Howl and Whisper

by Eileen Vorbach Collins

I leave you, finally, on a cold gurney in a cold room at Sinai Hospital with a stone-faced shomer, the man slumped in a straight-backed chair in the corner, tasked to watch over your body.


According to Jewish tradition, shemira, the practice of having someone remain with the deceased from the moment of death until burial, likely began as a way to keep wild animals from getting the corpse. Maybe now I am a wild animal. I might devour you, like a wolf mother would a dead pup. To keep predators away from the rest of the litter. Or is there more to it? The wolf mother’s way of keeping her dead baby with her. Always. Some animal behaviorists say that only humans have emotions. That a dog or wolf might eat a dead pup accidentally while cleaning up the placenta. But I suspect that wild mother knows exactly what she’s doing.


Your father is howling like a wounded beast outside the room. I wish I could do that, but I can barely whisper.

Eileen Vorbach Collins is an essayist from Baltimore. Her essay collection, Love in the Archives, will be published by Apprentice House Press in the fall. You can read more of her work here

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