The “Kaddish in two-part harmony” project has led to some remarkable experiences for both Mira and me, in which we have had the privilege of joining people in their most intimate moments of grief.
It happened again on my last weekend with the dancers at University of Iowa. After our penultimate performance, Saturday night, there was a cast party, and after that, a handful of us went to a nearby club where someone who has accompanied dance classes for years was performing with his cover band.
I got to talking with Dana, one of our dancers, and I don’t remember how we got started, but I explained why I was playing that same piece over and over again each night in the dressing room, before we went onstage together and I played the opening of that same piece while lying on my back downstage left—that I was making a daily recording of “Kaddish” by Lev Kogan as part of a yearlong project examining grief, death, and ritual with my blog-and-podcast partner, an anthropologist named Mira. I must have mentioned one or two of the deaths in my close circle that had led to my interest in the project.
Dana’s story spilled out.
A few years ago, her big sister—her beloved, amazing big sister Margot—died. Murdered. By a boyfriend.
Margot was Dana’s hero, best friend, and biggest supporter, all rolled into one terrific-sounding package. Dana told me about the time that Margot came to one of her performances in running gear—because she’d gone from running a marathon, kept running right into a cab, to an airport, on a flight in her running gear, in another cab, and into Dana’s performance—late and panting—because she was darned if she was going to miss her sister’s show.
It was a privilege to play the last backstage Kaddish for Margot, with Dana nearby, getting ready for our final onstage performance together.