Friday, January 05, 2007

His Memory is a Blessing

It's been 8 years since my friend, Howard Steinman, left us. The hole in my heart has not sealed. That's where I carry him with me--each year with a little less pain.

In the years that have passed I have had Howard sightings. No, I'm not one of those who think he is still alive somewhere--Howard just could not have pulled that off. But some of the spirit that he shared with me in life stays even though he is gone. He makes his presence felt in the familiar face on a stranger, as an image seemingly etched in the wooden floor at Tassajara, or when a lost photograph suddenly drops out of a book. All reminders that he is not forgotten and to smile in honor of his soul.

Each year I mark Howard's yahrzeit. This morning I led the davening at minyan. As part of P'sukei d'Zimra, the Psalms and other selections that are the warm-ups to prayer, we read Shir HaYam, the Song of the Sea (Ex 15:1-18) That is what Moshe and the Israelites sang when they arrived on the other side of the Red Sea, having crossed through the split in the waters that God created for them. I often wonder about its place in the morning liturgy. This morning, with Howard so close, I got a hint of understanding.

I had an image of the Israelites' travels on the edge. First on one shore, the edge of the Red Sea. Walking through with the waters on either side as if on the edge of a knife that split the sea. Then reaching the far shore, the other edge of the sea on one side, the edge of the wilderness on the other.

I find the morning prayers bring an awareness of the path of life. Traveling on the edges is a part of the journey. We hope for a wide, smooth edge but there will always be bumps and narrow places where the balance is precarious. Howard lost his footing. But his spirit stays with me, and maybe it can help me keep mine.

Zichrohno l'vracha -- keeping his memory is a blessing to me.

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