On grief and Jewishness during the holiday season

I’m not going to lie – this Christmas season was hellish for me.  For one, I obviously don’t celebrate the holiday and when it’s shoved down my throat everywhere, I get irritated. Anyone who says there’s a “war on Christmas” and that people don’t say “Merry Christmas”  anymore has never been a Jew in December. I used to respond with, “Thanks, I don’t celebrate it,” but now I just smile, nod, and walk away. It’s not my holiday, it’s not something I believe in, but I know people are just trying to be kind and spread holiday cheer so I move on. It’s not a battle I feel like fighting. 

But mostly, this season was horrendous because I used to celebrate Christmas and so many of my childhood memories are wrapped up in the holiday. Now, when I think about those memories, I think of my father and my younger brother and the spike of pain that stabs me through the heart is almost unbearable. At every turn, I’m reminded of loss this time of year. It makes for dark times during a dark period on the calendar (at least in the Pacific Northwest!) Continue reading

An update for the (Jewish) new year

I’ve been really terrible about blogging lately. To be honest, I’m not sure anyone cares about anything I have to say, so I wonder why I continue to maintain this blog. Granted, I’ve had it for ten years, and I always hope my life will suddenly become insanely interesting and I’ll have no choice but to chronicle my life on here.

But, alas…right now, I’m quite boring. And I keep the blog alive because… well… because.

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Anti-Semitism comes home

Up until about three weeks ago, we had a Star of David prominently displayed on the front of our house by our front door. (A picture of it is in this post.)  I’m Jewish, my husband is in the process of converting to Judaism  – I’m proud of our Jewish home. But three weeks ago, something very disturbing happened and it was a reminder that I’m in a very different place from where I once was.

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Just what I needed

The mezuzah on the door post and Magen David hanging by our front door.

For the last couple of months, two ladies who are Jehovah’s Witnesses have been stopping by our house every third week or so. They are very aware of my status as a Jew because the posts by my front door make it clear where I land on matters of the spirit.

While I am firmly rooted in my “religion” (I put that word in quotes because Judaism is so much more to me than just a religious practice), I also believe in being kind.

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Elul and the passing of time

It’s common knowledge that as we get older, we become more aware of time. It seems to pass more quickly than in our youth, with the months and years marching past so fast that we feel dizzy.

When my father died, I initially counted his absence in days. It was important to do so because for the first 30 days, I wore a torn ribbon over my heart as an outward sign of my inward grief.  Once those 30 days passed, I still counted in days, ensuring that I recited the Mourner’s Kaddish each evening before saying the Sh’ma. As time passed, I began marking the loss of him in weeks.  Every Friday, I’d say to myself, “It’s been X weeks since Dad died.”

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A very personal Shabbat Nachamu

Friday night, I sat around a beautifully prepared Shabbos table with five other women. My dear friend Elizabeth had invited us all, and then spent massive amounts of time making sure everything was perfect. And it was. The food was fantastic – I’m still drooling over the hummus and mushrooms she served – and the company was… well… it’s almost hard for me to put into words how I felt, and still feel, about the women around that table. Continue reading

Waiting

My dad believed in visitors from the afterlife. He was also a man of stories, and one of his frequent stories was a memory from when his younger brother, John, died as a teenager in the early 70s. The story goes like this: John was in his hospital bed, comatose in the very last minutes of life. My dad had rushed to his bedside from several hours north, barely making it in time. Right before John succumbed to cancer and died, my dad looked up and saw, floating near the ceiling in the corner of that hospital room,  ethereal versions of his grandmother, grandfather, and an aunt. Dad said it was as if they were there to greet John’s spirit on the other side. Continue reading