In the last episode of the Israeli television series “Shtisel,” the father quotes Isaac Bashevis Singer, a secular Yiddish writer.

It is a bit of a stretch for even a fictional ultra-orthodox rabbi from a notably insular community to be quoting the famously secular Bashevis Singer, and all the more so to be quoting the real author of the quote, Romain Rolland, a French Nobel laureate and Stalinist.

Here is what Shtisel quoted: “Everyone, deep down within, carries a small cemetery of those he has loved.”

When I first heard those words, I knew I had to write about them, until I encountered the formulation of Jennifer Senior. She was more correct, at least in my experience, when she said, “It’s the damnedest thing: the dead abandon you; then, with the passage of time, you abandon the dead.”

Among the occupational hazards of being a rabbi in a congregation (as I was for 35 years) is a long and intimate relationship with the dead.

A friend of mine recently lost his mother, who was 104. A long time ago, another friend lost a child at nine days. And many times each year, I became acquainted closely with someone whose age was in between.

I have been personally bereaved of friends and family of all ages. A first-grade classmate was killed in a riding accident. A high school classmate was a victim of suicide. My two best friends from high school died young and unexpectedly. One of my dearest friends of four decades was felled by a rogue disease.

Great-grandparents, parents and in-laws, friends of an older generation and my own – I have eulogized them all. It is no surprise that as I struggled to put into words what I learned from their lives and deaths, I resolved to cling to the important place each one held in my own life.

I have been introduced to so many more people who anchored the lives of their surviving family and friends. Sitting around a table, people have shared with me remarkable stories of otherwise ordinary people.

A sweet older man for whom English was a late-life third or fourth language turned out to be a most respected and generous member of the community from which he was forced to flee.

A father and grandfather was so skilled a percussionist that he could play “Happy Birthday” on a kettle drum.

A Hadassah lady who survived three husbands had turned down Flo Ziegfeld personally when he tried to recruit her for her piano skills.

A fastidious and elegant woman had survived a childhood eating bugs and rats and sleeping on the forest floor while searching for her mother and avoiding the Nazis.

It is rare for me to hear survivors describe a loved one – even one they didn’t like so much – without regretting not having had the chance to get to know them a little bit better. As Senior says, they abandoned me, even when it was me least of all who was abandoned.

In fact, it is this lament I hear most often from the freshly bereaved. Even among those who feel relieved that a loved one’s suffering has ended or that they did not need to face an enervating struggle to cling to life-in-name-only, those who grieve most often feel left behind.

There was another question to be answered, another piece of advice to seek, another interpersonal issue to resolve. Small or large, there is a dose of anger at being abandoned, and a resolve to cling to the vitality of memory in both protest and tribute.

But is it true that we abandon the dead in return?

That small cemetery of the heart is almost always left to neglect. I don’t mean that we forget the dead; my mother died less than two years ago, and my father more than 30 years before that and neither of them is ever far from my thoughts.

But the intensity of remembering diminishes and all the vows and obligations, pledges and promises that seemed so compelling in the freshness of grief are, with the passage of time, more or less abandoned.

The gaping hole in life we noticed begins to close and, eventually, scabs over, and there remains a tiny scar. It is as true of the most profound of our losses as it is of the people I came to know intimately only in preparation for their funerals.

You may think I am being cynical or critical. I am not.

At the other end of life – birth – there is a similar sense of trauma for mothers, the pain of childbirth, that is likewise forgotten, or we would be a human race of only children. There is too much joy in life to be held captive to inevitable pain.

But this piece of wisdom reinforces for me the rituals of remembering that exist in so many traditions – not the large memorials for the many, the famous and the wealthy, rather the candles and flowers and headstones that exist for the sole purpose of reminding us not to abandon the dead entirely.

In my own tradition, that includes the annual recitation of memorial prayers on the anniversary of a death and the dedication of a space in most every synagogue for a small plaque that recalls a loved one’s name.

But most especially, on the most solemn day of the year, Yom Kippur, when Jews rehearse their own deaths, a time is set aside for all of us collectively to remember our dead individually.

For a moment, we return to that exact point when neither of us has abandoned the other in a visit to the small cemetery of the heart.

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