by Elizabeth D. Koozmin
I am feeling pretty morose tonight. Today was the last day to say Kaddish for my father, who had ALS, in the Jewish year of mourning.
The first week after death, you stay home and receive visitors, talk about the deceased, and pray at home and recite the Kaddish prayer; the prayer is not about death, it reaffirms your faith. The idea is to have your community come to comfort you and almost never leave you alone. For 11 months after death, you transition slowly back to your normal routines, but you are obliged to recite the Kaddish prayer at every opportunity, to reaffirm your faith in the shadow of tragedy.
So that’s what has gotten me through the past 11 months — the routine of going to services at my synagogue (where routine and stability can be counted on, unlike the rest of my crazy life) and reciting the Kaddish prayer with other mourners. It’s supposedly a tried-and-true method of grieving that Jews have been practicing for centuries.
For the 12th month before the anniversary of his death in December, Kaddish is not recited. We will have an unveiling of his headstone, which he shares with my mother who died nine years ago and only six days apart on the English calendar. I will get up and say Kaddish once again in December, one week for him, the next week for my mother.
And with that, the year of mourning will be complete. I am not looking forward to its end, it came way too fast. The years and years ahead without my parents yawn like a big gaping hole that I don’t quite know how to fill. Everyone loses both parents eventually but I am only 48 years old with a 13-year-old daughter (who now has no grandparents) and I feel so cheated, selfish, like a small child. I know my husband and I will just have to reinvent family traditions for our daughter’s sake.