Friday, November 21, 2003


The Kaddish is a very unusual prayer.

Not because of the content. As far as the words are concerned, it's pretty typical; praising G-d's awesomeness and his power, etc, etc. But what makes it so strange is the fact that only mourners say it. A person immersed in grief is forced to recognize a greater presence besides himself and His greatness.
Moreover, the mourner says it three times a day.
And night.
Each with it's own respective prayer services. It's a massive responsibility. Being somewhere three times a day, every day is unfathomable for most. Including myself. But I had to do it. Obviously not of choice.

This week, I was just informed that the daunting responsibility in my father's honor is almost over. The eerieness of that upcoming and inevitable conclusion is, on the one hand, a relief, but on the other hand, surreal in its purest form.

As the year of my mourning concludes, I find myself forgetting what life was like with my father in it. As horrible as that may sound--expressing it makes me wince--he has become a memory to me. An image. Pictures in a photo album. A scent on a sweatshirt he once wore. The adjusted mirrors in a car he would drive me in. He existed, I know. I have so many wonderful and unbelievable memories of him but that being said, he is not here. And he has not been for almost 11 months.

Kaddish served as a daily reminder of how much I owed him for what he sacrificed for me. In the grand scheme of things, it seems pretty insignificant to be somewhere every day, three times a day for 11 months. Which is why, when I miss saying the Kaddish I feel completely horrible. Like a bad son. My father had not missed anything other than me when I was not around.

Now that my recitation of this prayer is drawing to an end, I grow increasingly nervous about our relationship. How will my mind work when I do not have the regular reminder? I see the Kaddish almost as a phone call to the afterlife. Granted, the conversation is always the same but it is a conversation nonetheless.

And what does it mean when people say that your life will get back to normal? What is this "normal" that they refer to? Ironically, it's that concept of "normal" that I am most hesitant in experiencing. While some may embrace the freedom of...freedom, going anywhere at any time without the time constraints of prayer scheduling, it makes me increasingly nervous. Honestly, I've never completely bought into the whole "absence makes the heart grow fonder"-philosophy. I've always questioned the accuracy of that line. It would seem more appropriate to me if that saying had stipulated that, yes, you will miss the person when they will inevitably return. You yearn for their comeback but what happens if that day never comes? Does the heart grow fonder or does the heart forget how that fondness felt in the first place?

I have not told my mother yet about the cessation of my Kaddish recital. I feel embarrassed about it as if I could never compete (not that it is any way a competition) with her level of mourning. Now that the Kaddish is almost complete, it is almost a symbolic of my moving on and healing. And is that fair when she has still so much to deal with besides the emptiness of a house once full of so much love?

Strangely enough, I had a dream the other night about my father. While my dreams are usually frantic, vibrant, and random, this one had a particular calmness about it. We were having coffee (my father, while alive, never really drank coffee). I can't remember certain specifics but I do remember my feeling of guilt for living a regular life while he was not in it. We spoke about the minutiae, small talk. We caught up. I told him I missed him so much.

I then asked him about the Kaddish and if it meant anything to him [This is not a coincidence. I once read in a college psychology book that the things you think about most usually reveal their prominence in your dream state]. He told me it did. It was the Kaddish, he told me, that he waited all day for. This was his opportunity to hear me as if I had picked up the phone to call him.

Now that I am awake, I wonder how we will continue to communicate after my Kaddish is over.

I have two more weeks to figure that out.


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