Eleven Months Part 1
I am in the synagogue sitting around a table with some guys eating a bagel with lox. Normally, there are bagels in the coatroom after morning minyan, but no lox. The lox is special today, because someone is finishing his eleven months of saying kaddish for his father. He had breakfast brought in to thank everyone for being there with him for the year while he mourned.
For the past month, this has been how I start my day. I go to the synagogue and pray through the shacharit service. Towards the end, I stand, along with the other mourners, and say the Mourner’s Kaddish. For the first month, I could barely get through it.
Today, as I am eating my bagel, I am thinking about the next ten months. For the next ten months, this is where I will be. Every day. A month ago, I walked in to this synagogue for the first time, shell-shocked. My mother was not an easy person. She had no easy relationships. For her, being human was particularly hard and she didn’t make it any easier for people around her. I don’t think any of my brothers or sisters would say anything different.
But, for the next ten months, this is where I will be. Likely with at least some of these people around the table. Most of them were there that day when I walked in. That first day no one said much to me, but they looked at me and smiled. They looked at the torn ribbon I wore as a sign that I was within the first seven days of mourning someone and they got it. They didn’t know me. They didn’t know my mom. But they got it, and they smiled. Sad smiles that showed me that they’d been there.
So, for the next ten months this is where I will be. With these people. And with new people, who will walk in shell-shocked. And I will smile at them. A sad smile, because I’m doing this, and I get it now.
I’m glad you’re going. I have missed a few days but I’ll be back.
One thing that is so beautiful about Judaism is the strength of these remaining rituals – the intensity, the repetition, the standardization of ritual honed over so many centuries to address the human condition; fundamental events – birth, death; deep emotion, mourning being the most extreme. As you suggest, the experience is simultaneously so unique and so commonplace. Thanks for sharing.
I love you, Harry. Thank you for sharing this.