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.