Saturday, June 13, 2009

Crossing the threshold, literally: On becoming a mourner

I decided several weeks ago that it would be best if I did not attend my mother's funeral and sat shiva here. My father barely remembers me (or anyone or anything else) anymore, my brother has his children to sit shiva with him, and, in addition to not knowing anyone else in Israel, I don't speak Hebrew well enough to conduct a meaningful conversation in it, so I thought it would be more helpful to me to sit shiva among friends. I also had to consider my sister, who lives within commuting distance--not only did I not want her to be alone, but, in addition, since her health prevents her from keeping her apartment "visitor-ready," she would need a place to sit shiva. My California brother is on his own, I'm sorry to say.

But I missed the shock-to-the-system confrontation with finality of shoveling earth into my mother's grave.

I got a taste of that on Friday night, standing outside the door to the sanctuary, waiting to be called in with the traditional prayer that I be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. Upon entering the room, I entered publicly into my status as a mourner for the first time.

I am grateful to the synagogue president, who left the building just long enough to corral a tenth person for a minyan so that I could say Kaddish Yatom/Mourner's Kaddish. It's fortunate that he not only knows practically everyone who lives or works within 15 blocks of his home, he also knows who's Jewish, even if they never set foot in synagogue.

Our biggest service is always Saturday morning, and it felt strange to be one of the people saying Kaddish, rather than one of the people responding "Amen."

It was particularly comforting to see the woman who usually sits next to me, plus three of the seniors, show up for Mincha-Maariv so that I could say Kaddish.

Tomorrow, I'll be sitting shiva in my apartment. It'll be a long day. It'll be long week.


Anonymous westbankmama said...

I am sorry for your loss. At least you will have your sister to sit with - it makes a difference.

Sun Jun 14, 11:48:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Thank you for your kind words.

I expect my sister to join me in sitting shiva later today and/or tomorrow, though, given her health, I don't know how long she'll be able to stay. As you said, being together will be good for both of us.

Sun Jun 14, 12:15:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Shira: So very, very sorry to hear of your loss.

I sat shiva for my Mom (z'l) in my grandmother's home, far away from my friends and support system (not to mention my parents' social circle). I am sorry for your family that circumstances prevent your being together. I do hope, however, that being in your community will afford you the support of close friends who know and love you.

Hamakom yenechem etchem bitoch shaar avelei tzion v'yerushalayim.

Sun Jun 14, 06:44:00 PM 2009  
Blogger smoo said...

So sad to hear about your mom.

Sun Jun 14, 10:08:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Zahava, I'm fortunate that, despite our declining membership, our local Conservative synagogue usually manages to come through with a minyan in the evening for those sitting shiva. It was also comforting to have my sister here tonight.

Smoo, thanks.

Sun Jun 14, 10:29:00 PM 2009  

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