Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Year of Mourning - A Tale of Two Yizkors

(Yizkor is the memorial service recited four times a year during holidays. It is traditionally recited for first degree relatives: parents, siblings, children, and spouses, and many whose relatives are still living avoid it for superstitious reasons. But there are also prayers for other relatives, those who died in the Holocaust, and others that can be recited by all. )


I sat through my first Yizkor last week. Of course it’s not really my first. I stay for Yizkor all of he time. I have for a decade now. But it was the first since Daddy died, the first time I had someone for whom to say it beyond the general prayers. 


It was also the first since I started my new job. (Another first— the first time I’m a pulpit rabbi.) I sat in the pews with a friend, both of us remembering our loved ones together, laughing a little, crying a little. I was remembering my last Yizkor at Beth Tzedec. Almost nine years ago on Shavuot. I sat there, towards the front, on the right. Rav Baruch spoke, and I cried. I cried for what I knew was coming. I sat there thinking about my father; wondering how much longer He would be there. How much longer until I read the prayer for a parent. I thought, “Next year I may be saying this for him.” I began planning, secretly, in my heart. Where would I sit shiva? Where would I say Kaddish? But he stayed. He was Superpapa, the man the angel of death scared away. Too many times he’d been so ill. Too many times There’d been angina or other medical issues. Each time he rallied, coming back. We got used to it. Even when his kidneys failed due to an antibiotic . We held hope, as people do  that he’d once again heal. We accepted a new normal, accepting his declining health, his growing frustration. He would say, “This is no way to live. It’s not a life.” But he was a fighter, and he fought on. He was never easy, but he was tough. In the end he was bitter, but he was loving underneath it all. And it was fitting that his last words were, “Thank you.”