shuffling through papers, but the moment I asked if he know where the 'Singer Haskara' was being held he unhesitatingly took me to the door and pointed to a hill quite distant from where I had been waiting and said "Right over there... Block 8, section 1.... where all those people are standing."

Needless to say, I arrived too late to hear Robert speak (he's promised to email me his remarks), but I got to hear other family and friends share heart-warming stories about the deceased.

Besides being privileged to hear some very moving stories about the departed, I also experienced the inevitable 'small blogger world moment' over whiskey and cake after-wards when I made the acquaintance of the sister-in-law of the Maggid of Bergenfield, who had come down from the Golan for the memorial.

I drove home on Friday afternoon feeling slightly unsettled at having missed the first part of the unveiling.  But strangely, I took comfort in the fact that, for a change, I wasn't the one responsible for transposing the numbers.

It truly is better to receive than give... bad directions.


Posted by David Bogner on November 26, 2006 | Permalink


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No matter how hard I looked at that paper the numbers remained fixed in their positions... and the block remained stubbornly empty of other people.

I know that feeling. On more than one occasion I have tried to use the force to make some sort of adjustment to directions or the time things were supposed to start.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 26, 2006 7:19:49 PM

Oy, the situation is all too familiar (though not in the context of a cemetery!)

Posted by: Irina | Nov 26, 2006 8:08:57 PM

Great post. As someone who also struggles with slight dyslexia I can totally relate ;-)

I wonder if the man you saw in the office was Rav Frolich (the head of the Chevra Kadisha at Eretz HaChaim)... He is one of the sweetest, kindest men I have ever met. As you can see, he also runs a *very* tight ship. He buried my father almost 30 years ago, and every time I see him he greets me by name.

I once asked him if he knows the story behind every headstone. He nodded slowly with a sad look in his eye, and said, "Kim'at kulam (Almost all of them)..."

Posted by: wogo | Nov 26, 2006 8:35:55 PM

I speak dyslexic all the time so relate can I do... great post

Posted by: Jewish Blogmeister | Nov 27, 2006 12:56:43 AM

Are there Jewish bloggers that you haven't met personally?

Posted by: westbankmama | Nov 27, 2006 11:47:28 AM

Jack... Ah yes. The force. :-)

Irina... Glad to hear I'm not the only one.

Wogo... No idea, but you may be right.

Jewish Blogmeister... 'speak dyslexic'???

westbankmama... yeah. You. :-)

Posted by: treppenwitz | Nov 27, 2006 12:52:26 PM

It's really weird to come across your name when you're just reading a blog and not expecting it. I imagine that's what it's like to be on America's Most Wanted.

Posted by: Jersey Boy | Nov 28, 2006 12:36:16 AM

I'm sure your presence was appreciated no matter what time you arrived. Wonder how many others got the info from Robert's blog and ended up in the wrong section...

Posted by: mcaryeh | Nov 28, 2006 8:24:32 AM


"he also runs a *very* tight ship."

when i visited my grandfather's grave in august he remembered where it was without looking it up

Posted by: Ari Kinsberg | Dec 3, 2006 11:29:52 PM

as far as being in the wrong part of a cemetery . . .

my grandfather (who is burried in that cemetery) was once driving in a funeral procession some years ago. as it got to an intersection there was another procession that was crossing over. my grandfather got confused and ended up at the wrong cemetery alltogether

Posted by: Ari Kinsberg | Dec 3, 2006 11:31:55 PM

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