I briefly allow my mind to wander. For a fleeting moment, I wonder how my salty tears interact on a microscopic level with the serene freshwater that flows gently over my bare feet. I cannot help but be awed and humbled by the fact that I’m wading in the holy River Jordan, near the baptismal site of my Lord and Savior, Jesus. My grandmother, “Boo”, a proud Puerto Rican with strength and love as deep as the Dead Sea, was a believer too. In fact, my mother, my aunt, and I were brought to Israel by my grandfather to fulfill my Boosita’s wishes. She wanted her ashes laid to rest in the Jordan.
My grandmother’s death ripped a gaping hole in the collective heart of our tight-knit family. My grandfather, in his characteristically silent stoicism, was inconsolable. Many a vacant gaze was cast longingly towards the left side of his bed where we all wished Boo still slept. Only the warm embrace of family could ease his pain. So, when was able to sell a lucrative property he’d tried to rid himself of for years, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
I knew for months that my grandfather, “Buelo”, was planning to bring my aunt and mom to Israel, where the ultimate goal was to deliver Boo’s ashes to the Jordan River. I never imagined that I too would be invited, as a surprise for my seventeenth birthday.
I have so many things in my everyday life to be grateful for, but when I was climbing the Masada or visiting Yad Vashem or praying in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I was left speechless by the breathtaking beauty and good fortune that had befallen me.
The final day of our journey’s included the Yardenit. I close my eyes, and I’m back aboard the tour bus, jostling along from Capernaum to our concluding stop. When we arrived, I felt a blend of anxiety and excitement in the pit of my stomach. After walking through the gates I pan left and right, noticing only the picturesque water and sky. Framed by stone slabs denoting the baptism of Jesus in every language I’ve ever heard of and more. Without enough time to get baptized, we found a remote staircase that descended into the water. My aunt filmed as my grandfather tentatively opened his bag of ashes. And began to set them free. It was as though I could see her through my damp eyes, dancing in the wind. She was dust and to dust she was returned. Not only to the ground, but to the joyful waters that welcomed her home as well.
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