Yesterday was my father's Yahrzeit, which is the anniversary of his death. It's been thirty-five years since he died. And since I'm a very good Jewish girl, I know this. I get a letter from my synagogue. Heck, I belong to a synagogue. I buy Yahrzeit candles, I know how to spell "yahrzeit." I've been the daughter of a father who died, after all, thirty-five years ago.
But one of the great ironies of my life is that since I was raised by atheist/agnostic Holocaust Survivors, I was given no Jewish education. I did a pretty good job of raising myself Jewish, but I have to say that, not having come to my Hebrew education or my synagogue familiarity early, I always stand there like an idiot during certain rituals in Judaism.
So there I was at the tiny morning service at my synagogue at 7:30 AM, an idiot. Anything I know, I only know by memorization, so if a melody of a prayer is changed during the service, that's it, I don't know it anymore. Yesterday morning they changed a lot of melodies. It's crazy because I know Judaism backwards and forwards, philosophically, and the history, and in my heart. But stand me in a tiny synagogue with a bunch of seventy and eighty year old men and women and, guess what, I'm just an unnaturally tall brunette Jewess with a good purse. And by tall I mean I'm over five feet tall.
So I stood there, alone. Husband was driving the kids to work, though they had come with me the night before. Tears came to my eyes, and not exactly because of my dad dying. After thirty-five years, I'm used to that thought. It was the idea that, though one of seven, I'm alone.
I used to have a recurrent nightmare when I was a kid, distressing enough that I'd wake up terrified night after night in a cold sweat and run crying into my parents' room. It was always the same thing: I was alone somehow, and the weight of the world was on my back.
At the service this morning I realized that the nightmare had come true: the weight of the world was on my back. Or at least the memorializing of my father, the carrying on of Judaism, and writing as a child of Survivors. That's all. There was no one there who would help me shoulder the responsibility of remembering my dad, to come stand beside me in this tiny, uncomfortable service in the morning one day in early March each year.
But unlike that nightmare I used to have, the weight doesn't feel scary anymore, or unmanageable or burdensome. It feels like responsibility and, somehow, it feels just right.
Has your family split in religious observance? Do you have a special day each year to remember loved ones who have passed away? Do you feel at home in your faith's service or do you go even while feeling ignorant? Did you ever have recurrent nightmares as a child?