The past two weeks have been full of services at our local congregation, starting with Rosh Hashanah and then Yom Kippur about a week and a half later. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year and a lot of the traditions are similar to those of the secular calendar year: reflecting on the last year's behaviors and choices, apologizing for transgressions, and planning to do better in the next year. The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are full of reflection and introspection, culminating in the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur is a day of abstention and repentance, and most people fast while attending services for most of the day. It's meant to be one last day of atonement before the Book of Life is sealed for the new year - one last day to repent and seek forgiveness.
Because of my surgery earlier this year, I was not able to attempt the fast this year, although my son did the best he ever has - a challenging task for a 10-year-old boy. But I still did a lot of reflecting and processing, thinking about this past year/the last few years and also hopes, goals, and intentions for the next one.
Interestingly enough, fasting is not the most challenging part for me on Yom Kippur - physical abstention is generally easy, present conditions excluded. The hardest part for me about the day is Yizkor, a special memorial prayer for those who have passed.
Ever since my dad died, I have found the memorial prayers to be overwhelmingly emotional, and especially so on holidays like Yom Kippur. It is hard for me to attend regular services even, because the Mourner's Kaddish moves me so painfully, I have to step away before that point.
The grief process is rarely linear and never completely ends, and it's hard to say what exactly the trajectory of my feelings looks like at this moment. It has been complicated since even before he died, since even before he was dying. And I feel like during memorial prayers, there is this added layer of guilt for the way my grief looks most days - which is to say, it's not incredibly present.
I don't miss my dad. I hardly ever think of him, and when I do there's so much anger, so much frustration, so much that went unresolved - and then more anger and frustration at the understanding that even with another day, another year, another decade, I don't know that questions would have been answered or that we would've been any closer to a feeling of peace.
I have a paper journal that I started right after he died, and I'm right in it from both sides: one, in blue ink, has positive childhood memories and reminders of the person he was in his most ideal situations - the other, in red, is angry reactions to much of the end of his life and everything that unfolded thereafter. They are all valid and they are all passionately, profoundly felt - the good and the bad. And there is a significant number of pages filled in on both sides, none more or less full than the other.
On Yom Kippur, during the Yizkor service, my husband sobs and aches with longing for his mother who passed away ten years ago. Other friends and congregants wipe away their own tears as the names of their loved ones are mentioned in memoriam. And I cry too, with this overwhelming complication of feelings, and with grief not for the loss of a man but for the loss of even a possibility for closure, however small that possibility may have been.