The Record Keeper

The cemetery was crowded with many cousins, most of whom probably had never met.  Ovadya (Ed as he was known back in the old country) had been the connector and seeker of family ties. He was honored by the cousins from the old established towns of Pardes Chana, from the city of Tel Aviv, and his ultra-Orthodox cousin’s children from outside of Jerusalem. There was, of course, all his children; five of them including their spouses (and the soon to be married) and Eddie’s grandchildren.  He was loved.

Sobs were heard, but not hysteria.  He had suffered from the chemo, radiation and surgery that had prolonged his life, a little while.  His last translucent day, Batya (Barbra, his wife) still remembered. Ironically it was the religious cousins that had come with all their children and spent a day visiting.  Ed loved it.  He talked about it for days.  Maybe it gave him a vision of all the family’s continuity through the bustling of all the children.

Walking back from the Kibbutz’s private cemetery, Ed’s favorite music played from the long wired speakers. (A custom the kibbutz) as well as Israeli grown roses were given out to each mourner to throw onto the grave site (instead of dirt) Batya greeted all the well-wishers and marveled how everyone could come. If it wasn’t a funeral, she would have loved to introduce everyone; for that was what Ed considered his calling – the meeting of his family.  Oh Ed would have enjoyed his funeral.

He was the family keeper, the one who wrote the stories back home to keep the connection; way before Facebook reinvented (read: lack of) intimacy. Ed used to write home long letters as historical events took place. He would report their aftershocks as they affected his little home on the kibbutz.

Ed and Barbra made Aliyah in 1967 after the six-day war with three children. They came by boat to impress upon the children how far they were going.  On the kibbutz they added two more children; the fifth child; their first boy. Ed, though trained as a dentist; worked as a carpenter and then a scientist. Always reinventing himself and learning new things.

Though really the family was distantly related, Ed kept track of the family.They all came from three sisters who were born near the beginning of the century. That is the last century – the 1900’s.  One sister went to America, one first went to America, then Israel and then back to America. And one came to Israel and was swept up in the beginning of the Israeli state. Yet all three were represented at Eddie’s funeral.

Interesting car mates were quietly worked out between the guests.  Beit HaEmek is north of Acco and most of the crowd needed to get back to their lives in the center of the country. It was in Ed’s merit the family finally met in one place on a Wednesday afternoon in the country that became the family calling.  To figure out when the last time all those representatives of the different siblings met, you would need to go back more than a century; to the Liss family.


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