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Nothing but a new language

Reflections on language, connection, and my grandmother (Part 1)

My sentiments (Meus Sentimentos): The power of vocabulary

My beloved grandmother Vovó Clara, passed away just three weeks ago. She was 91 years old, and was always elegant, poised, and full of social grace. Her love for us was fervent, strong, and inflexible. She loved all her grandchildren the same, she would always say. That was one of her many mottos.

Returning from the burial and memorial service, I return to the same world, although my grandmother is no longer, I suppose, living physically in this physical realm.

The funeral rituals are somewhat different in Rio. Before the graveside service, there is a short moment, for lack of a better analogy, it is like a "cocktail hour". Without the food, but because it is Brazil, there is a Nespresso machine in the corner. We call it the chevra kadisha. In Judaism, the chevra kadisha is the community that prepares the body for burial. So for a few hours before driving the difficult road to the cemetery on the outskirts of town, we spent some time receiving those who loved my grandmother.

My grandmother was nothing if not loyal, and she was deeply connected to her community. For years she was in different leadership positions in WIZO, the Jewish Woman's community organizing group that was a religion to her.

In addition, since hers and my grandfather's early married years seventy years ago, she belonged to a group of four couples, each with 2 children. They became a family. Two of the couples shared a floor on the same apartment building, so the apartments were always open. And there was her biological family, children, grandchildren, nephews, great nephews and nieces.

The chevra kaddisha was filled with people that truly loved, with a capital L, my grandmother. Her hairdresser, Esmell, of 50 years was there. Vovó had gone to Esmell since they were both young women, every single Saturday that she was in town (that was, incidentally, the one day of the week that she washed her hair). Esmell was my grandmother' synagogue.

Every person that arrived came up to my mother, my uncle and his wife, my father, or one of the grandchildren and would say, "Meus sentimentos." In English, that means, pretty obviously, "my sentiments." That struck me as such a beautiful way to greet someone, and it showed me that we do not have a good phrase in English. "I'm sorry," doesn't quite hit the same note. It refers to the person that is speaking, "I" am sorry. Whereas "my sentiments" is more connected, it creates a relational bridge between the speaker and the mourner. "My sentiments" says that I care about you, and that your loss impacts me in my heart space.

It brought me back to the importance of language, how language is always defining and creating how we relate to each other. Language can create a more connected reality, or a more isolated reality. Of course this is at a subtle level, which happens to be exactly the level of emotion, of connectivity, and of love.

Because I am always reflecting through my human design glasses, it also reminded me of the importance of vocabulary. And what always strikes me when I do readings is that the most important thing that I am doing is sharing a new vocabulary, a new language that supports a more authentic, more connected way of being oneself in the world.
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