Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My mother's birthday

Today is (was?) my mother's birthday.  She would have been 80.  My parents would have had a special celebration. I would have called her.  I did last year, knowing it would likely be the last time I wished her happy birthday.  She would have said something memorable, about gratitude for her friends, family and husband.   This year, what can I say?  It's trite to say "happy birthday" to her where ever she is.  This year I can't say it. I can only think what if.

Judaism teaches that we remember our loved ones on their Yahrtzeit, not their birthday. Why is this?  In the U.S. it is birthdays that mark national holidays, Washington, Lincoln, MLK.  A birthday marks the beginning of life, its promise, its potential.  A Yahrtzeit marks the life lived, the promise fulfilled, the potential realized.  We remember life by marking its end. Beginnings mean less  than endings, for it is what transpired in between that carries meaning. 

My mother lived a rich, unusual, inspiring life. Today would been the beginning of its 80th year. I'm sad she did not live to see it. I will commemorate her life and cry for its ending, not today, but on November 9, the 24th of Cheshvan, the anniversary of her passing.

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