Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Witness to grief

I recently attended a Shiva Minyan. I went because I always pray in a minyan these days and I got an announcement from the shul that someone was sitting shiva near where I live. I was surprised to find just a few people there when I arrived. So I talked with the mourners, discovering they were mourning the death of the man's father who died rather unexpectedly after entering the hospital for what appeared to be a nonlife threatening illness. It took a while to get a minyan, which was achieved only after a series of near frantic phone calls from the rabbi to the shul asking for people to walk over to the shiva home. I was in danger of not being able to say kaddish for Mincha, but after all my other kaddishes this year, I wasn't too upset by that.

With the minyan finally constituted, the rabbi asked me to lead prayers as the man sitting shiva was not accustomed to davening. I led Mincha and Ma'ariv and recited kaddish with the mourners. The rabbi reminded me to slow down while I said kaddish as the mourners were not as fluent in the kaddish as me. (At this point, I can, and practically have, recited it in my sleep.)

Then I heard something I haven't heard in a while. One of the mourners was crying. He was stumbling on the words to the kaddish not only because of the language, but out of grief. I recalled what seems like ages ago when I was sitting shiva and the kaddish brought forth tears without fail. At the final kaddish of my shiva, it took what seems like minutes to get through it, grief rendering the words too difficult for my trembling lips to utter.

I heard and felt the mourner's tears, I could relate to them, but I could not summon up my own sense of grief. I've experienced much internal processing since I sat shiva. The rawness of the emotions have faded. I wouldn't say I've "come to terms" or "gotten over" or "moved on from" my mother's death, but I have integrated it into my psyche. There are times when I still can't believe she's gone and I can't quite comprehend that I haven't spoken to her in many months. But still, as I near the end of this kaddish year, changes have occurred within me. Grief has been replaced by other sad, but less intense, emotions. My kaddishes these days are still generally heartfelt but not infused with deep emotion.  The quality of my kaddishes relative to the grief-filled kaddishes of recent mourners shows the road I've travelled on this journey into my post-mother life.

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