Poem of the Week, by Rabbi Chaim Stern

IMG_E3787Last weekend I watched as seven brothers and their sister gathered around a polished casket that held the body of their mother, a woman loved by all. The night before, the siblings had stayed up late laughing and telling stories of how she used to shoo them up to bed with a broom, how she taught Phys Ed for thirty-nine years while delivering papers before dawn and working in the family print shop at night, how she loved wine (with a few ice cubes) and fast-pitch softball and mint chocolate chip ice cream and the Minnesota Twins.

Next morning the sons wore black suits and their sister, a black dress. The brothers surrounded the casket, lifted it into the air, and silently carried their mother to the waiting hearse. Then time did one of its weird reversals, and suddenly I saw these handsome grown men, pallbearers all, as little kids, tumbling like wild puppies out of a big family station wagon. I stood there in the church crying while in my vision their young, beautiful mother urged her children on, faster and faster, laughing with them through the vanished years.

For Those Who Have Died, by Rabbi Chaim Stern

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love
what death can touch.
To love, to hope, to dream,
and oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,
but a holy thing,
to love what death can touch.

For your life has lived in me;
Your laugh once lifted me;
Your word was a gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing,
to love
what death can touch.



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  1. Gabrielle McGhee · July 20, 2019

    Crying … what a family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. MAP · 23 Days Ago

    Look up who is the author of
    It’s a fearful thing to love what death can touch!!!!
    It’s not Chaim Stern because it was authored 1000 years ago.


    • alisonmcghee · 23 Days Ago

      I’ve changed the name, per your comment. But it’s not clear to me if everyone believes Halevi is the author of this poem, because Stern’s name frequently appears as author as well. Maybe Stern was the translator? At any rate, it’s a beautiful poem.


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