Monday, April 20, 2009

A First Yizkor Service

On the last day of Pesach, I said the Yizkor prayer for the first time for my father.
Our rabbi says that in the first year of mourning, it is the mourner's choice whether or not they want to stay inside the sanctuary for the service. I've looked on different websites, and some say to stay in, but for the first year not recite it for the particular person whom you are mourning, and another website says that if one feels they will have their grief overpower them and will wail loudly and uncontrollably, they can leave the sanctuary.
I did neither. I stayed inside. I said Yizkor. I did not cry.
I could honor my father in this special way. I could remember the goodness that he embodied and not feel overwhelmed by grief.
I could also honor my grandparents and other family members who'd passed away and think of them as I prayed.
As I've said a number of times since my father passed away, I've not really been crying at all, but I feel his absence in my life/my family's life/my mother's life/my brothers' lives. I think about him, I talk about him, I refer to keep it all fresh for myself and others.
It's surprising to me how I have been sometimes feeling somewhat resentful of others and their over concern for me and the sympathetic faces they put on and the pacifying tones their voices take.
After the Yizkor service, one of the women I know leaned over, put on her now-familiar-to-me sympathetic face and whispered, "Hmm, your first Yizkor service. Hard, huh?" I told her it hadn't been too bad, but she sort of persisted in her comments and pacifying tone. I just retorted (to my surprise!) but in a nice but firm way, "I think the fact that I'm a mourner is harder on you than it is on me. I'm doing okay. REALLY." She then nodded and agreed. "Yes, you are. Yup, I can see that."
Perhaps I'm not as resentful at them as I am at myself simply because I am not behaving in the "expected" way of a child who has recently lost an exceptionally adored parent. I'm not taking it as hard as people believe I must be. I'm not wallowing in grief, unable to eat or talk or handle day-to-day activities. I certainly don't walk around with a long face or a continuous pensive look.
There are no giveaways hinting at the fact that I'm a mourner, except when I say Kaddish over on the women's side of the mechitzah.
I prepared for two seders in our home, aware of the absence of my father at second seder, but thankful my mother was there. I talked about things Zaidy said and did at our seders throughout the years, and told my children at the onset of the seders that Pesach seders are exactly that: a combination of traditions/customs, memory and storytelling, played out year after year. I picked up minhagim/customs from my parents, my husband picked up minhagim from his parents, we started some minhagim of our own as a married couple, and we blended them all. I told the kids that they'll walk away from our home with some of these blended minhagim too, as well as start some new ones of their own. And so the cycle continues...
And such is life.
And death.