Natan’s Funeral

Foreword: I found some writing I did about my beloved great uncle’s funeral. It never felt complete enough to share, but I realized now that it never will be complete.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Central Bus Station of Tel Aviv is a tangle of escalators woven between venders selling cheap T-shirts and phone cases.

“How do I get to Yehud?” I ask the woman at the bus information booth. “By foot,” she says, and pauses longer than I would have if I were trying to be funny, like she was. I am not in the mood to acknowledge her humour and wait for the follow-up answer. “Line 37.”

An old lady with short maroon hair and short yellow teeth asks me if this is the bus line to Yehud. I say yes as I shift on the bench to make room for her. She says she had been sitting for three hours on the bus from Carmiel, so I shouldn’t bother. Is she also going to the funeral? What else could there possibly be in Yehud that is more important? Is she an old friend of Natan’s? Am I?

From the corner of my own avoiding eyes, I see the sweating bus driver look out his window as he hands me a ticket.

We pass by Canada Park, not quite close enough to enter its borders. I was just there yesterday, and now I am here. Where am I going?

Oh right, Yehud, which means “Jew” in Arabic. My stop is Ha’atzmaut, which means “independence” in Hebrew. Do these words tense up as I think of them?

I am family, kind of. We are related, somehow. I stand amongst others who are much closer to Natan, and to each other, than me. “It’s good to see you,” they say. Yes, in some way it is good. My unplanned visit is good on today’s small irrelevant scale of joy.

The sun is strong and unrelenting, shining wholeheartedly on the sombre gathering. We share sunscreen with familial kindness, as if we have grown up together and remember all those days at the beach from our childhood. We stay quiet.

The familiarity is cracked when one of Natan’s nephews asks me how I am doing in English. I respond in stubborn Hebrew, perhaps with an accent, perhaps incorrectly.

A large and indifferent religious man flatly recites some prayers. He must be used to death. He reminds me of the venders I saw earlier today at the Carmel Market, yelling about five shekel carrot juice and fresh fish. But this man at the funeral is selling something else.

Four men bring out a stretcher with a body covered in heavy fabric with shining inscriptions. Natan’s son begins to speak, describing how he was unsure what to write at four in the morning. He describes his father as the curious, brilliant, loving man that he was. He speaks to the body directly, glancing up every few words.

The grandchildren speak about him with delicate detailed memories, such that it is clear that he was their friend and not just their grandfather. His caregiver has a speech written in English, but she cannot stop crying, so she stands as another woman reads it to the crowd.

Two graves away from today’s fresh and painful addition lies his son, Micha, who died many years ago. They are now forever beside each other, together again.

/michal