Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reflections on kaddish time

Did the kaddish period go quickly? No. When I was saying kaddish, it seemed like I always would. Each day had a weight, a distinct presence. There was a sense of plodding through the obligation, day by day. (See post at at

Is eleven months is a long time? Yes, and no. Even in retrospect, the time does not feel as if it passed quickly. One of the reasons I feel relief now that the year has passed is that the year felt like such a long time.

The strange thing is that other people's kaddish years seem to pass more quickly than one's own. Many people asked me, "when is your kaddish done," and almost always seemed surprised that I had more time left in my kaddish year than they'd thought. Here's another example: a friend of mine's father died a few weeks after my mother. I remember paying her a Shiva call while I was still in Shloshim (first 30 days after burial). So I should have been able easily to figure out when her kaddish year was ending. And yet when her husband told me she was almost finished saying kaddish, I couldn't believe it. "Already?", I thought. I didn't connect her kaddish period with my own. Mine seemed slow, hers fast.

I suppose these different perceptions of time point to the heightened sense of self-awareness caused by loss. Feeling pain and loss is profoundly, yet necessarily, selfish activity. Our sense of self creates a gap between feelings of your own pain and being sensitive to these feelings in others. No matter how empathetic you are, your own personal loss hits you and affects you in a qualitatively different way than those of others.

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