Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shivah and Yahrzeit

On September 11, a little girl in my fourth grade class lost her father,  a fireman. His name was Geoffry.  He was the only person who died that day that I personally knew.  So I always think of her and her family on September 11.

Yesterday morning, a friend from Michigan called to read me an obituary.  It was the woman who had illegal custody of my daughter before she came to us.  The only person who really knew what my daughter's life was like at that formative time.  I met her once.

Last night, my first college roommate died of cancer.   We had not kept in contact. We weren't really close at all.  But we lived together in a little cement block room, sharing a phone and a bathroom and clothes.  She was 35.  A wife and mother.

Two years ago today, a woman I knew my whole life died of brain tumors.  Her oldest of five children was in my small Christian school class where we attended kindergarten through 12th grade together.  They lived just down the road my grandparents, and my parents had grown up with them.  I knew she was dying, but I didn't actually know she had died until months later.  Because when it was announced on Facebook, I was trying to get to Michigan as quickly as possible.

Two years ago today, I was over at Hannah's house, shooting the breeze. It was starting to sprinkle and I decided I had better go back next door, get my phone and call the school to tell them I would pick up the kids.  The phone rang while I was standing in my bathroom door, fixing my hair before running out.  It was Robb. He was sobbing. My brother in law had been killed in a car accident.


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Several years ago, I read a book by Lauren Winner called Mudhouse Sabbath.  She had grown up Jewish and converted to Christianity.  But she writes about the strength her Jewish education brought to her Christian faith.  Without question, what she wrote about mourning and grief was most powerful for me.

The Jewish custom when someone dies begins with Shivah. It is the first, most intense period of time after a death and funeral.  You sit Shivah with someone who has suffered a loss by sitting on low chairs or the floor, to show that life is different now.  And you don't talk.  You don't say ridiculous, cliche' Christian phrases. You don't dress up and you don't try to do normal things.  You sit quietly together and let the bereaved talk when they want to about the deceased.  Traditionally, Shiva is a week. Sometimes less.

Shivah is followed by Shloshim, which is the first 30 days. And then Shanna...12 months. And then Yahrzeit is observed, the anniversary of the death. You light a 24 hour candle.


Today, in my heart, I sit Shiva for that woman. I don't say anything good or bad of her.  For my roommate, Rachel....someone once part of my daily life...I interrupt my normal day to sit low for her.   I feel the loss of my old high school friend for her mother and for my former student who lost her father, and I light a candle for Kevin.  I miss you, Man.

3 comments:

Life with Kaishon said...

Very sad Vanessa. Such a beautiful post.

Mother B said...

How to break down grief....if you can.
This makes a heart cry for everyone that's been lost.

klasieprof said...

Yep.The ripping apart of one family, to make another...has so many sides to it.
Thank God she was there..to protect and feed, Thank God authorities were there to be observant and ask the right questions. The older I get, the more the phrase, "Rest in Peace" means.

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