This evening I recited the final kaddish of my year of aveilus. I hugged the gentleman next to whom I sat for the last year and returned to my regular seat to daven maariv. But other than returning to my regular seat in the synagogue l will not be resuming my life as it was a year ago. My mother is no longer and the intimate connection which I have shared with her over these last twelve months has ended. And now I must fend for myself and find a way to maintain an everlasting relationship with my parents. The end of mourning exposes a large hole in one’s life; one that now must be filled without the aid of ritual obligations.
I have come to understand that the yearlong mourning process encompasses two separate and different aspects. The first and most obvious is the structure that it provides; a defined system for one to pay one’s respects to and demonstrate one’s gratitude for their departed parent. The second is the effect on the mourner as a person of spending a year of daily obligations to one’s parent, observing the many restrictions, and performing the numerous affirmative obligations the most significant of which is saying kaddish morning, afternoon and night day in day out for eleven months.
There was never a question, never a hesitation in my mind about fulfilling my obligations as a mourning son. Especially with regard to saying kaddish I was committed to doing whatever it would take. Waking up early, going to bed late, leaving a day early for a business trip, or coming home a day late, scheduling around kaddish, and leaving in the middle of a business meeting to go daven – whatever was required I tried to do. Why? Because I am her son and she was for my mother. How could I not?
Our tradition teaches that one’s relationship with the Almighty has two dimensions. In one respect G-d is our master and we are placed on earth to serve Him. In another respect G-d is our father and we are His children. The year spent in mourning for a parent impresses upon the mourner what it means to be someone’s child; what extraordinary level of gratitude, devotion and commitment a child owes to a parent and how those feelings must be translated into daily action. If that is true of one’s biological parent, how much more so must it be true of one’s spiritual parent? If one turns his world “upside down” to say kaddish for a departed parent how much more so should one “turn his world upside down” to enhance his relationship with his Father in heaven.
And so perhaps it is not correct to say that after twelve months the state of mourning ends and we resume our “normal” lives. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that, hopefully, when one completes a year of aveilus he leaves armed with important lessons learned that enhance his relationship with the Almighty and represent not a resumption of the life that was but rather a new personal beginning.