The candle burns slowly down. In a few hours, another siren and more ceremonies.
Last night, a mother walked slowly up onto the stage and lit the torch. A father climbed the steps with a brother and together, their voices cracking with sorrow, they said the mourner's prayer (Kaddish). Young people, who themselves will be soldiers in another few years, sang sad songs or read letters soldiers had written before their deaths.
It was awful. It was painful. It was as it should be.
A young man came up and read a letter from a soldier to Galit, his fiancée. I had heard the letter before and yet each time it breaks the heart. He tells her the operation will take place soon and if she has this letter, it means the worst has happened. He begs her to go on with her life and tells her that he needs to go on this operation. There is nothing he wanted more, he wrote, than to have a life with her, to build a home and have children...except to go on this operation.
He talks of the threats people in Israel live with, the terror and the need to stop it. I will stop it, he writes to her in that last letter. On and on, the tears flow as you listen.
And in my mind, the one thought, "Please God, please, make them the last. Make them the last." I don't want to sit there on the grass next year amid tens of thousands of my neighbors. I don't want to listen to the poems and sad songs, the last letters, the father saying Kaddish for his son.
I don't want to...and I know I will. It is all we can do for them, after all they did for us.
May God bless their memory and may their families find comfort in knowing that all that we have here is because of all they have lost.
Memorial Day in Israel, 2011 - 5771.