I'm not one for religious practices, but I do like ritual, perhaps embedded from growing up with a mother who felt that certain rituals mattered. While I was forced to go to Hebrew school and be bat mitzvahed, I never felt drawn to practice much Judaism beyond the gastronomic customs associated with particular holidays. During years of attending synagogue when young and for various religious holidays, I always noted the mourner's kaddish, how those honoring a deceased would rise and recite. Over the past few years, with my parents aging and their health deteriorating, I often said to myself I should finally learn the prayer beyond the first line. Yet, I did not, and when it came time for me to recite kaddish standing beside my mother's grave, I read the transliteration, reciting as best as possible in that moment.
Since I didn't fully understand the rituals associated with honoring the death of a parent, I did a bit of light research. I knew about sitting shiva, having watched my parents sit on hard boxes to mourn their parents, and knew that my mother wished for her children to sit shiva. Fortunately, she didn't have particulars she wanted us to follow, only that the three of us were together to talk about our memories as a type of celebration of my mom. In my research, besides fully understanding purposes of shiva, such as taking time away from the business of life to allow for grieving, I discovered Sheloshim, a 30 day mourning period that begins counting from the day of burial. Even though I wasn't interested in some of its strict practices, such as refraining from listening to music which is always a comfort to me, I did want to mark the 30 days in honor of my mom.
And so today marks those 30 days, and I have been thinking about this day for the last week, considering how I wanted to spend it. I knew it would involve immersing myself in remembrance, sitting with my mother, feeling a range of emotions from deep sadness to a profound gratitude, basically the range I've been experiencing for these last 30 days. My life allows me the privilege to have plenty of time and solitude to sit with how I am feeling, to avoid idle chit chat that doesn't nurture me, to not have to stuff any of my grief away. And today has been that.
Watching the bits of my interviews with her brought back memories of her phone's ringtone (Mozart's Symphony No. 40 opening), her off-key singing when she sang me a small portion of her favorite yiddish song "Oyfn Pripetshik", and a sense of how she looked at death. She wished she lived into her 90s, like her father, and although she died at 90, those were full years. One of the things she said, that lingers with me today, is "I can't believe that I'm not going to be somewhere."