People tell me I resemble my grandmother. My features are, indeed, strikingly similar to hers -- but our connection has always run deeper than that. We always had a special relationship. I was drawn to the fun-loving, almost mischievous twinkle in her eye, appreciated her witty sense of humor and cherished the times we spent together.
In her later years, we spent a Shabbat at a family bar mitzvah celebration. While most of the family retired for a nap in the afternoon, my grandmother and I sat out in the garden, chatting and laughing as two close friends. Savta expressed to me how proud she was of the family and their accomplishments -- that they were the legacy she was leaving behind. It was an emotional moment.
At the party that evening, the music played and the guests danced, but my grandmother, already slowing down and coming towards the end of her years, sat on the side with her coat on, ready to leave. I recalled beautiful photographs I had seen of my Savta in her youth, dancing at dinner parties, elegantly poised. She cut a graceful and charming figure.
Suddenly I grabbed Savta's hand and pulled her over to the dance floor. An aunt frantically urged me to be gentle. Something instantaneously changed inside her; a glimmering sparkle returned to her eyes and a smile spread across her face.
There was no stopping her.
Savta stepped and turned, twisted and twirled, with bemused relatives and flashing cameras surrounding her. As I held her hand tightly, others joined in until a circle was formed. I was only 18 at the time, but I beseeched God to grant me the gift of dancing with my grandmother at my own celebration one day, at my wedding.
The months and years passed. Savta's mental and physical health declined gradually. I knew that I could always bring a smile to her face by recounting our dance together. A photograph of us clutching each others' hands and beaming brightly, mid step, adorned her dining room wall. We continued to share life's highs and lows together and I did not stop praying for my miracle. I wanted my Savta to dance at my wedding. Deep down, I was aware of the reality. She was getting old. We did not live in the same country and she was not able to travel. Besides, I had no man in my life!
The souls of deceased relatives are present at every wedding.
Eventually I met the wonderful man I am now married to. While we were dating, my grandmother suffered a stroke and slipped into a coma. I struggled to come to terms with her impending death. I still sent her my usual weekly letter, full of cheery news and get well wishes. I sealed the envelope with moist eyes. My heart understood that it would be my last letter. As she lay on her deathbed with closed eyes, my father whispered softly to her that I was likely to become engaged soon. Her heart rate jumped. She then slipped back into the serene, comatose state in which she was to remain for a week.
My Savta passed away before she could even meet my groom.
"You'll miss your dancing partner," my grieving grandfather told me at the shiva (traditional week of mourning). I dissolved into tears and rushed out of the room.
I later learned that the souls of deceased relatives are present at every wedding. Standing around the wedding canopy would be not only my parents, but also entire generations upon generations of grandparents. Their souls would be wishing me well on my joyous occasion. They would each be adding their unique spiritual presence to the sanctity and beauty of the day, proudly watching me extend their legacy by becoming another link in their chain.
At my request, my father visited the graveyard. He stood at the foot of my grandmother's grave. Aviva is getting married. She wants you to be there. She wants you to dance at her wedding.
My grandmother danced with me at my wedding after all.