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The Final Mourner's Kaddish

Today is the last day for me to recite Mourner's Kaddish for my mom.

Because it's a Friday, Nomi and I asked friends of ours who live near the shul if we could come over for dinner, and we're looking forward to enjoying their hospitality tonight. This afternoon, I'm going to go to the Mincha service, during which I will recite Mourner's Kaddish. Immediately following it will be the Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv service, and I suspect that some folks may have a momentary minor jolt when they realize that my voice is no longer among the chorus reciting the Mourner's Kaddish.

There will be no fanfare to mark the moment, just a quiet acknowledgment that my year of mourning has only one Hebrew month left to go.

I find myself with mixed feelings. On the one hand, and I know this isn't the best way to phrase it, but I'm sick and tired of mourning. I want it to be over with, so I can get back to a closer semblance of normality in my life.

On the other hand...

On the other hand, after you lose a parent, you never want the world to stop acknowledging that loss. Obviously, in the week and month immediately following the death, you need a lot more special consideration. But for the rest of my life, I will be an "orphaned adult," and I would want people to know that and to understand that in their dealings with me. Reciting the Mourner's Kaddish is a very public way of reminding people of your current fragility; that reminder will now get lost in the seas of time.

Of course, we still do other things to remind the world. The Cheshvan before my Mom died, Nomi and I sponsored a kiddush at our shul in honor of my father's yahrzeit. In a way, it helped stave off questions people might have asked; when my mom died, folks already were aware that my father was out of the equation. After my year of mourning is complete, Nomi and I will most likely sponsor a kiddush again, to commemorate my mom and to remind the community that my year is complete. (Amusingly enough, we won't be able to sponsor a kiddush right after the year ends, as that would be Arisia weekend and we'll be at the convention.)

But even though I will continue to remember my mom, and my dad, today's final recitation of the Mourner's Kaddish means that the third phase of mourning is complete. I enter the fourth phase tonight, and, a month from now, the fifth and final phase...which will last for the rest of my life.


Interesting reading about another faiths system of mourning. I'm an atheist now, well really and lapsed Roman Catholic. It seems simpler in comparison for us. There is a service where we carry the coffin into the church, there are prayers and eulogies, then we carry the coffin to the graveyard and a small procession as we place the coffin on ropes, again prayers and some eulogies and the coffin is lowered in the grave, symbolically we scatter earth dug out of the grave onto the top of the coffin and then we leave for a reception metting afterwards where we toast the loved one and then we move on, never forgetting, but no other official mourning system.

When I was 25 I lost my dad. He had remarried and I wasn't there at the end when he had his heart attack at 52. I attended the funeral service and he was taken to be cremated, we attended a pub afterwards to toast his goodbye. It was more his side of the family. I cried when they brought his coffin into the church as I had not seen him for 11 years. It was crying from despair.
I was 31 when my grandmother died. The ceremonies were larger, the family larger, my mothers side of the family. I had said my goodbyes this time in hospital as she kept going close to death and then coming round again. I talked to her, sat by her side, holding her hand, and each time she came semi conscious, making noises of satisfaction upon hearing my voice and my mother cried everytime. She cried because every time she tried to talk to my grandmother, she stayed silent, kept unconscious. I cried in hospital and told my grandmother she had been the family head, had done so much for the family that everyone would miss her, that it was her time to go and she should be proud she led such a fulfilling, inspiring life for us all and I thanked her for it. She was mumbling away and sounded sympathetic.

At the graveside my family was upset, crying. My mother asked me to go put the first bible my grandmother had given my mother as a schoolkid ontop of her coffin before it went down, she couldn't do it herself. I didn't cry, I had done my crying. It ws a solemn task, a final goodbye. I calmly placed the bible on her coffin and said goodbye. It was the final act before she was lowered, my whole family was watching me. There was no nervousness, no embaressment, no panic. Just comforting ritual.

I have a card in my wallet, with my grandmothers photo on it, the last taken before she ecame ill, the way we all see her (she was 96 when she died and still fairly robust, she had not changed appearance for decades it seemed to us) It has quote from a saint on the front with the details of her death and her church rites. A psalm from the bible is on the back with an image of John, lantern in one hand, other raised.

We don't have a long protracted system of mourning in the RC church, but we mourn the loss of loved ones every time we think about them. We choose the time to mourn, whatever time of day, or day itself. The effect on our lives will carry on until our own death and we realise with family loss that it is our actions towards our own family that affects them, that influences how they themselves treat family and so on.

Coming to terms with mortality is hard and it doesn't need to be done too often, but it shows us what our family connections are, why we need to make sure that living family should always think less of themselves. A little helping hand goes a long way to making us better people and passing that on down the line. It is to close family as well as extended family in a time where divorce and remarriage is too commonplace. I don't think my family has excluded anyone, family is almost everything in the end.
And, of course, you will continue to mark yahrzeits. Judaism got that right, saying both "you have to go on past this state" and "here is a regular memory aid (for you and the community)". I have been blessed to not yet go through this, but I think when the time comes (may it be far away) the structure will help.
Yes, I can see how the structure could help immensely.

My dad died in 1996, my mom in 2002. In each case, there was a long period of ill health and diminishing capacity, both mental and physical. In each case, I had to say goodbye in various ways before the actual death. My dad died in the hospital about 5 minutes before my mother and I could get there, so my final goodbye was unsatisfactory. I held my mother's hand as she died at home; it was no more satisfactory.

At the family memorial for my mother, I told her siblings and my cousins this: We are a species that tells stories. Everything we know, learn, think or do is reflected in our stories. At the memorial, we all told stories about my mother and father, laughed and cried all over again at the memories. In just such a way, we keep them alive, for as long as we tell the stories, they are never truly gone.

I don't know where that wisdom came from at the time, but I have come to recognize it for true wisdom. Family and friends still tell the stories. We repeat old gems, and find new ones never before told to add to the oral library. Sometimes, I feel my mothers arms enfolding me from behind, the way she used to do.

The stories are my structure, and I feel blessed to have them and an audience that welcomes them.

Thanks for sharing yours.
I remember my dad saying the same; that by the end he was simultaneously itching for the end of the year of mourning and feeling the loss of it.

I think our phrase z"l says it best: may her memory be a blessing that remains with you in loving ways.
On the one hand, and I know this isn't the best way to phrase it, but I'm sick and tired of mourning.

Excellent! Our closure through aversion therapy program works perfectly.

To be less flip, I have observed that in the modern world, where the mourning ends almost as soon as the funeral is over and people are expected to "get on with their lives" in very short order, that the biggest problem for people is achieving a way to work it all out.

We may go to the other extreme in Judaism, with our detailed structure and so forth, but it is certainly the case that by the time the formal mourning closes, people have achieved a readiness to get back to "normal life," for the new definition of normal that comes from knowing that someone so close to you is gone.

I wish you well as you enter the next stage of mourning, and of life.
My thoughts are with you.
Let me know if you'll need a minyan at Arisia for your yahrzeit (if you don't count me, Mark can come).
The yahrzeit is actually on January 13, so while I appreciate the offer, I won't need a minyan over Arisia.
I can't think of much else to say than to offer hugs.

I can't remember whether you're shomer nogia. So, if you're not - hugs. If you are - Proxy hugs through Nomi.
I'm sure it's painful but I hope the stages have been helpful to you.
On the one hand, and I know this isn't the best way to phrase it, but I'm sick and tired of mourning. I want it to be over with, so I can get back to a closer semblance of normality in my life.

My mom said something similar re shiva - at the beginning of the week she wanted/needed the time away from work and the rest of normal life to deal with her dad's death, and by the end of the week she had had enough of being stuck in the house and dealing with all the visitors and was ready to go back to work and the rest of normal life.

re kiddush for parent's yahrzeit: At one point there was an announcement at the minyan my parents davened at about needing to spread the cost of kiddushes around (and not have the same people sponsor them all the time). My parents did the math and figured that based on the number of regular attendees, their share would be 1-2 per year, so they started sponsoring kiddushes for the yahrzeits of my mom's parents (or co-sponsoring, since they don't want to deprive anyone who happens to have something to celebrate/commemorate that week). Since then they've moved but kept the tradition, and they've added my dad's dad's yahrzeit, so people get yearly reminders that my mom's parents/dad's dad are gone, and my mom's parents/dad's dad are thought of by people who never knew them - a sort of "their memory for a blessing" for both my parents and for the community.
How wonderful!

I know little (ok, nothing) about Judaic customs. But this is just so Right on so many levels.

Your parents sound like really good people.
Your parents sound like really good people.

Thank you. My parents prefer to do things for the community in ways that don't get lots of attention, so this is perfect for them.
I've had this open trying to think of something to say that expresses how this made me feel and my thoughts for you... and the only word I have is *hugs*. Sorry. :(
Thank you.

December 2016

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