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Yahrzeit: time to contemplate

Posted on 05 October 2017 by admin

January is named for the two-headed Roman god Janus, who could look backward and forward at the same time. I feel the same at the start of 5778.
My husband has been gone for more than three years. On the proper Hebrew date, I was in synagogue to say Kaddish. On the exact secular date, I was at the cemetery, not to pray, just to sit and think: about him, of course, but mostly about all that has happened since his passing and all that I’ve learned.
These have been the longest and the shortest years, for the same reason: because time is different when one becomes alone after not being alone. Time goes too quickly when there are tasks to be done solo that were once shared; estimated allotments of how long they will take are never correct; everything screams to be taken care of as fast as possible. And time goes very slowly when there is little or nothing that demands to be done right away; those were old occasions when a couple could share some low-pressure hours or days together. But now those hours and days drag…
So this is the most important lesson I’ve learned: I can do all the things I have to do, taking on alone those responsibilities I used to share with my important “someone else,” and see them through to completion, not really missing his help. The sharing is what I miss. I miss most of all someone loving nearby to remind me, when a task challenges me or threatens to defeat me completely: “This isn’t the end of the world. Nobody’s going to die from this. You’ll get through it!” There are times when it’s really necessary to hear words like this, but the words aren’t the same when I have to say them to myself. Although of course, I do…
It’s truly comforting to be in synagogue for his yahrzeit. When I stand with other mourners, surrounded by the understanding and sympathy of friends who’ve become like family, I am truly “home” — more at home, it often feels, than in my actual home. And I find a different kind of comfort when I’m alone in the cemetery, sitting on a bench near my dear husband’s gravesite and thinking about so many things — past, and future.
This year: A beautiful late afternoon cooled down more than a bit for me after scorching hours before. Lots of puffy white clouds floated overhead, which reminded me of my childhood, lying flat on my back on summer grass, staring up at the sky and seeing pictures in them. (Never mind that if I dared to lie down on my back these days, I would never be able to get up again without assistance!) And what I saw in the clouds that day was far, far different from the images I’d imagined in those long-gone years, because — I saw Fred! His head. His eyes. His nose and his mouth — which was smiling! This image was too real, and too moving, for me to look at for more than a moment, so I shut my eyes. And when I opened them again just an instant later, everything had re-formed and he had vanished, as pictures imagined in clouds always do.
Does that sound strange? Or — maybe you’ve had the same experience yourself? If so: Have you ever told anyone about it? I thought more than twice before I decided to tell this, because it was such a very personal moment, and one that might sound silly to someone who’d never experienced anything like it. But here I am, urging you to go outside on a not-too-warm late afternoon when there are fluffy white clouds populating a beautiful blue sky, and look up at that sky and remember yourself as a child, and remember all the loved ones who have gone on before you. And perhaps, just perhaps, you will see them again, too…

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