Today, I went to a memorial service for Peter, a long-time community member of the shul I attend. I went because one does those things and, honestly, because I am a fan of his partner. When I met Peter, he was already well into his eighties, and soon forced to succumb to a wheel chair. He had fought in WWII and was proud to be a veteran. For decades, Peter had made a living as a shoe salesman here in a small town, probably selling shoes half the city. He came to shul every Shabbat, and always demanded a hug when anyone would walk by, and for the Torah to be brought down to him, so he could kiss it. And, late in life, he met a new love who had survived Auschwitz, married a GI and had moved south in the early fifties. "Acccch," she would tell me about those first years, still sounding as if she had gotten off the boat yesterday, "you wouldn't believe it. There was no air condishioning, no buildings over four floors, no kulture. Ve came from Havai, can you imagine?! Schrecklich." Having survived Auschwitz, she did not take well to the segregated south and was, I was told, famous for disregarding the "color line" in the little restaurant she ran. Today, at the service, she opened the Aron, the holy arc, together with Peter's brother, and I heard the words עלינו לשבח....anew. Standing upright, the kippah we had bought her in Jerusalem on her head, next to Peter's much younger brother who was bent over, fumbling with his siddur, I thought about this woman who, after years in hiding out in the open, the horrors of the camps and the migration to the Deep South, had found another mate and now lost him. And yet, we are enjoined to give praise. Somehow, today, that felt right.
Thinking of Peter, and may his memory be for a blessing.