This past Wednesday, I made a quick trip back to my home town of Boston. Let me quickly apologize to my friends and family back in Massachusetts that I didn’t let you know of my plans. It was a last minute decision and I could only stay for several hours. I promise I’ll be back soon for a longer visit.

The objective of my trip was to visit the cemeteries where my parents, grandparents, several great-grandparents and other family members are buried and to say a memorial prayer at their graves. I usually plan such a trip each summer but I have started to question whether it really is necessary to do this each year and had considered not making the trip this year.

But, a few weeks ago, I started to feel a bit guilty. I had promised myself that I would continue the family tradition of visiting the cemeteries and in the midst of what has become a busy summer, I saw an open date on the calendar and made my plans to go back and forth from Michigan to Boston in one day.

I carefully planned my route: first to Melrose to visit my paternal grandfather’s grave, then to Woburn where my maternal grandmother’s parents and her brother are buried. Then, on to West Roxbury where my parents, maternal grandparents, paternal grandmother, two uncles and one aunt are buried. And, finally, to another part of West Roxbury to visit the grave of my paternal grandmother’s father which I had only recently discovered through the website

It was a whirlwind trip made infinitely more complicated by the closing of the Sumner Tunnel which left traffic around the airport horrible (even for Boston). There was a long line to get my rental car and I had problems trying to figure out how to keep my cell phone charged even though I had brought every charger I had from home. It started to rain even though no rain was predicted and I began to seriously doubt whether this trip made any sense.

But, I finally made it to Melrose to visit Grandpa Dobrusin’s grave and thanks to Ellen’s long distance assistance, I was able to figure out the car charging situation. The rain let up and I was feeling better by the time I got to Woburn.

I visited my great-grandparents’ grave and then stopped at my great-uncle Meyer’s grave. That has a special meaning to me since my middle name is named for him.

Then, it was on to West Roxbury. By now, I was sure I had made the right decision to come on this journey and I spent some time at my parent’s, grandparents’ and uncles’ and aunts’ graves. I found myself “talking” to them much more than I usually do when I visit, remembering how my grandmother would talk to all of the deceased. It seemed silly when I was a kid. But, it does not seem silly in any way now.

I ended my visits at my father’s maternal grandfathers’ grave, seeing it for the first time.

From there, it was a quick detour to the house I grew up in Brighton. I walked around the outside of the house for a few minutes and then drove back to the airport, fighting the horrible traffic, returned the car and took the shuttle to the terminal.

I was very satisfied.

As I sat on the plane to return home, I started to think about the inevitable question: does it really make a difference to visit cemeteries and, in a larger sense, to continue to consider the relationship with our deceased loved ones. Would my day have been better spent in other ways, either in Boston or at home? Does anyone really care?

I tried to sleep on the plane but was unable to. So, I took out my phone and opened the app that I have which has a “scrabble”-like crossword game.

The app opened the game with a word and I looked at my rack of letters and a word jumped out at me: silky. I was surprised, to say the least, Silky was the name of our first dog and I smiled as I played the word.

The app then answered with its word instantaneously. The word was duke.

I nearly dropped the phone because Duke was the name of my mother’s childhood beloved dog whom she remembered with a smile and tears years and years later. I stared at the screen and was so shocked that even forgot to take a screen shot which I dearly wish I had.

I refuse to believe this was a coincidence. It is not the first time my mother has let me know she is still with us. (see:

I was so glad I made the trip but it was also so good to know that it was appreciated in another place.


    1. Rob Dobrusin

      Thanks Jerry. I wanted to make sure that I included an apology because I really do want to see family when I’m in the area. But, this time I just didn’t have the time as I explained. I hope to come back next year and will definitely be in touch. I would love to meet you and the family.

    1. Rob Dobrusin

      Ellen, I’m so glad you found the story meaningful. As I mentioned, it is only one of three stories like it and I’m always glad to share these remarkable experiences! Thanks again!

  1. Diane Blumson

    Rob, I’m remembering a conversation we had years ago when you first asked if anyone else had these kinds of experiences. So I smiled when I read this for so many reasons.

  2. Your experience is very moving for me – it reminds us we are part of a larger picture of life and cannot know all the “why’s” that happen to us. You clearly connected with your family – profoundly – it has been so so long since I lost everyone. I feel very connected with them (and this may sound strange) when a full moon is shining over our house – …..and it lights up many feelings and memories. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Wow! Beautiful, and so moving. Thank you, Rabbi. As you know, most of what I’ve been writing the last few years has been about my ancestors and their role in my life today, so this was especially meaningful for me

  4. Bruce Geffen

    An excellent piece, Rabbi Dobrusin! I too feel the presence of my family loved ones day by day. It may be some random scent of a cigar out of nowhere (my paternal grandfather), or a feeling of that genuine smile from my Mom from time to time. As it was once said…”For one more day.”

  5. Elana Sussman

    I loved this too.
    I’ve always had signs, heard their voices, looked in the mirror or in the faces of our grandchildren and seen those who came before me. Of course, i especially see my parents but so many others are right there with them.

  6. Joseph Gurt

    I’m glad you were able to visit your ancestors’ graves. Unfortunately mine are scattered all over the world. But I think of them often. Thanks for sharing your story

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