Saturday, August 23, 2008

Three Fathers in Av

I had difficulty reaching my Mom the past few weeks, and felt most fortunate that I was able to connect with her a couple of times this week. I was particularly anxious to speak to her because I knew she was having some important appointments related to her care, and I was worried that having those appointments in the same week as the yartzheits of both her father and my father could be demoralizing. Anyhow, I was happy to learn Erev Shabbos that not only did she manage to co-sponsor the kiddush in her facility in honour of all the yartzheits (more on that in a moment), but my brother managed to arrange a Siyum for this Shabbos. I was most proud and thrilled, albeit saddened that due to current circumstances, the three of us have to observe the yartzheits separately.

When I spoke to her yesterday, she mentioned Three Fathers in Av. Since my father's passing two years ago, my mother has started receiving the reminder notices for my father's parents from the shul. So it was really only the last two years that I began to know exactly what days to observe for my paternal grandparents. Anyhow, when she mentioned that phrase, it struck me yet again how my paternal grandfather, paternal grandfather and father passed away within the same week of Av. Quite mind-boggling, especially when one contemplates how the past two generations on both sides of our family have all been born in April- with my aunt and myself as the only exceptions. It is devastating for my mother to mourn her father and then the next day her husband, and that adds to my own pain. I know that I find it exceptionally difficult to mourn the two male role models I had in my life one day after the next, and when I stop to think about what my mother must be going through on those days, well, it doesn't make things any easier.

I didn't know what to expect for this yartzheit; I recalled how last year I felt kind of numb, and since this year was going to be on Shabbos, I was wondering what, if anything, would be different. The main difference I noticed is that the day didn't seem quite like Shabbos or quite like a yartzheit. Maybe that just means I was numb again, but I felt like the yartzheit seemed less meaningful, if you will, because of Shabbos. I suppose I wanted to feel free rein to cry or otherwise reflect- which is what I have done even to excess on chagim when lighting yartzheit candles or attending yizkor- but I found that Shabbos seemed to "get in the way". The end result is that the day passed by and was rather uneventful. So I feel like I missed out on making the most of the day- my failing, obviously.

My most bizarre moment came after Shabbos. Until today, the yartzheit candles I lit for my father, have demonstrated a miraculous phenomenon: on every occasion, the candle has burned for more than 10+ hours after it should have extinguished. Yet tonight the candle went out only 3 hours later. I felt terrible, like I had not merited the comfort that the previous long-burning episodes had afforded. But then I realized that perhaps the candle burned for a much shorter period because it wasn't necessary; I was not overwhelmed by mourning, and so I did not require the additional comfort. Interestingly enough though, my Shabbos candles burned longer, until I returned home last night. I suppose it's possible that some of the longevity passed from the yartzheit candle to the Shabbos candles...

In any event, I did feel a tremendous pang when the yartzheit candle extinguished, and I hope it was not due to some defect in my memorializing my father. (If it is Daddy, I'm sorry!) Anyhow, I hope that I can continue to remember the best parts of my father, of which there are so very many, and to appreciate his continued influence in my life despite his absence in the physical world. And maybe, just maybe, the next yartzheit candle I light will once again burn for an abnormally long time. Because, in only the second year after his passing, I still feel his absence from this world remarkably sharply, and need any additional comfort I can get.

Shavua tov!

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