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Jul 22, 2014

The funeral of lone soldier Sean Carmeli, hy"d

a guest post by Shifra Goldmeier

Thousands of people all going the same way. It was like Meron on Lag Baomer. But there was no singing, no music, no dancing. It was silent.  I guess it wasn’t really like Meron at all. Everyone pushing forward, under the sweltering heat of the sun. Only there was no sun. If you looked up all you could see was the dark of night, yet the heat bore down on us like midday.
the body of Sean being transported
 to the cemetery, as it drove right by me

And then the tekkes began. But tekkes was not the right word. This was not a tekkes.  A tekkes is something you come to watch. No one here was a spectator. Everyone had come to honor their son, and mourn his loss. This was a family member’s funeral – not a tekkes.

The silence was deafening, and only when they began with the first two announcements did I realize how quiet it was. Please shut off your cell phones. But it wasn’t a tekkes and there was no need for that announcement. For the past 15 minutes as we walked towards the kever I did not hear one cell phone ring – just silence.  You don’t leave your phone on at a family member’s funeral.

The second announcement reminded us why we were here… “In the case of a siren, please drop to the floor and cover your heads”. We were at war, and still are. At every revving of a distant motor cycle you could hear gasps  as people hesitated before deciding that it was not the fearful siren.

And then they began. The collective intake of breath as they announced the father would say kaddish. Of course the father would say kaddish – it’s a funeral – that is how it works. But hearing the words was too much for the crowd, as the silence broke for the first time with sighs, and moans and sympathetic ‘tsk’s. The “Amen”s were as loud and as heartfelt of any rosh hashana or yom kippur service I had ever heard. They were loud and clear, short and no-nonsense. Yelled by the men and women, in and out of uniform, as a solider would say “yes-sir” to a commanding officer.  They weren’t  melodious or pretty. The Amen’s were real.

And then the eulogies. And the pain. And the mourning of loss of potential. And the stories of the amazing and beloved young man that will never…

A father is not meant to bury a child. This was so wrong.

My view was mostly one of the backs of the people in front of me. If dress code defines you- everyone was there. My grandmother has many sayings – one is “if at first you don’t succeed – try, try again. I never thought I would be repeating that to myself at a funeral as I tried again and again to get closer to the kever. But her mantra got me through. There I saw something I had never seen at a funeral before – a Shrine. Like the ones you see on the news after a shooting. You know the ones with the flowers and the teddy bears. His grave was covered with flags and wreaths of flowers and bouquets and candles and a hat and a note….and it was beautiful…and it was sad.
Sean's grave
Watching his father with his head in his hands. Seeing his girlfriend being helped away in a state of shock and then in a moment of clarity , crying out “ I will not leave him!” So much love. So much lost.

Then the spontaneous singing of the Hatikva. It came out more like a dirge than the anthem it is meant to be. It was raw, it was passionate, it was real, and it was another reminder of why we were here.

And the pushing as each of the thousands of people wanted to kiss the kever and say thank you, and say good bye. This need for “thank you”s and goodbye did not stem from a lifelong relationship or even a casual one. It stemmed from the deep desire to take leave of a family member, even one you never met. There were no words of anger or frustration and the mass of sweaty and tired people tried to reach the kever at the same time. No one wanted to leave. The silence reigned.  

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