Reflections on Shiva

It is somewhat funny that I chose the above title, since there is a custom to cover the mirrors in one’s home during Shiva, thus no reflection.  Shiva is tiring and fattening, yet comforting and occasionally uplifting.  Setting aside time to mourn is indeed one of the great institutions that Judaism created.  I had the opportunity to reminisce with my family, sharing wonderful memories and gratitude for those experiences.  Despite the fact that a mourner is not supposed to thank people for their kindness, I am thankful.  Having 20-30 people gather every evening in my living room to see to it that there was a minyan for my family and me to say Kaddish was uplifting, especially Friday and Saturday evenings.  I have heard it said frequently by non-Jewish friends and acquaintances that they are jealous of Shiva, as their religion does not have a formal mourning ritual.  While it is not a curative, when one’s emotions are the most raw, it is reassuring to discover that people care.  Not that I take for granted the love of my wife, daughter and son, but their continued love was indescribable. 

Now what?  I adapt to a new reality amidst regularly changing moments of disbelief, sadness, and acceptance.  At any moment of the day I am reminded of my father in something I say or do, or a picture I see, a sound I hear, I food I taste.  It would be easy to say that this is also the curse of memory, but I opt to see this as a blessing.  If one could view a life as a musical, I chose not to focus on the concluding scene, but everything that preceded it, for indeed it was a wonderful piece that gets a standing ovation – a life well lived.  As I remarked during the eulogy, upon reflection, it took until recently for me to come to understand that I am my father.  Of all the compliments one might give me – the one that I would wear most proudly is – you are your father.

This coming Shabbat is the anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah.  I have no doubt that it will be emotional, as this will be the first time that I cannot call my father to let him know that I chanted the Haftarah, and the recollection of the years gone by.  You are warmly welcomed to join me, as after services we toast a life well lived.  May my father’s memory always be for a blessing. 

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