Pnina Briga tried for years to give birth to a son, only to lose him, a short 23 years later, when a mortar exploded near him on the Gaza border on Monday night.
“The wait heightened the excitement of your arrival, you were loved by everyone,” Pnina said.
She spoke in a low voice, hoarse from crying, as she looked at her son Sgt.-Maj. Adi Briga’s freshly filled earthen grave, which was flanked by six officers in the Ashkelon Military Cemetery on Tuesday.
Before Adi’s flag-draped coffin was lowered into the ground, she and her husband, David, stood next to it with tear-filled, anguished faces.
Pnina bent over, kissed the flag and hugged the wooden box. Then her husband David kissed the coffin, falling down, half fainting, as he yelled out, “Adi, Adi!” in a mournful mantra. Friends and soldiers pulled him back up onto his feet.
They held David back from returning to the coffin. He tried to push forward anyway, his arms outstretched, as if he could pull his son back from the grave by the power of his love.
Adi’s girlfriend, sister Michal and brother Rafael also kissed his coffin and sobbed.
As she eulogized her brother, Michal said that in spite of the 13 years that separated them, the two were very close and that he had been with her in every important moment of her adult life, from her marriage to the birth of her daughter To’har. He told her jokes to distract her from the pain, Michal said.
“And now I am accompanying you on your last journey. How do I eulogize you? Where do I start? How do I put into words the painful thoughts we have had since yesterday? The harsh news shook us to our core, making it hard to breath,” she said.
“It is intolerable to think of you in the past, it is too painful,” she said, breaking into tears.
“I told my daughter To’har that a missile hit you and that you would not be returning from the war. What do I tell her when she says, ‘He promised he would return, and promises should be kept’?” Michal asked.
When she spoke to her students, Michal said, she always used him as an example of someone who could do anything, if only he put his mind to it.
“You were the light of our lives,” she said.
“You will be in my heart for eternity,” Michal said.
Ashkelon Mayor Itamar Shimoni said Adi, from the nearby Moshav Beit Shikma, was among many young men from their region who served in the reserves and who immediately answered the army’s call to return to duty, because they knew that their home had become one of the battlefronts in the Gaza war.
Throughout the funeral, as mourners spoke, explosions from the war could be heard in the background.
One of the mourners, Joe, who represents an equine organization for young riders and an officer in the army, said that it never occurred to him when an SMS message had gone out on Monday by people looking for Adi that this is where the story would end.
He described a young man, dedicated to his family and friends, who loved horses and who wanted to become a chef.
“You spent hours with horses and children and helped children who wanted to compete but didn’t know how to start,” Joe said. He and Adi spent long hours talking, he said.
“You had many dreams for the future that were cut short by the mortar,” he said.
“Rest on your laurels, young rider,” Joe said.