Today is Jake’s Yahrzeit, the Memorial Anniversary of his death. The payment for having two birthdays, one in the “English” or Gregorian calendar and one in the Jewish calendar is that there are now two days on which to remember Jake’s passing– the 28th of December and the 25th of Tevet. Due to the vagaries of the Jewish lunisolar calendar, those dates rarely coincide, so we get a double dose. There are many customs associated with this particular day, and strictly speaking, the yahrzeit is meant primarily to honor one’s parents. Of course you can also commemorate the day of passing of any relative, and in fact most people do. Customs include fasting on the day, saying certain prayers, reciting Kaddish, perhaps visiting the cemetery, and others. As in all Jewish observances, it begins at sundown the evening before. Last night we lit a 24-hour candle, in addition to the candle we always have burning, and went to shul to say Kaddish. There is a renowned Chabad rabbi whose yahrzeit is the 24th, so we had a small gathering at shul for the regular Torah class to commemorate both dates. We toasted Jake, had a little cake and schnapps and our rabbi spoke about the weekly parsha and how it connected to the particular date and occasion. After about an hour, we couldn’t really listen to it any more and had to leave. The words have lost their meaning to me. I can’t find a way to reconnect with the desire to learn more about the Torah, how it relates to our day-to-day lives and why it is important to connect the two. Jake brought that desire when he came into our lives and then took it with him when he left.
Readers of this blog will know that I have spent the past two weeks reposting other people’s work, and haven’t written anything new since New Year’s Eve, the day of Jake’s funeral. There has been a persistent undercurrent of melancholy running through these days, as it runs through all my days now. Somehow I had pushed the monumental sadness that usually follows me around into a corner and have been looking the other way. We have been busy with Terry’s cookie business, getting our paperwork, permits and licenses in order; it has been a welcome distraction. Last night that sadness broke free and I resumed my journey down the River of Tears I float on. It is an intermittent journey at best. Some days seem almost normal, I hold the grief at bay while I research some permit or other, write Facebook posts, set up blogs, print out labels and menus. Some days I feel it pressing on the fragile wall that I have built in order to be able to function and I fight to keep it penned in. Sometimes it squeezes through a chink in the armor and I feel that familiar hot flush spread across my face. But there is a pervading sense of unreality that infuses nearly every day. It is as if I am a guest in this world, it doesn’t really belong to me any more. I sensed this around “The Holidays” and wrote that Thanksgiving seemed like someone else’s holiday. So too does my daily life. It feels like someone else’s life, not my own, old life. It certainly isn’t my old life. Oh, I am engaged, I laugh, I make my phone calls, I meet people, I still send my resume to prospective employers in search of some work somewhere, I will resume teaching my class at Venice Arts, will work on building Terry’s Treats, but truth be told, deep down, my heart is rarely in it. That underlying purpose that Jake’s birth gave to my life is missing, and I don’t know how to replace it. In many ways, I am still just going through the motions.
I stepped out into the clear, cold morning today, the sun hovering just below the horizon. It was light, the sky was blue and everything anticipated the first rays of the new day. As I walked to my car, tears hot on my cheeks, I thought if Real Men See the Sunrise (something Jake once said), this sunrise is for you, Jake. As are all sunrises now. It’s what I should have named this blog but when I started it a year ago, I could barely think. If I could, I would rename it. If I ever publish these ramblings, as I have been encouraged to do by many, that will be the title of the book – Real Men See the Sunrise – Lessons Jake taught me in life and death. Maybe I should start a new, more hopeful blog. Sadly, I don’t have a message of hope to bring yet. Other than to say, I have survived this year, though not necessarily unscathed. I have been irrevocably changed, but I continue. I have seen the sunrise. We are told to live ‘one day at a time’. These words ring truer than ever before. The Traveling Wilburys sang “every day is just one day”, and I find that is the case. This is how we live now; one day then the next. One sunrise after the other. There will be a succession of 365 of them and then another yahrzeit, then another, and another. So many sunrises, so many kaddishes, so many candles yet to come. We will light them all, say them all, see them all until we can’t. Maybe in time I will learn the true lessons Jake has to teach me, I get glimpses of them now and then. I once said, long, long ago, that as far as I could tell, our purpose here was to enjoy living on this planet as best we can and try not to do too much damage to it or to others. Perhaps that is all we can hope for. To live out our allotted days doing some good work, not necessarily knowing the true reason, but doing so anyway. Maybe we’ll find the answers when we get to the End of the Line.
Your words ring so true Ed. We too have double the “celebrations” as my family follows both the Gregorian and Julian calendars, yet each day is like starting over. I truly wish I could ease your pain, increase your distractions, or do whatever necessary to allow the days to pass more quietly. I wish that for all of us, but the best I can do is to let you know your writing helps me and others know we are not alone or crazy or anything else others may think and that you are not alone either. I regularly light a candle for all the parents I’ve “met” through blogging about Melinda and recite their children’s names. Jake’s name is always included.
Wishing you whatever solace you can find in sunrises, cookies, and memories.
Oh, Mira, that is beautiful. Thank you for your kind wishes, and I wish the same for you and your family. I am truly humbled you can find some meaning in these scribblings. Through the responses of those here, and the writings of you and all the others, we can see that as lonely as this path is that we walk, we are not alone.
Ed, your post today is so touching that I read it to my husband. He said you had written something that spoke to his heart. My daughter Julia’s 2nd anniversary will be in March, so we are about the same distance into this. Yes, each new day is an effort. How to go on, look at the magnificent sunrises or sunsets, and also how do we stay genuine and compassionate human being while living with the pain of such a loss. I too have found it difficult to study Torah, or even attend services. That pervading sense of unreality you spoke of is so true for me. Although we may have always known we are guests on this planet, in this world, the death of a child makes it so much clearer that we are, after all, really only visitors. We know it more deeply than most of the others. I loved hearing how Jake said, “Real Men See the Sunrise.” I hope you hear him and feel him in every sunrise. Thank you Ed.
My son Jake took care of a very old man. He loved doing mitzvahs and considered this to be a big one. The old man loved Jacob. But Jacob died before his friend, his client, his work. Jake at 43 did not wake up the morning of Shushan Purim, his favorite holiday, his name, BenShushan.
Sometimes there are no words which will adequately describe what our hearts are feeling. Maybe you needed that timeout from blogging but I am glad you are back..
Sunrises and sunsets speak volumes. Every sunrise or sunset makes me pause and think of my daughter and now I will think of Jake too. Show me a rainbow and there she is again. We have no choice but to live moment to moment as we struggle through this unimaginable pain. I have melancholy days, even semi-productive days, but most days I want to throw myself on the ground and weep until I run out of tears. I, too, hope we get our answers when we get to the End of the Line. Until that day, we just keep plugging away while searching for distractions to keep us busy. Just another day in paradise.
Sending you and my fav cookie baker warmest regards.
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