Tag Archives: loss

Yahrzeit: A Day of Remembrance

In Jewish tradition one observes the passing of someone close to you four times a year. Yom Kippur, Feast of Tabernacles, Passover, and Feast of Weeks. And then there is the annual remembrance, Yahrzeit. Yahrzeit is observed on the anniversary of a person’s death, using the Jewish calendar. In my case that would be April 17 of this year. My husband was half Jewish but I know his abhorrence for that time of year, so I choose today; the anniversary of his departure on the Gregorian calendar.

To understand the tradition you must know something of the Jewish approach to such things. There are periods of grief, but there are also periods during which the memory of the person is preserved in all of its living grace. A way of learning to treasure those that went before us, and a hope of the path we will follow into some unknown “then.”

I’m not terribly good a formalized prayers, so I have chosen to write a poem. If memory serves it may be the first in a year.

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He left me in the spring.
Not in the dead of winter,
When cold, gray skies surround me.
When days are short,
And love itself,
Huddles ‘neath the rain and snow.

He left me in the spring.
Not in the chill of fall,
When brilliant colors oft betray
Arrival of the frost.
And love itself,
Feels the bite, and seeks the warming hearth.

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He left me in the spring.
Not in the heat of summer,
When days are long and hot.
When the grass grows brown,
And love itself,
With thirst, seeks cool and breezy shadows.

He left me in the spring.
When birds sing, and trees grow green.
When flowers bloom and life awakes.
Perhaps to show me future hope,
When love itself,
Becomes the strength
– to face life on my own.

Deer

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My Tree of Memories

The season is upon us. All of the celebrations that our species has come up with that center around the return of the sun are swirling around us. A carefully tracked and joyful expectation as the giver of life begins its slow journey back to warmth and longer days. Solstice this year is the 22nd of December, a few brief days before the sun will reach 1 degree along its return path, the mark of the ancient day of Saturnalia.  Many Christians do not realize that this time of year was chosen for the celebration of the birth of Christ because the Roman Saturnalia was an excellent cover for gift exchanges, celebration of the renewal of light—the return of the Son. It is, however, quite appropriate.

 

It is also a time of reflection. My tree is a tree that hubby and I purchased in Canada. A great deal offered by Canadian Tire that served us well for a number of years. This is number seven, I believe. There were years when all he really wanted was the small white lights that glowed in our darkened living room; and years when he wanted us to hang everything we could load onto the poor thing. It is a tree of memories.

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Hanging from its branches this year is a hodgepodge of years past. There is even an angel from my very first Christmas, handmade ornaments, gifts from friends, bits from office parties, ornaments that I don’t even remember where they came from – souvenirs from sharing. That, I think, is what Christmas trees are all about. The excitement of Christmas mornings, the quiet of warm evenings with hot tea or cocoa and music—memories captured in the glow of Christmas lights.

This will be the last year for this tree. Somewhere along the line this year I made a non-decision to avoid additions. This is a year for memory. A year that has gone relatively well, all things considered, even though I still step on landmines; and find myself somewhere else, somewhen else.

I have learned, in this journey, that there are friends you never realized were there. There are families made of caring people who suddenly, without prompting, check to see how your day is going. There are people that smile at you for no particular reason. I try very hard to be one of those people. I know how much it means.

This is a time a year that I find both joyful, and sad. This part is nothing new. While we all run around and try to ensure that our version of the season is first and foremost in everyone’s mind, we need to remember that there are those that really don’t care what you call it; their days are the same, lost, hungry, cold, or afraid. On that scale, I am a very, very lucky lady.

So, I must ask my friends, my readers, to take this time of year to seek the magic moment, the moment of sharing. It doesn’t have to be much – it just needs to be human. When asked how to tell a child who God was I suggested this. When you see someone reaching out to help someone in need – when you see a smile that draws a smile from someone else – when you touch a heart that is aching – in that moment – when you see the connection – that is the face of God. (and not that breakfast sausage guy) Be a spark that creates that moment.

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Please accept our condolences…

Complements - Pixabay

Complements – Pixabay

As a freshly minted widow I am suddenly thrown into the world of public grieving. As a caregiver you grieve, but it is a more private process. An ever present minor chord in your life. The missing of someone there – but not. This, however is different. Now, as I go through the motions of dealing with the many, many tasks that must be completed to wind up my husband’s affairs, to manage the last bits of a move, and to somehow find a guiding star to lead me forward, I must deal with the public acknowledgement that he is gone. No longer a physical presence in my life.

My life is filled with landmines. Little memories that explode in my face as I hear a song on the radio — unpack a box that was packed before I knew he would not be with me — wake up in the night alone — talk to people who knew us, or him, or me. Memories. Memories that refuse to remain “pressed between the pages of my mind.” At least not yet.

This adjusting, this “moving forward,” this, “getting on with things” is something so many have managed with varying degrees of success for millennia. However, as my friends and followers know, I can’t leave anything alone until I pick it apart for myself.

So, I already have a pet peeve. “First, let us offer our condolences for your loss.” Really? You are a bank/credit card company or whatever business/legal connection on my list of “things that must be done.” Unless you are truly concerned about my specific loss, or you have some personal, genuine feeling for what that loss may mean, then please, perhaps you can find some other way to express whatever feelings you think you should have. Really.

When did we become a society that rattles off meaningless commentary because, well, it’s on the disclosure sheet in front of you? How about, “We understand this may be a difficult time for you and so we have established ways to take care of requirements as efficiently as possible.” Or, “We are in no position to know what this loss may mean for you so we will make this as easy as we can.”

For some reason I have developed a peculiar cringe when complete strangers express their “sorrow.” This may come from my personal philosophy on the whole concept of “I’m sorry.” My dear departed husband and I had many a discussion about the phrase. It always irritated me. I sincerely felt that a person should not use “I’m sorry” unless they made a personal contribution to the situation, or said person was in a position to truly have some level of empathy. Or, they actually meant it. “I’m sorry,” in my world, was supposed to mean something. Condolences, of course, is a word that wraps up sorrow into a specific situation. All the more personal. It’s all part of that family of “I know how you feel.”

No, I’m sorry, you may know something close, and from that we can both benefit. But, please, don’t rattle off platitudes just to make yourself feel useful.

Maybe I’m being over-reactive. But somehow I feel that if we persist in the easy, boilerplate responses to the heartache around us we can maintain the delusion that “we did our part.” Don’t ever avoid approaching someone who has suffered loss – don’t hide from the pain. I know it’s hard to think of something to say, but sometimes it really doesn’t take much. Even a call in the middle of day to see how a person is doing. An offer to mow the yard, wash the car, have a bite to eat. Or, an offer to provide the information necessary to wrap up one more item on the endless list of things that must be done.

You don’t have to know someone well to be “real,” but you do have to take the time to be human and to find in yourself genuine responses to the hurt and suffering around you. Let’s start a revolution. No more soundbites. What do you think?

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