Friday, August 29, 2014

On Ending Kaddish

Another end. No longer will there be something that I do every single day to mark this loss, something that I do every day to say – Abba, I still love you and am doing something to take care of you. It is hard. At each other stage --- shiva, shloshim, kaddish each morning – there was something ahead that marked it as still raw and new. Now there is just a huge never-ending span of nothingness and loss. No marks. I am set loose in my pain to confront the reality, the permanent reality that this person whom I loved and who loved me is not just not here right now, but never will be. It’s like the kid in preschool who doesn’t cry the first or second day at being left by his parents, but on the third week – that’s when it sinks in that this is not just some passing thing, but that every day on and on, he will be abandoned by his parents. It seems we are born to loss and separation.

I want to say good-bye again. But this time I have to figure out a way to make the good-bye an ongoing conversation, to stand in the doorway and talk a bit longer. I know there are other ways to continue the conversation – we carry our parents’ voices around in our heads. But something about Kaddish – the repetitiveness of it, the sanctity, the way it moves up and up, connecting two worlds. It places the conversation between me and my father into a religious realm, raises it up to include a third partner, Who is now, I pray, taking care of my father.

Good-bye, Abba. Stay with me even as you move upward. Smile at me and encourage me when I am down. Believe in me. Understand me. Love me. Help me feel our connection. Oh, stay with me. And to God, take care of him. Accept him in to Your warm embrace, and comfort him for the loss of his connection to us. You are the link between us. Stay with me. Le’alam, ule’almei almaya.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Post Tisha B'Av Reflections on Mourning and Connection

What do we mourn for on Tisha B’av? A story is told in the Talmud about Rabban Gamliel. Every night he would be awakened by a neighboring woman crying for her lost son. Rabban Gamliel, hearing her, would also cry, crying with her for her loss but also for the lost Temple. The story depicts how personal and communal tragedies become intertwined. They are not separate things, this mourning for one’s son (or father) and this mourning for the Temple, but all part of the basic human yearning for connection. That open wound inside is our opening to all open wounds.

What do we mourn for on Tisha B’av? We mourn for the loss of a once more intimate feeling of God’s presence in the world. We take time to feel the pain of distance and yearning for divine connection.

This week I had a few moments of self-consciously enjoying my summer time with my children. No great shakes – just sitting out on our porch eating a snack, walking around the pond as a storm brews, holding hands, but somehow, in the sweet fleeting moments of a waning summer, these moments felt peculiarly special and intense. This is all I want in life, I thought, to be together, to be connected, to be in loving relationship.

Maybe these personal relationships are an inkling of the possibility of our connection to God – a little taste of the soul’s capacity for outreach. Ahat sha’alti, we will soon say, come the month of Elul – One thing I desire in this world, and that is “that I sit in the house of God all the days of my life.” That’s the one thing we really yearn for, and to know it, is to understand the emptiness inside us, and not to confuse it with hunger for food or recognition, but simply the basic yearning of the human soul for divine connection.

As we move from Tisha B’av toward Rosh HaShanah, may our mourning and our yearning become returning, returning to that place of connection we have somehow always known.