Thursday, June 18, 2009

Lasts, firsts, and yet to come, as a mourner

The last time I spoke to my mother was probably during Chol HaMoed Pesach. If I'd known that she'd be gone less than three months later, I would have kept track of the date. She asked me a lot of questions about what I was cooking and eating. It occurred to me--after the call, of course--that, with her by-then circumscribed mobility and the necessity of being home with my memory-impaired father most of the time anyway, food was one topic that was still available to her for conversation, and, therefore, I should keep better track of what I was cooking and eating so that we'd have something to talk about in future phone calls. Alas, there was never another phone call.

This past Sunday evening, when I stood to lead the shiva minyan in Minchah (Afternoon Service) for the first time, I suddenly realized that since, even when we used to get a minyan in the morning, we always did a heichah K'dushah, it was the first time I'd ever led a chazarat ha-shatz (repetition aloud) of the entire weekday Amidah prayer. It was a bit unnerving. I later realized that it was also the first time I'd ever led a weekday Minchah. I think that, since my parents had been bound and determined to ensure that all four of us kids got a better Jewish education than either of them had received, my mother would have been very pleased to see how much my Jewish knowledge has grown.

Yesterday morning, I davvened bi-y'chidut (prayed alone) for the last time for the next 11 months. One of my former rabbis called yesterday afternoon, and suggested that I end my shiva by saying Kaddish at synagogue with the morning minyan. When I mentioned that I'd been davvening bi-y'chidut (praying alone) because we haven't had a minyan on a Monday or Thursday morning in over a year (we gave up holding minyan on other weekdays years ago), he said he'd call another member of the synagogue and put her to work making phone calls. Sure enough, the woman who sits next to me in synagogue worked the phones, and we got a minyan this morning. It was very gratifying to me to end shiva in a minyan, with a lot of help from my friends.

I'll start going to the nearest egalitarian Conservative synagogue for Minchah-Maariv (Afternoon and Evening Services) tonight, and for Shacharit (Morning Service) Monday through Friday mornings tomorrow morning. (I'll take my chances at our neighborhood Conservative synagogue on Sundays, when we often get a minyan.) Truth to tell, I'm going to miss davvening alone, because I'm still a pretty slow davvener, and I can davven at my own pace when I davven bi-y'chidut. But, according to halachah/Jewish religious law, one is not permitted to say Kaddish Yatom/Mourner's Kaddish without a minyan. So I'll stand and be counted, literally, to honor my mother's memory.

I cleared this with my rabbi: He said it's okay for me to davven the entire Birkot HaShachar/Morning Blessings section at home first, then go to shul, since that's the only way that I'll be finished that section in time to say Kaddish D'Rabbanan with the minyan.

Yet to come
My siblings and I seem to have responded to our mother's death in different ways. My Israeli brother and my sister were hit hard immediately. My brother in California and I seem to be having delayed reactions. It really hasn't hit me yet. I spent shiva in ritual and remembrance. I've been told that it'll hit home later, when I least expect it--one shiva visitor said it took her over a year. I guess time will heal, and unheal, and reheal my wounds.


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