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honoring my mom and dad

by Judy
September 27, 2015

On the 23rd of September was Yom Kippur, the most holy day in the Jewish religion – the Day of Atonement – and also as it turned out, the anniversary of my mom’s death three months ago, I lit Yahrzeit memorial candles both for my mom and dad. The candle burns for 24 hours through the night.

I woke up on the morning of the 24th at 6 am. It was still dark but the warm glow of the two candles that I had lit in honor of my mom and dad were still burning brightly and I felt such a sense of peace and stillness as if they were both with me, watching over me. A sense of cleansing. It felt like a blessing. Life is really mysterious. We really have no idea how the grieving process unfolds and all the subtle but significant changes that are daily occurring.

I have not been religious for a very long time in terms of Judaism and still am not, and yet I find at this time in my life, since my mom’s passing, I seek the comfort and the added weight that tradition can give. And so the day before the 23rd, I decided to go to synagogue for the kol nidre service that begins on the night before the full day of Yom Kippur. I felt almost a compulsion to go. Ritual and tradition have a mysterious effect on the psyche…tapping into a spiritual depth and connecting one as well to family and the long weight of the past.

It was a perfect and powerful service to go to, much singing and chanting and a sense of solemnity – a time to reflect, atone and start afresh.

On Yom Kippur, a time when traditionally Jewish people review in a sense their “sins” and start anew, I chose to have a quiet day…didn’t go out except to take a few walks. In my own way I was honoring the inner, spiritual life.

I reflected on the loss of my mom and thinking about how so many people – unless one does not live very long – do and will experience loss and grief. It is Universal and for many, not everyone, people survive and eventually thrive again to one degree or another.

It is potentially a very potent time – a time of stopping – where one can’t help but be reminded of one’s own mortality, the mystery of life and death and what is meaningful. It’s like a portal opens when one really has the opportunity to look again and again: what do I want to do, how do I want to be for the rest of my life on this earth? Especially if one is older like myself, there is such an awareness of our limited time on earth, of the preciousness of life and relationship.

Something is changing in me since I wrote the last essay when I spoke about the key (to loss) being acceptance. Somehow by shedding light on this aspect in myself that really has not wanted to accept my mom’s death and sharing it with the world, I feel there is a little more acceptance. Quite mysterious. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss mom and still feel this emptiness – like something is missing – something that I had always taken for granted and now is no more, but I am not throwing “temper tantrums” anymore. It’s also clear to me that no one can ever replace my mom. She lives in a special place in my heart and always will.

After Yom Kippur, I had a dental appointment where I needed to get two large fillings. It was a long production and in between getting Novocain, lying back in the dental chair and mouth numbing, the assistant innocently asked me how my summer had been. At that moment all I could think of was my mom’s death and dealing with everything afterwards. I choked up and the assistant apologized for asking me. I then gathered up my voice and told her what happened, adding that it really had no connection with summer for me as it’s always warm in Florida.

Later when I thought about that incident, I burst out laughing as there was something very funny about the whole scene and I could imagine my mom laughing too. She had quite a sense of humor and could laugh at what could be slightly morbid. She might say something and burst out laughing and then I would burst out as well. She would say later it wasn't really funny while still laughing – perhaps something even about her own death – but she would laugh with such abandonment and we both could not stop. That was a real gift she gave to the world and one I will always cherish.


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