What I didn’t know is that while I was retelling the story of Miriam’s Cup, my Miriam had arrived home, walked into her house, lay down and died, most likely of a pulmonary embolism. Her liberation was never to arrive.
In Judaism, when someone dies, the community sits shomer with the body until burial, keeping its hovering and restless soul company until the body is interred — a sacred task.
I signed up to sit shomer, and when I arrived at the funeral home, I found the room in the basement. It was next to the space where taharah is performed — the gentle washing and dressing of the body, also done by community members trained in this ritual.
Instead of sitting in the shomer nook with the tiny sliding window that allows you to be present without sitting with the body, I walked directly into the taharah room — chilled and white — and saw Miriam’s body, so still, wrapped in a plain bag on a steel table, reminiscent of the bandages that had wrapped her in the hospital. I could feel her presence — her soul was there with us, waiting for direction.
I sat in a chair a few feet away and tried to say something, but for the first time in our many years together — chatting, laughing, texting — words failed me. Instead, I took out the copy of “Charlotte’s Web” I had brought and read the last few chapters aloud to her, weeping because I didn’t know how to tell Miriam what she meant to me, and I would never have the chance again.
As I read the final sentence of the book, I closed my eyes and imagined I could feel the tendrils of a gossamer web spin out between her body and mine. And I could visualize in the middle of the room, out of the complex web that represented our lives and our relationship, a word knitted into sticky threads, sparkling with fresh dew: “Friend.”