In my last blog post on “Rejoicing While Others Mourn,” I reflected on the rejoicing we did as a family at the end of 2012, knowing that at the same time, there was much mourning by families in so many other places in the world. Shortly after I wrote those words, a time to mourn was thrust into our midst with the sudden death of our 20-year-old neighbor as she finished up her semester of studying abroad in South America.
As I spent much of the week at the Kaplan’s, helping plan a service that we hoped would be a fitting tribute to Tamar’s too-short life, the impossibility of such a task was an ever-present reality. How could a 90-minute service possibly capture the essence of Tamar? Of course, the question itself was an excruciating one—one that should not have to be asked by parents and siblings of a bright-eyed young woman with her whole life ahead of her. Yet there we were, compiling pictures, stories, readings, and music, all in an attempt to capture the rich life she lived.
At the beginning of the memorial service, I stood in front of the more than six hundred who came together to honor, to grieve, and to support, and tried to put into words what I’d witnessed in the chaotic mixture of love and grief that had filled the days since her death:
How do we capture a life? We turn today to photos of events and relationships; to music that invokes a personality; to readings from favorite books; to reflections from those close to the source; to words from an ancient shared heritage. All in an attempt to capture a life. Her life. The life of Tamar Hanna Kaplan.
Even as these shared memories capture aspects of her life, all of us gathered here know that there’s so much more that can’t be captured by words or notes or pictures. It’s the sudden inaccessibility of the more of Tamar that saturates us with grief today.
At the same time, we gather to honor the more of Tamar that death cannot take away. The photos and readings and recitations and reflections all point to the more of Tamar that refuses to die. All of us here today are witnesses to her dear family and friends that death does not have the last word on Tamar. The love shown here this morning is a sign that the love we have for Tamar and the love she had for her family, her friends, for life and for the world is stronger than any pronouncement of death could ever be.
Let us proceed with our honoring of Tamar and in our insistence that who she was and what she meant to the world lives on.
What came through vividly at the service was the fact that the more of Tamar was so clearly on display in all aspects of her life. She embraced living with an exuberant fierceness. Indeed, we heard that after a semester in Ecuador, she told friends she’d have to create a new bucket list, for she’d crossed off everything she’d hoped to do, from climbing a mountain to repelling down a canyon.
It’s a time to mourn the loss of a lovely daughter, sister, niece, roommate, friend. And in this time of mourning, we hope for a time in the future when laughter and rejoicing will come again, a time that will also include not only the more of Tamar, but the more of us all.