Noah Pozner was the youngest of the 20 youngsters who
died at Sandy Hook Elementary School earlier this month.
He turned six in late Novemeber and was in the First Grade.
My daughter Lauren was at my side. Now that she’s married, working and staying busy with the large and small stuff of life, we don’t have as much time to spend together as we once did.
That’s not to say we don’t see one another. There are family meals and holidays gatherings; day trips and occasional shared vacations; phone calls, e-mails and, when the weather is reasonably nice and our schedules mesh, walks along the river.
It was during our most recent stroll, as we wandered passed joggers and bikers, couples and families, that I started thinking about Noah. The thoughts were troubling and, for a moment or so, the morning grew dark and melancholy.
Noah Pozner, as some of you might recall, was the youngest of the 26 victims killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn. a few weeks ago. He had just turned six in November and, like all of the other children murdered at the school, was in the first grade.
All these youngsters were precious souls; innocent girls and boys filled with laughter, life and endless potential. But there was something special about Noah, something familiar that had him resting uneasily in my mind. After all, he was Jewish.
As the horror played out endlessly on television, across the web on news sites and in my daily paper, I started spotting video and photos of men with kippot, some wearing tzitzit, black hats and other such garb.
One of the first people on the scene, offering comfort and a few details of the tragedy, was Rabbi Shaul Praver of Temple Adath Israel in Newtown. It would later turn out that the Pozners were members of his congregation.
And, of course, as the funerals began, Noah was one of the first to be buried. Yet again there was a sense of the familiar hovering about the cemetery as stunned family and friends observed the ancient rituals of Judaism and said their goodbyes.
"I told the mother that was grieving that I personally believe in the eternity of the soul, and I believe that she will see her son again," Praver told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). He added that he isn’t focusing too much on the cosmic and grand these days; that mostly he thinks it important to show compassion, to hold and hug and cry with the bereaved.
The compassion and hugging and crying were all part of the scene as I watched the final moments of the funeral unfold on TV. There seemed to be a collective wail and sigh when the chazzan offered up the anguished words of El Malei Rachamim: O G-d, full of mercy … grant proper rest on the wings of the Divine Presence … for the soul of Noah!
It was the melancholy tune and words of the memorial prayer that seemed to be on an endless loop in my mind as I walked with my own precious daughter the other day. You see, what I was having trouble pushing aside was the painful reality that the Pozner family wouldn’t be spending time with Noah ever again.
There would be no family meals, holiday gatherings, day trips or vacations with the bright and active youngster; no watching him grow and mature; no tomorrows.
As Noah’s small casket was lowered into the ground, the veil we know little about was being slowly pulled aside. One journey was ending. Another was beginning.
Just a few days earlier and a few miles away in a small school house in a little village in Connecticut, there had been 26 gentle souls that now seemed lost and gone. But where? I’ll leave such metaphysical musings to the poets and philosophers among us.
But this much I know is true. At least part of Noah’s soul now rests in the hearts of all those who loved him. The rest, I like to think, is making its way to a place where pain and misery don’t exist, light and love fill the world and innocent children spend their time laughing and chasing butterflies across lush green meadows.
Zikh-ronah liv-rakha … may Noah’s memory be for a blessing. Amen.