When Nachman’s first plan failed, he began to tell stories. Nachman had a theory of story: story was a method for the soul to side-step the heart and speak directly to the mind. The soul, Susan said, what is this thing called the soul? It’s deeper than the heart. Maybe that’s what sustains us when our hearts are broken. Our souls.
On the phone she said, my husband is dying, can you come? I drove out to her apartment, she was sitting in her front room and she wanted to plan her husband’s funeral. Her husband was lying in the other room in a hospital bed. Two sons came in.
She wanted to know what the order of prayers and events were at the funeral. I suggested that the first thing was to accompany him properly through his passage. What do you mean passage she said innocently. The passage of his soul. His soul, she said, she said it again, his soul, and again. His soul, yes, she said. There was a moment of good silence.
Then we gathered around her husband’s bed and I sang prayers quietly into his ear and his sons kissed his forehead and rubbed his hands.
The father’s eyes fluttered as his sons kissed him. Later we were talking back in the other room.
Tell me about the soul, one son asked. Many names for the soul in Hebrew, I told him five, the last of which was yechidah. All are beautiful words, each referring to a deeper sense of personal essence culminating in yechidah, unity. This is the goal of the soul’s journey, one of the sons said, to return from where we came. Maybe that’s God, he said. There was silence in the room, all of us floating on our thoughts, and the soft whirring of a fan coming from the other room.
I feel his soul reaching for God, one of the sons said. Yes, I said, I feel it too. He has a big soul, his other son said. I feel his soul in a circle of great souls, he said. His soul is making its journey home. Yes, they all said enthusiastically. As I left they returned to his bedside, they kissed his head, read him psalms and poetry. I stopped and listened for a while to the breath of poetry rising from his bedside.
Peace Vigil these are the pieces