There I stood – in my father’s kittel, having just concluded singing the final kaddish of Neilah (the final prayer service of Yom Kippur), drained from a total of six hours as chazzan for Kol Nidrei, Mussaf and Neilah, when the gabbai came up to me and asked me to be the chazzan for Maariv.
‘Chazzan for Maariv? That’s for a mourner’, I thought to myself.
‘Wait a minute …. I am a mourner.’
At that very moment, not a second after the final words of Neilah, it hit me. My “furlough” from aveilus was over. The short respite that allowed me to serve as the cantor on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur was finished. I was back to being a full-fledged mourner with all the obligations and restrictions that go with that status. And I would remain a mourner, with no more “furloughs”, for the next eight months.
As I was assimilating in my mind this abrupt transition back, I realized another death related, sad fact. Tuesday evening and Wednesday, Erev Succos, (eve of the Succos holiday) would be the 29th yartzieght (anniversary of one’s passing) for my father a’h. Independent of my year of mourning for my mother a”h, I would be obligated to mourn for my father by saying kaddish, lighting a memorial candle and the other obligations and restrictions of the yartzieght day. There I was, in my father’s kittel leading the Maariv service on the Saturday night preceding his yartzieght just as he had been so diligent to do year after year when he had yartzieght for his parents.
In a mere split second I was no longer praying for life and good fortune. I was back to being a mourner – saying kaddish and thinking about death and mourning. At least, however, it was the first time in twenty nine years that my parents were starting the New Year together…. This time in the heavens above.