by Tamar Duke-Cohan

cassieI happened into a public bathroom a few evenings ago. As I entered, a woman flew out of the first stall, ran into another and banged the door shut. I could hear her muttering and sobbing over the phone. Although I could not understand the words because she was speaking in another language, it was clear what had happened; she had left the door of the first stall open, and it was evident that the hope for a pregnancy – the prayers for a child – were over. I stood there for a just second listening to those awful sobs – tears of despair and the loss of hope, of disappointment and grief. After I left, those desperate, whispered sobs stayed with me for many hours.

That evening I was guiding a bride through her first immersion in preparation for her wedding (I volunteer at Mayyim Hayyim). After the ceremony, she came out of the mikveh room, dripping in a white bathrobe, to where her female relatives were waiting. Three generations of women jumped and hugged and laughed and cried. These were very different tears – ones of hope, and satisfaction, and unutterable joy. These were tears from the other side of the crevasse of the human experience. It was a wondrous thing.

As I drove home it occurred to me how much these tears actually had in common – there was someone on the other side of that phone in that bathroom; maybe a mother or sister who was supporting and loving that poor woman in her moment of despair. This person was just like the bride’s relatives – someone who cares.

I also thought about how lucky I am because there are so many people in my life who care about me and would carry me across any crevasse – my husband and sons, my mother, sister, and nieces, my closest friends, my god-daughters, and many other friends – all amazing people. I know it’s a truism and a cliché, but I think it’s worth remembering that it’s the people in our life who give it meaning, and it is they who carry us across the crevasse.

Newton resident Tamar Duke-Cohan has been a Mikveh Guide since since 2005 when she participated in the second class of training. She is a member of Temple Beth Zion in Brookline and is an avid Torah reader.