You Shall Pursue

September 10, 2012

Glorified and Sanctified

Filed under: Choosing Life, Spirituality — Tags: , , — marleyweiner @ 12:04 am

My aunt died on Thursday. She had been sick for a long time, with various illnesses, and her passing was, if not a relief, than at least something expected. As the religious Jew in the family, I decided to take on the obligation of the shloshim, the thirty days of saying kaddish, which is the Jewish prayer of mourning.

The thing about kaddish is that it makes no mention of death, in fact, it is structured to celebrate life and the God that breathes life into all of us. The title of this post is a rough English translation of the first two words of the prayer. It praises God, lists God’s worthy attributes, and prays for peace. Kaddish is supposed to be said in a minyan, a public gathering of ten or more Jews, which gives mourners the opportunity to make a public declaration of their grief, even as they recite words of praise.

My aunt’s life is certainly something to be celebrated, even in this time of mourning. She went quietly in her sleep, and while she died young, there was a lot that was good about her final five or so years. Her only son is married to a wonderful woman, and she got to see and spend time with her granddaughter. All of these are blessings. She was a witty, sarcastic woman who loved her family and built a good life for herself, also blessings. She will be missed terribly.

On Friday, saying kaddish for the first time at my home synagogue, I discovered that it was also the yartzeit of a dear friend of my mother’s who passed away when I couldn’t have been more than five years old. It has been twenty years, but I still remember her, and her parents were there to hear their daughter’s name read. After services, I went up to them to ask after their son-in-law (who taught one of my confirmation academy classes) and their grandkids (who are about my age). And they told me that it was still hard, which makes sense. Twenty years later, I think that it is a tremendous blessing that they could have a venue to greet someone else who remembered their daughter and share, for a minute, their love and their loss.

Judaism is a religion of memory. We come together every year to remember those whom we, of course, can never forget. To declare publicly to our communities that we have loved and lost important people, and to praise God on their behalf. Aunt Pam, you will be missed, and you will be remembered.

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