There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah. Genesis 49:31-32
The sky wore gray the day I buried Leah, as though it had put off its bright garment and donned a dark robe for the occasion.
With one hand I leaned on my staff, and with the other fisted my cloak against my chest, pressing against the chill—and the ache in my heart. It hindered neither.
The slow procession of keening women and stiff-lipped men followed the bier through the field that lay before Machpelah, the cave my grandfather, Abraham, had purchased as a burial place for his beloved Sarah. The place where my father and mother lay, bone to bone, in a common crypt.
Reuben walked beside me. I stole a sidelong glance at my eldest son. His grief-dampened eyes were trained forward, his jaw rigid beneath his beard—the rift between us never wider. The ache in my heart deepened.
I had failed my twelve sons. And Dinah, my lovely daughter. I had failed to protect her and to comfort her—but I had failed her mother most of all.
Why would God choose a man like me as Abraham’s successor? A deceiver. A thief. A “heel catcher” the midwife said, when I was born grasping my brother’s foot.
And to what purpose had He allowed Leah to suffer at her father’s hand—and at mine?
The cold wind worried the hem of my robe as I stood at the cave’s entrance. All the mourners had left: children, grandchildren, friends, women Leah had attended at childbed and the children born of them. Only Reuben remained, a short way off, the dutiful eldest son.
When I could put it off no longer, I stooped to enter the tomb, steadying myself against the uneven limestone and the swell of emotions threatening to engulf me.
Torches, saluting from niches in the wall, cast somber light on a large recess where three stone crypts lay in solemn repose. A rush of memory overtook me. Together, my brother and I had brought our father, Isaac, here. Esau and I had always been at odds, but blood had bound us to the task, and the cave had brooked no rivalry to disturb the peaceful dead. Nor had it when our father and his half-brother, Ishmael, laid Abraham beside my grandmother.
I only hoped the cave would do the same for me—that my sons could bring my body here in peace.
I took a deep breath and moved toward the shelf carved out of the wall of the cave.
Grief snatched my breath as I saw her there—taking her turn on the hard slab—waiting for the flesh to fall away from her narrow frame, leaving dry, brittle bones that her sons would gather and lay to rest in the empty crypt.
My fingers trembled as I touched the hollow of my wife’s cold cheek. The woman I did not choose—chosen of God.
Bile rose in my throat.
I laid my head on her still chest and wept.