Poem about the Passing of a Father

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By Elaine Rosenberg Miller

(Note: the word "rosh" is Hebrew for "head")

Death, uninvited, entered the room.

My father's fingers slipped from mine, his once strong hands, blotched, torn by the ravages of his illness.

He fought and fought and yet, the heartless clock on the hospital wall advanced.

In my mind, he is yet vibrant.

"Dad, what do you think?" I will ask.

And somehow I will hear him tell me, wordlessly, what needs to be done.

His image, always present in my eye.

The balmy spring breezes blew around us at the gravesite.

The sun warmed and dried the fallen rain gathering on the gravel walkways.


Written in Hebrew at one end of the plain, unpainted, pine coffin.


The ancient, fiery letters, whispered by him during the war as he pled to the heavens for survival, later read aloud from his worn prayer book in gratitude.


Instructions to the bearers marking the direction of his gallant head.

Until then, I had not accepted his death.

I had expected to speak with him again, as I had so often in the past.

But there, in penciled script was the final, mortal word.


The pale box seemed too narrow to hold him.

He had been a tall, broad man.

As he grew ill, he withered, yet once when his gown slipped, I saw the beautiful, unmarked skin of his shoulder, as delicate as that of a baby's.

I cradle my grandson's downy head and want to tell him everything, everything about my father.<

But I must wait.

Words escape us both yet.

I inhale his sweet smell as he reaches up and touches my lips with his firm, searching fingers.


from the 2015 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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